This week’s Thursday Night Football Game in Cincinnati features two teams with 1-2 records. Few are surprised the Miami Dolphins carry that record, but the Cincinnati Bengals have deeply disappointed their fans by losing their last two games.
The Dolphins are extremely fortunate to have their one win. All the Cleveland Browns had to do last Sunday was kick a makeable field goal at the end of the game and Miami would be 0-3.
Cincinnati split their first two games on the road. They just got by the New York Jets and were dominated by the Pittsburgh Steelers. Last Sunday they were picked apart by Denver Broncos’ quarterback Trevor Siemian, who was making his first-ever start on the road.
Dolphins’ quarterback Ryan Tannehill looks to keep up with Cincinnati’s Andy Dalton. Unfortunately for Miami, they have no choice.
Their running game was nearly non-existent even with Arian Foster, but with him sidelined by injury, Tannehill must put the ball in the air early and often. Receivers Jarvis Landry, DeVante Parker, and Kenny Stills are looking to have big nights.
The Bengals aren’t doing that much better on the ground. Their leading rusher, Jeremy Hill, is averaging only 50 yards on the ground per game, but Miami’s run defense is next-to-last in the NFL. Dalton has one of the top receivers in the league in A.J. Green, who can torch any secondary.
In addition to containing the run, another key for Miami’s survival is putting pressure on Dalton. Ndamukong Suh and Cameron Wake are leading the defensive front, with Suh totaling 2.5 sacks.
One of the pre-game headlines on the Bengals’ defensive side is the return of linebacker Vontaze Burfict. The volatile Burfict will be back on the field following a three-game suspension.
Football fans will remember the reason for his banishment. His cheap-shot hit on Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown in the closing stages cost his team a playoff victory over the Steelers in January. Burfict can have a solid impact for his team if he is not piling up personal foul penalties.
Dolphins’ Head Coach Adam Gase knows his team is fortunate to have avoided an 0-3 start. At the same time, he is tired of the mistakes and his players have been placed on notice.
“I’m over discussing any of this stuff with the players,” Gase told the Miami Herald. “We’re either going to start getting the job done, or we’re going to make changes.”
If history is any guide, the Dolphins have a good shot to come away with the victory. Miami has won 12 of last 14 games between the two teams and leads the all-time series 16-5.
Their last meeting was on Halloween night in 2013, also on a Thursday. The Dolphins earned a 22-20 victory in overtime when Wake sacked Dalton in the end zone for a walk-off safety. That was one of only three games in NFL history ending with a safety.
The Bengals are a 7.5-point favorite.