Tomorrow at Paul Brown Stadium the Miami Dolphins will take on the Cincinnati Bengals in a battle of two teams in desperate need of a win to right the direction of their seasons. The Bengals are 2-4 and need to start winning to catch up to the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens in the AFC North. The Dolphins come into the game at 3-3, needing to keep pace with the New England Patriots and New York Jets. It’s a must-win for the Bengals. It probably isn’t quite at that point for the Dolphins yet, but they need to treat it as such nonetheless.
For Miami the challenge will be moving past last weekend’s heartbreaking defeat. Brandon Marshall was on Michael Irvin‘s radio program earlier this week calling out his team for feeling sorry for itself. Hopefully the Dolphins got the message and will take all of that frustration out on the Bengals in Cincinnati. Emotionally, last weekend can go either way. If the Dolphins aren’t focused that’s the type of loss that can potentially snowball into two or three losses. Or depending on the mentality of the team it could be catalyst.
Fortunately for the Dolphins they face a Bengals team that they can match up well against. Miami also happens to be undefeated on the road this season. If Miami can get it together and come away with wins the next two weeks, their schedule begins to turn into a more favorable looking affair. Next week Miami takes on Baltimore though, which is hardly an easy match-up so even though it probably isn’t technically a must-win, it’s integral to the Dolphins playoffs hopes they pick this one up.
Dolphins Offense vs. Bengals Defense
Miami has a definitive advantage on offense if it can just get out of its own way. The Bengals defensive line has not played well all season. They have tallied just six sacks so far this season, that’s hardly generating a pass rush. As was mentioned in a previous post, Cameron Wake has half a sack more than the entire Bengals team. You remember when Joey Porter said Wake was undeserving of taking Peezy’s reps? Porter has 2 sacks so far, Wake is still picking Packer out of his cleats. Anyone miss Porter?
But back to the issue at hand. Chad Henne should have plenty of time to throw the ball tomorrow. Something that should pay big dividends for the Dolphins as Chad Henne (and pretty much any other quarterback) is very good when he has time to make his drop, go through his progressions and find the open man. Last week this Bengals secondary also surrendered over 200 yards receiving to Roddy White. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think Roddy White is the same caliber as Brandon Marshall, who could potentially be in for a very big day.
This is all really going to be predicated on the running game though. Every week it seems like Miami wants to be committed to running the ball, and then they just forget they have two solid workhorse backs and a very good offensive line that can assert itself when given the opportunity. Against Cincinnati, Miami cannot forget about that. Cincinnati’s safeties, Chris Crocker and Chinedum Ndukwe are second and third on the team in tackles respectively. That’s why running the ball will be so important to the pass. With the deficiencies in the Bengals front seven, specifically along their line, the safeties are going to need to creep up into the box more and more to remedy Miami’s run game. Especially if Jake Long and company start to get nasty.
That’s going to give Brandon Marshall, Davone Bess, Brian Hartline and Anthony Fasano all kinds of room to go cause problems in the secondary. The Falcons managed to knock the the Bengals out of defensive equilibrium last week with Michael Turner and Roddy White. Hopefully this week the Dolphins can force the Bengals to decide between moving the safeties up to take away the run and letting Brandon Marshall see some favorable coverages; or trying to take away Miami’s passing ability and potentially get gashed by Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams.
Bengals Offense vs. Dolphins Defense
The Bengals have two big-name receivers and are a team than can run the ball effectively. Unfortunately, much like Miami so far this season, they have no idea how to put all of that together. Carson Palmer is averaging over 40 attempts per game but as a result Cedric Benson‘s attempts and average are both down.
Both Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco have said they have an immense amount of respect for Vontae Davis, Ochocinco even going so far as to say he’ll know he’s still elite if he can beat a corner like Vontae.
“Everybody gets beat. But when you watch Vontae play, you see somebody like him be able to put himself in position every time, at least to make a play on the ball. That puts you in the upper echelon of cornerbacks. I’m looking forward to that. To really gauge myself. It will tell me where my game is in regards to how long I’ve been playing, what I’ve done in the past … It lets me know where I am as far as still being an elite receiver.”
As Dolphins fans have known and the league is quickly discovering, Vontae is legit. On the other side it seems as though Sean Smith will be back in the starting lineup again after replacing Jason Allen midway through last weekend’s loss to the Steelers. We should still see a lot of Jason Allen and Tony Sparano was quick to point out this week that both corners are still held in high regards by the coaching staff, but many fans will be glad to see Smith back on the field. Especially to face a receiver the size and strength of Terrell Owens. Physically Miami’s corners will match up well against Owens, Ochocinco and Jordan Shipley.
What worries me is the tight end, Jermaine Gresham, is a very talented young player and as Dolphins fans know, that’s typically the position that tortures the defense. Miami’s going to need to pay attention to Gresham, but they should be able to get after Carson Palmer too, who is hardly elusive. If the Dolphins can pressure Palmer and force him into quick decisions he will throw picks.
The Bengals run game could be a factor, but so far on the season the Dolphins have played the run well and the Bengals haven’t utilized the ground attack as much. That could change Sunday, but in the event it does the Fins have the capacity to take it away. Miami could ultimately make Cincinnati one-dimensional and force Carson Palmer to face down the pressure and throw, that is if Cincinnati doesn’t do that to itself.
I’m actually feeling pretty good about this game. I think the Dolphins will have a lot of pent up anger and frustration left over from last week and just from starting 3-3, in general. I think this is the game the Dolphins just click and level someone. If Miami can go up big early, this Bengals team may just cave and it could be exactly the type of banner win Miami needs to get its season rolling.
Dolphins 34 Bengals 13
Optimistic much? Post your predictions in the comments…