After an impressive victory over the Atlanta Falcons due to a spectacular A.J. Green touchdown with 15 seconds left in the game, the Bengals improved to 3-1. They’re back home after a short road trip, and prepare to face off against the Miami Dolphins on Sunday afternoon. Miami is trying to regroup after a beatdown at the hands of the New England Patriots, losing 38-7. Despite both teams sporting a 3-1 record and leading their respective divisions, this game is one that Cincinnati should win. Here’s why.
Lackluster Miami offense
The Dolphins have been labeled as a “pretender” by analysts, and it’s not hard to see why. They’ve averaged just 286 yards per game on offense, which is the 3rd worst in the league. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill hasn’t thrown for 300+ yards in a contest so far this season, and was benched mid-way through their game last week due to his poor performance. Their running game isn’t much better, with starting running back Frank Gore averaging less than 4 yards per carry. The Bengals defense hasn’t had a truly dominant performance yet but they should have no problem containing the Miami offense, especially with Vontaze Burfict returning from suspension.
THAT'S VONTAZE BURFICT'S MUSIC pic.twitter.com/I7a40tui9u
— Elite Andy Dalton (@EvilAndyDalton) October 3, 2018
Although the Bengals are still without C Billy Price and it looks like neither Giovani Bernard nor John Ross will play, the Dolphins have had to deal with some injuries of their own. An early strength of the team was its offensive line, but they have now lost starting guard Josh Sitton and starting center Daniel Kilgore for the season. On the other side of the field, defensive end Cameron Wake is likely to miss Sunday’s game as well. Backup center Travis Swanson played poorly, messing up a snap that resulted in a turnover against the Patriots. Geno Atkins was most likely salivating when he read the scouting report and watched film.
Want to see peak Geno Atkins from field level? This is @danwood2's shot from the sideline in Buffalo. Atkins literally lifts a 329 pound man off his feet and drives him into the quarterback. #Bengals pic.twitter.com/8n2ynRflPX
— Joe Danneman (@FOX19Joe) August 27, 2018
However, the Dolphins are getting back two key playmakers. Wide receiver Devante Parker and safety Reshad Jones look like they are going to return after missing week 4. Although they are both solid players, it is almost certain that they will not be playing at 100% health. Miami also has numerous injuries on the defensive line, which bodes well for Andy Dalton.
Andy Dalton vs. Dolphins Secondary– Speaking of the red rifle, he’s been the driving force behind Cincinnati’s dominant offense so far. He’s been extremely accurate, and the majority of his 6 interceptions are due to tipped passes, hail marys, and receivers quitting on their routes. (Everyone’s looking at you, John Ross) He’ll have to be extra careful against an underrated Miami secondary, which has come up with 9 interceptions through 4 games.
Bengals Linebackers vs. Dolphins Offensive Gameplan- The Miami offense prefers to operate on short passes rather than deep bombs, trusting wide receivers and running backs to break free of the defense. Missing tackles has been a season-long problem for Cincinnati, with injuries forcing them to rely on less-experienced players such as Hardy Nickerson and Jordan Evans. With Preston Brown and Vontaze Burfict back, the Bengals now have two of their best pursuit linebackers on the team. They need to impose their will early and bring down the Miami’s shifty offensive weapons.
Joe Mixon/Mark Walton vs. Miami Front Seven- With starting running back Joe Mixon returning this week, he is likely to continue his success as a workhorse running back. Miami does not have a deep defensive lineman/linebacker core, but they have a pair of solid veteran defenders in Robert Quinn and Kiko Alonso. They have gotten off to a slow start this season, but their reputation as disruptive players means that Offensive Coordinator Bill Lazor can never count them out.
Giovani Bernard is nursing a lingering knee injury, and he is most likely going to be watching Sunday’s game from the sidelines. This opens the door for rookie Mark Walton, who looked sharp as a receiving back against the Falcons.
The Bengals offense should continue to roll, especially with Joe Mixon returning to the backfield. He should expect to receive a large amount of carries against an overachieving Miami defense. The Dolphins will most likely double A.J. Green with safety Reshad Jones, so expect to see Tyler Boyd in a lot of 1-on-1 coverage again. The offense might not be as explosive as it was against Atlanta, but they will certainly continue to light up the scoreboard.
The defense needs to limit big plays, because the Dolphins have had problems engineering long drives all year. Vontaze Burfict’s return should be noticeable, forcing Ryan Tannehill to throw the ball early and often. If William Jackson III can bounce back after a rough outing, the Cincinnati defense will be dominant.
Bengals – 28
Dolphins – 21
Cincinnati should win this game fairly easily, as long as Andy Dalton doesn’t force any throws and the defense plays a bend-but-don’t-break style. The Bengals are at home on a Sunday afternoon, where they have been almost unstoppable during the Andy Dalton/A.J. Green era. Let’s go boys!