This week the Miami Dolphins will head to Cincinnati to tackle the Bengals. The Dolphins have to get over the hangover of last weekend’s game and go into this weekend focused. Miami has historically owned the Bengals, winning nine of their eleven games against them but the Bengals have taken the last two. On Sunday the Dolphins will face a Bengals team that is beginning to approach desperation. Despite winning their division (6-0 in the AFC North last season) and going 10-6 last year, the Bengals are just 2-4 at this point in the season. A loss to the Dolphins tomorrow could put them out of playoff contention.
So far on the season this Bengals team has been inconsistent to the say the least. What 2-4 team can’t you say that about? The Bengals started the season getting embarrassed by the Patriots. The game wasn’t even as close as the 38-24 score indicates. They turned around the next week and beat the Ravens, a very good team. Then they beat the Panthers, a terrible team, before starting their current three game losing streak.
In the last three games the Bengals have dropped an embarrassing game to the Cleveland Browns in which they threw for nearly 400 yards but managed just 20 points. The next week a couple of late game interceptions by Carson Palmer let Josh Freeman and the Bucs score 10 points and come back to steal a win from the Bengals. And then last week, after coming off their bye, they lost in a shoot-out with Atlanta. A loss this week spells disaster for them.
The tides are starting to turn on Carson Palmer. Once considered on the fringe of becoming elite, now people are gradually beginning to wonder when the Bengals are going to start looking for other options. A growing part of the fan-base seems to be losing faith in the quarterback as well. To look at Carson Palmer’s stats can be misleading. Though he does have nice numbers on the year, (151-244, 1669, 10 TD, 6 INT) those don’t tell the whole story. A great example is the Bucs loss I alluded to earlier. Cincinnati had the ball inside of three minutes with a touchdown lead and Palmer managed to throw not one, but two picks and allowed an over-achieving Bucs team (that probably had no business beating them) to get back into the game, first, and then to win it.
Bengals fans want wins, not gaudy numbers. It’s great to be 6th in the league in passing yards. It’s not great to be 16th in the league in points (and we all know what a contentious issue points are around here right now). Carson Palmer hasn’t been producing in a way that is winning games. Part of the problem is just the identity crisis facing the Bengals offense. Last year when the Bengals were dominating their division, they did it with smash-mouth defense and a power running attack. This year they rank just 19th on the ground. That’s not for lack of ability though, it’s more for lack of attempts. Cedric Benson is seeing fewer carries as are the rest of the backs.
Part of the reason for this is the arrival of Batman, or Terrell Owens rather, who quickly dubbed himself Batman and Chad Ochocinco, Robin. Because of these two Carson Palmer is averaging more than 40 throws per game, a ridiculous number and clearly a sign that this team has yet to decide on committing to their running game. Both receivers have had some big days hauling in passes (Ochocinco has gone for over 150 twice and Owens had a 200+ yard day). That just hasn’t amounted to wins so far. In order for the Bengals to be successful they’re going to need to find more balance and commit to the run. Does this all sound like anyone else to you?
After being one of the league’s best units in 2009 the Cincinnati Bengals have taken a giant step backwards in 2010. So far on the young season they are 25th ranked scoring defense in the league, allowing nearly 24 points per game. They’re 20th in yards allowed and can be attacked in the air or on the ground. If Peyton Hillis can gash this defense for 100 yards, Ronnie Brown or Ricky Williams should both be able to as well.
In the air this defense can be attacked as well. Tom Brady picked them apart in week one. But, hated though he is, that’s Tom Brady. Matt Ryan did it last week and Roddy White had 201 yards of receiving. The team boasts impressive corners, Leon Hall already has four interceptions this season, Adam “player-formerly-known-as-Pac-Man” Jones and Jonathan Joseph can all be solid. But injuries and inconsistency have hampered this secondary and allowed other offenses to operate fairly efficiently against them.
In the front seven the Bengals boast a solid group of linebackers led by Dhani Jones and Rey Maualuga, but their defensive line is unremarkable. It’s never a great sign when your safeties are near the top of your team in tackles. In Cincinnati’s case, both (former Dolphin) Chris Crocker and Chinedum Ndukwe are in the top three. Two out three, in this case, is really bad. To complicate things more the Bengals have absolutely no pass rush. The team has tallied just six sacks all season, that’s half a sack less than just Cameron Wake. For Cincinnati to have any success against a very good Dolphins offensive line on Sunday, their defensive front seven needs to play on its head.
Player That Will Make You Scream
Scott is the Bengals scat-back and kick-returner. He’s a fast, elusive player who can serve as a great change of pace to Cedric Benson’s powerful running style. He can be effective as a receiver out of the backfield. And he can break off a return for a touchdown. If the Dolphins aren’t careful to wrap this guy up and honor him as a receiver and a ballcarrier, he could end up making a big play. It seems like the Dolphins give up one big one a week. Scott is the type of guy who can get lost amongst the bigger names on the Bengals offense. But he’s sneaky and will break one big if the Dolphins aren’t careful.