Cautious Eagles meet Bengals

12:55 p.m.

BY GEOFF HOBSON

PHILADELPHIA - An interesting inactive list unfolded before Sunday's game at Lincoln Financial Field, with the Bengals' Carson Palmer holding down the No. 3 emergency quarterback spot and the Eagles keeping all three of their quarterbacks active.

The Eagles, who came in at 13-2 after clinching home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs, indicated they would play this regular-season finale like a preseason finale by putting six starters on the inactive list that included Pro Bowl safety Brian Dawkins and tight end Chad Lewis. Plus, they didn't even start quarterback Donovan McNabb.

Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis had said that Palmer's left knee might be healthy enough to make him the No. 2 quarterback in a game the Bengals needed to finish their second straight season at 8-8 and post the most victories in back-to-back seasons since 1989-90. But the club erred on the side of caution when Palmer's mobility didn't improve during the week and with rain expected Sunday on a grass field. So they kept rookie Casey Bramlet the No. 2.

Shaun Smith, picked up on waivers from New Orleans on Dec. 1, got his first Bengal start at defensive tackle in place of the injured Langston Moore. Cornerback Deltha O'Neal started on the left side for the first time since injuring his ankle against Cleveland on Nov. 28.

Koy Detmer started in place of McNabb, and he was expected to split the snaps with former Bengal Jeff Blake with Blake looking to improve his 104.4 passer rating, including five touchdowns and no interceptions, in three games against his old team.

Running back Brian Westbrook, who leads all NFL running backs with 73 catches, wasn't supposed to play. Neither was Philly sack leader Jevon Kearse, even though they weren't on the inactive list. Starters joining Dawkins and Lewis on the inactive list were cornerback Lito Sheppard, defensive end Derrick Burgess, right guard Jermane Mayberry, and wide receiver Terrell Owens.

But Owens, the Pro Bowl receiver sidelined by an injured ankle, apparently was well enough to host Bengals wide receiver Chad Johnson for dinner Saturday night. Johnson needs 11 catches for 101 on the season and the Bengals season record, and he's looking to hold on to his 10-yard edge on Tennessee's Drew Bennett to claim his second straight AFC receiving title.

Johnson is chasing Bennett's teammate, Derrick Mason, in trying to become the first Bengal to ever win the NFL receiving title. Mason came into Sunday's game against Detroit with two more catches than Johnson and New Orleans' Joe Horn with 92.

T.J. Houshmandzadeh, the other Bengals starting wide receiver, needed 93 yards to make he and Johnson the club's first 1000-yard receiving duo ever. They also needed to combine for 61 yards to become the most prolific receiving duo in Bengals history.

Running back Rudi Johnson needed to rush for 81 yards to break Corey Dillon's franchise record of 1435, and 100 yards for his record-breaking sixth 100-yard game of the season.

Kicker Shayne Graham needed eight points to break Doug Pelfrey's 1995 record of 121 points.

The inactive list for Cincinnati: Defensive lineman Greg Scott, running back Quincy Wilson, wide receiver Matt Cherry, safety Rogers Beckett, and offensive linemen Stacy Andrews, Pete Lougheed, and Alex Sulfsted.

The Bengals captains were right tackle Willie Anderson, linebackers Kevin Hardy and Marcus Wilkins, defensive tackle John Thornton, a Philly native, and right guard Bobbie Williams, a former Eagle.

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