The Miami Dolphins (3-4) will host the Cincinnati Bengals (6-2) on NFL Network’s Halloween edition of Thursday Night Football tomorrow night. Surely this game looks to be a great match-up, that is if the Miami Dolphins can grow a pair and play like a mature football team for the full sixty-minute bout.
Cincinnati has been on quite a roll as of late, riding a four-game win streak, while also having a 3-0 record against AFC East opponents this season.
Miami, on the other hand, will be looking to break their four-game losing streak against a very good Cincinnati Bengals team. Miami will look to gain back their pair of jewels after the New Orleans Saints neutered them on prime time television sending Miami’s young and impressive 3-0 squad into oblivion.
Cincinnati will be without MLB Rey Maualuga, S Taylor Mays, DT Devon Still and CB Leon Hall, whom was placed on IR after tearing his achilles tendon. Cincinnati also has a slew of important players whom are all listed as questionable. They are LB Michael Boley, RB Rex Burkhead, DE Wallace Gillberry, WR Mohamed Sanu, and T Andrew Witworth.
Miami will likely be without RT Jonathan Martin, whom has been held out of practice all week with an illness, and rookie TE Dion Sims. A few injuries to keep an eye on: LT Bryant McKinnie, CB Brent Grimes, and DE Olivier Vernon are all listed as probable.
Here are a few keys to a huge Miami Dolphins upset over the Cincinnati Bengals come Thursday night:
- QB Ryan Tannehill is key in this game. Tannehill must take care of the football and distribute the football to his play-makers. In both of Cincinnati’s losses – Cleveland, 17-6; Chicago, 24-21 – opposing quarterbacks combined for just 1 interception on 71 attempts, mind you that was Brian Hoyer and Jay Cutler. Another key here, neither quarterback fumbled the football nor did their corresponding teams. Ryan Tannehill and his offense must take care of the football and offensive coordinator Mike Sherman must create a good game plan here against a good Cincinnati defense – we’ll get into that more a bit later.
- The defense must, and I mean MUST, create some turnovers. Yet again, looking back at both of Cincinnati’s losses opposing defenses were able to force 3 fumbles and 3 Andy Dalton interceptions. This is key as Miami’s defense has been a bit up and down lately in terms of forcing turnovers. Miami’s secondary has grabbed all 8 of the team’s interceptions this season, while the team has only forced 6 fumbles thus far. It’s time for DC Kevin Coyle to ramp up the intensity on defense and force QB Andy Dalton to make some costly throws.
- Miami has struggled this season to really establish a running game. Although the team has been able to do so with success in it’s past two games, the team still ranks 23rd in the NFL at 89.1 yards per game. Well, Mike Sherman, this is the game to finally establish a running game AND STICK WITH IT. I know what you’re thinking, “Tyler, you’re a moron. Cincinnati allows 97 yards on the ground and ranks 8th in the NFL.” I never said it had to be successful. But this is the type of game where you cannot become one dimensional on offense. Too many times this season Miami has become one dimensional late in the football game and it has led to a loss. Hopefully Sherman has learned from his mistakes and will not stray away from the running game whether it’s successful or not.
- Protect QB Ryan Tannehill for the full sixty-minutes. Last week I though Miami’s offensive line played it’s best game of the season. Wait, they allowed 6 sacks, Tyler. I know they did. But the majority of those sacks are either on Tannehill, excellent coverage, or they were picked up during garbage time. If RT Jon Martin cannot go, this is a pivotal game for his replacement in Tyson Clabo to prove his worth to this team. If Clabo struggles, don’t be surprised to see the team part ways with him. After all, he is a bum. Cincinnati’s defense has accumulated 22 sacks this season, 9 of those coming from DT Geno Atkins and DE Carlos Dunlap. Taking care of these two will be crucial if Miami hopes to get anything going offensively.
- DC Kevin Coyle and his defense must force Cincinnati’s offense to become one dimensional, as I wrote above, this is a game in which the winner will force the opposing team to become one dimensional on offense. In both of Cincinnati’s losses this season, opposing defenses were able to force Cincinnati to pass the ball 42 (Clev) and 33 (Chi) times opposed to rushing the football 20 (Clev) and 21 (Chi) times. Kevin Coyle must, and should, have a game plan in place to force Cincinnati’s offense to throw the ball more often than not. Why? I like the way Miami’s secondary matches up with these receivers. Grimes – Green will be a great match-up to watch. Patterson – Jones will be another great match-up. The two guys to contain, however; are the two tight ends, Jermaine Gresham and Tyler Eifert. If Miami can contain these two and force QB Andy Dalton to look elsewhere, I like the team’s chances.
This game looks a lot more interesting than one would think. Both teams are riding a four-game streak and both teams are very, very young while also very, very inconsistent. The Dolphins homer would tell you that Miami has a clear chance to win this game. The Cincinnati homer would tell you that Cincinnati will put up 49 points again this week because “the Dolphins suck”.
While I’m probably going to catch some slack for this one I am going with the Dolphins here at home. I think this game is a must win for Miami, and a team can be very dangerous when they are desperate. If Miami loses this game, they’re likely out of playoff contention and sliding into what my co-host on Direct Snap, Joe Kleine, calls, the proverbial dumpster. Cincinnati, on the other hand, is in a great position in the AFC North and is basically in the driver’s seat for the remainder of the season. QB Ryan Tannehill needs to silence his critics with a big game here against a very good Cincinnati defense. I’m saying the kid embraces the pressure and plays lights out.
Cincinnati – 18 Miami – 24