WR Andrew Hawkins and the Bengals face a must-win situation in Philadelphia to keep their realistic playoff hopes afloat. (AP)

Bengals at Eagles -- Week 15

Where: Lincoln Financial Stadium, Philadelphia (grass, outdoors)

When: Thursday, 8:20 p.m. (NFL Network)

Spread: Bengals by 4

Forecast: Temperatures dipping around the freezing mark by kickoff, no precipitation expected.

Records: Bengals (7-6, AFC North 1-3); Eagles (4-9, NFC East 1-3)

Past results: Two most recent regular-season meetings -- Jan. 2, 2005: Bengals 38, Eagles 10; Nov. 16, 2008: Bengals 13, Eagles 13. Series record: Bengals lead 7-3-1

What matters: The Bengals must win this game. Their realistic playoff hopes hang in the balance. Without it, they'll need chips to fall their way the final two weeks of the season. Currently in a tie with Pittsburgh (7-6) for the final playoff spot, Cincinnati will take on AFC North heavyweights Pittsburgh and Baltimore (9-4) the final two weeks of the season. Without taking a winnable game in Philadelphia, a best-case scenario would be a tiebreaker situation that currently doesn't favor Marvin Lewis' team. The margin for error has whittled to nothing at this point for the Bengals.

"It feels like every game we enter is a must win," OL Andrew Whitworth said. "That’s the mentality we go into this week with. Thursday we have to win the football game no matter what."

Who matters: The Bengals secondary. The tenacious pass rush of the Bengals front four repeatedly causes misfires from the opposing quarterbacks, but the secondary hasn't been able to seize full advantage. They own but three interceptions the last four games. Last week against Dallas, three interceptions went in and out of the hands of defensive backs Terence Newman (twice) and Nate Clements. It ranked atop the list of why the Bengals coughed up a nine-point lead in the final seven minutes. 

Turnovers have doomed the Eagles all season. Only the Chiefs own a worse turnover margin than Philly (minus-19). Much of that comes from their league-leading 17 lost fumbles, but games remained closer and Philadelphia finally broke through with a win last week because Nick Foles' lack of interceptions. He's gone three straight games without one. Taking advantage of turnover opportunities will be a telling stat for Cincinnati.

Key matchups: LBs Rey Maualuga and Vontaze Burfict vs. RB Bryce Brown. The rookie RB showed he can blow up a defensive gameplan when he compiled 347 yards and four touchdowns in his first two games in place of injured starter LeSean McCoy. Tampa Bay's top run defense held him to six yards on 12 carries last week. Taking Brown out of the equation and forcing Foles to throw against a Bengals pass rush that leads the NFL in sacks will be imperative. Also, look for the tacklers to be ripping at the football on the way down. Brown holds the ball carelessly and fumbled three times in his three starts.

Injuries of note:
DE Michael Johnson (toe) has not practiced all week and likely will be a gametime decision. The tough guy has never missed a game in his four-year NFL career. ... K Mike Nugent (right calf) nurses his injury and won't kick Thursday with Josh Brown making his second consecutive appearance. Brown served well last week hitting 4 of 4 field goals, including a 52-yarder.

Inside stuff: An extra emphasis in Cincinnati will be placed on holding the lead this week after allowing Dallas to eliminate a nine-point deficit in the final seven minutes. All four of Philadelphia's wins this season were of the come-from-behind variety. Each of the Bengals' last four losses came when they held a lead or were tied in the final quarter.

Last week, the Eagles beat Tampa Bay on the final play of the game while the Bengals lost to the Cowboys on the last play of the game.

Connections: Eagles guard Evan Mathis will be a familiar foe on the offensive line. Mathis played in Cincinnati the for three years but was buried behind a struggling Nate Livings on the depth chart. He frustratingly left Cincinnati, signed with Philadelphia and turned into one of the most reliable starting guards in the NFL.

Stat you should know: This game could be done by your parents bedtime. Consider, the Bengals lead the NFL in first-quarter scoring margin (61 points). Much of that total came in the last five games where they've outscored opponents 52-9 in the first quarter.

Beyond that, the first quarter has buried the Eagles this season. They've been outscored 75-24 in the first quarter. For a team on a downward spiral as the Eagles have been, falling behind by double digits early could bring out the Philly boos and make for a long, cold night.

"The last six weeks, we’ve gone out and started very fast, playing with a lot more intensity than the other team," safety Chris Crocker said. "That’s the kind of thing we want to do each and every week. There’s parity around this league. There’s talent everywhere. But sometimes you can beat a team just with your intensity."

Stat you should know, Part II: The Bengals look to bust a disturbing primetime TV trend. Cincinnati has lost nine consecutive games on primetime TV. Their last victory came Nov. 30, 2006 at home against the Ravens.

Record watch: Green-Ellis needs 35 yards to top his career high in a season. He set the mark of 1,008 with New England in 2010.

Quotable: CB Terence Newman on the way the defensive line has played of late:

"The last couple weeks you got these dudes up front that are like guys who have been locked down in prison for 30 years, then they get out they see the quarterback as some hot supermodel. That's how they come off the ball, like, hey, she's mine. Not saying that quarterbacks are females, but that's how they come off the ball."

Looking ahead: The Bengals' biggest game of the season comes next. They travel to Pittsburgh on Dec. 23 in what will amount to a playoff elimination game with the Steelers.

Prediction: Bengals 28, Eagles 13

Follow Paul Dehner Jr. for Bengals updates on Twitter @CBSBengals.