PHILADELPHIA — A midweek trip to Philadelphia should keep the Cincinnati Bengals from focusing on another Pennsylvania team for a few more days.
The Bengals (7-6) find themselves in a unique position where they're tied with the Pittsburgh Steelers for the last playoff spot in the AFC, but a loss to the Eagles (4-9) Thursday night wouldn't ruin their chances.
"This decides if we go to the playoffs or not," quarterback Andy Dalton said. "We still have to take it one at a time. We've got to get a win this Thursday, and then we'll focus on the last two."
Well, the next one is far more crucial.
Never miss a local story.
The Bengals visit the Steelers on Dec. 23 and finish at home against the AFC North-leading Baltimore Ravens. Win or lose against the Eagles, the Bengals have to beat the Steelers to get in the playoffs unless Pittsburgh loses both of its other games — at Dallas this week and vs. Cleveland in Week 17.
"We want to finish these last three games 3-0 and see what happens after that," cornerback Leon Hall said. "You get to losing games obviously this late in the season, you kind of take destiny out of your own hands. You don't want to be part of that."
Three wins — or only two if they're against Pittsburgh and Baltimore — guarantees the Bengals their second straight playoff appearance for the first time since 1981-82. They lost to Houston 31-10 in a wild-card game last January.
Coming off a last-second loss at home to Dallas, the Bengals had no time to dwell on a disappointing defeat in a short week. Coaches went right to game-planning for the Eagles immediately after that game and players were back at practice on Monday.
"It's a quick turnaround, and that's probably a good thing for us," coach Marvin Lewis said. "We need to improve fundamentally on the things we're doing. Some of those little things, the details of our work, ended up putting us in the position to lose the football game."