Any time you play Phlly defensive cordinator Jim Johnson, the subject is always pressure. Stat-wise, it's a bad matchup. The Eagles are fourth in the NFL getting sacks per pass and the Bengals are 26th allowing them.
But head coach Marvin Lewis is confident about his pass protection, the biggest factor in the club's 1-8 start since it led to Carson Palmer's elbow injury.
"I will bet that we protect better than we did around here against the Steelers, where we didn't protect very well," Lewis said. "That's going to be important."
Lewis wouldn't elaboroate on why, but after allowing the most sacks in his six seasons as coach (seven) against Pittsburgh on Oct. 19, the Bengals have allowed four in the last two games against teams not known for heavy blitzing in the Texans and Jaguars.
Heading into the 10th game of this season, his longest stretch without a 20-yard reception since his rookie year is the first four games of the 2006 season.
But even though Ocho Cinco has high regard for the Eagles secondary ("It reminds me of Baltimore's; it's really solid across the board."), he thinks the Bengals have a shot at finding the big play this week.
"What we've done this week with our game plan, I think we have a chance to expose some things they do," Ocho Cinco said. "They're aggressive. I think we'll counter it. When you have quality corners like they do, you're able to have a lot more freedom to do stuff. With us offensively with the win last week, it puts us in a comfort zone to do a few more things we wouldn't normally do."
The Ocho called off his bye week trip to London because it was too long and instead stayed in Miami to take his three children to the Dolphins game.
"I always love going to a game as a fan," he said. "It always gets me ready to play again. It was a great time."
Which is maybe why he talked about the Bengals fans showing up for Sunday's game.
"We're looking for a chance to give our fans their money's worth, which they haven't had a chance all year long," he said. "I know it's kind of late to even be saying something of that nature, but we want to finish this thing off strong and I think we have a chance to run the table regardless of who our opponents are."
STRIFE OF BRIAN: The Bengals spent Wednesday rightfully raving about Eagles running back Brian Westbrook, the Pro Bowler who led the NFL in yards from scrimmage last year while catching 90 balls.
"Westbrook is probably as fine a runner and receiver together as there is in the league," Lewis said. "His running skills sometimes get underappreciated because of all the things he does with the football as a receiver. But he's a fine runner, a strong runner, a great cut runner."
Middle linebacker Dhani Jones, Westbrook's former teammate, says he's so good that "he can do anything he wants, whether they walk him out or put him in the backfield."
But hounded by an injured ankle and ribs (and he practiced Wednesday despite a knee problem), Westbrook has just 29 catches this season and he gave the sense to reporters Wednesday in Philadelphia that he wanted the ball more than the 13 times he got it for just 26 yards in Sunday night's 36-31 loss to the Giants.
In fact, it sounds like a discussion that happened in Cincinnati last year when Westbrook, comparing it to marriage, indicated he doesn't think a full commitment to the run is there.
"You have to have patience and you have to have belief in it," Westbrook told reporters. "Of course in the running game there are going to be some plays where you're not going to have too much of a gain. You might have a couple yards here and there, but then you might have plays where you get 12, 20, 30 yards. You have to be patient, you have to believe it's going to work. You have to have that commitment to it."
Bob Brookover of The Philadelphia Inquirer noted the Eagles have run the ball 221 times. Only Detroit (177), St. Louis (213) and San Francisco (214) have fewer carries among NFC teams and those three teams are a combined 4-23.
For the record, the Bengals, who committed to the run in the offseason and have been questioned in some quarters for sticking with it, have run it 212 times. The only AFC team that has fewer carries is 5-4 Indianapolis with 190. With their five wins, the Eagles have clearly had the lead more than the Bengals, plus they've had the ball an average of three minutes longer, 30-27.
SLANTS AND SCREENS
! Also before practice Wednesday, head coach Marvin Lewis ruled out rookie receivers Andre Caldwell (foot) and Jerome Simpson (ankle) as well as quarterback Carson Palmer (elbow) for Sunday's game against the Eagles. (Wednesday's Injury Report)
! Former Bengals Pro Bowl right tackle Willie Anderson can still fill up a notebook. That was made clear in Wednesday's Q and A with Ed Lee of The Baltimore Sun. Now a starter for the Ravens, Anderson has developed the same big presence in the locker room that he had here. Asked his feelings about leaving the Bengals after turning down a pay cut, Anderson says he's over it but continues to be mystified why the club was so quick to pull the plug on his physical status after last year's bruised knee took him out of games for the first time this decade.
"You have one rough year where I took a blow - nothing that had to with age - and how I left with the training staff there saying: "Well, he can't play anymore. He's done," Anderson said. "That's been said about me since 2005 when I had knee surgery. By the grace of God, I've always bounced back and had steady years. But the way I left and what was being said about me when I left was the hardest part."