Bengals-Eagles Matchup To Watch: Darren Sproles vs. Cincinnati defense

PHILADELPHIA, PA - NOVEMBER 15: Neville Hewitt #46 of the Miami Dolphins chases Darren Sproles #43 of the Philadelphia Eagles in the third quarter at Lincoln Financial Field on November 15, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)
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PHILADELPHIA, PA - NOVEMBER 15: Neville Hewitt #46 of the Miami Dolphins chases Darren Sproles #43 of the Philadelphia Eagles in the third quarter at Lincoln Financial Field on November 15, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)

Eagles RB Darren Sproles vs. Bengals defense, special teams

One of the smallest players on the field Sunday could pose the biggest problem for the Cincinnati Bengals.

Philadelphia running back Darren Sproles — all 5-foot-6, 190 pounds of him — is still causing headaches in his 12th season in league.

“He can turn a screen play into a 60-yard gain, catch a ball in the backfield and make a guy miss,” Bengals defensive coordinator Paul Guenther said. “He’s explosive. I think he’s one of the most underrated players in the league.”

Sproles’ 18,811 all-purpose yards rank second among active players (Steve Smith, 18,917) and eighth all time.

He ranks second on the team in rushing yards (325) to Ryan Mathews (427), but Mathews is coming off a knee injury that kept him out of Monday night’s loss to Green Bay.

Sproles, who made his first Pro Bowl at age 31 and went back last year, leads the Eagles in yards per carry (4.9), is second in receptions (39) and third in receiving yards (352).

“With all of his great ability as a runner, and with open-field running, draws, screens and those kinds of things, he’s always a very, very difficult matchup,” Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis said. “Obviously, any time he can get the ball in the return game, he does a very good job as well. So that’s really key.”

Sproles, who ranks fourth in the league in punt returns (14.1 average), has only faced the Bengals twice in his career, in 2009 and 2010 while a member of the San Diego Chargers.

In 2009, he returned the opening kickoff 45 yards to set up a touchdown to start the Chargers on the way to a 27-24 win. And in 2010 he had a 45-yard punt return in the fourth quarter to set up a field goal that got San Diego within seven points before Cincinnati pulled away for a 34-20 victory.