The surging Cincinnati Bengals (6-2) travel to Miami Thursday night to take on the reeling Dolphins. The Dolphins started the season 3-0 but have lost four straight. The Bengals will be fighting to extend their two and a half game lead in the AFC North while the Dolphins will be fighting just to keep their season alive.
In the Dolphins’ loss to New England last Sunday, they abandoned the running game in the second half after gaining 103 rushing yards in the first half. The shift to a pass-heavy attack allowed the Patriots to take their shots at Ryan Tannehill, and they racked up six sacks. If the Bengals defensive line can shut down the running game, they should be able to do the same thing to Tannehill on Sunday and get to him in the pocket.
Speaking of the running game, the Dolphins are ranked 19th in the league against the run, so the Bengals should look to have a better shot at having a good ground game this week than they did last week against a 4th ranked Jets defense. The combination of BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Gio Bernard only totaled 55 rushing yards against the Jets. With the way Andy Dalton has been distributing the ball to his receivers lately, Bernard could have a great day Sunday rushing and catching the ball out of the backfield.
The Bengals’ defense will be hindered by injuries suffered last sunday to linebacker Rey Maualuga and safety Taylor Mays. Maualuga had been having one of his best seasons in his career and the Bengals’ run defense will take a hit because of his absence. Mays saw an increase in his role due to Leon Hall being out for the year and now the Bengals will really need to rely on their depth in the secondary. Luckily for the Bengals, the Dolphins best receiver on the season, Brandon Gibson, went down last week against the Patriots with a knee injury and it looks like he is lost for the season. The other two receivers the Bengals have to worry about most, Mike Wallace and Brian Hartline, have not been having great years. Wallace has had two 100 yard games but has not been consistent. Hartline has been consistent, but has not had more than 70 yards in a game.
Even though the Dolphins have lost four straight, the Bengals should not take them as an easy task. This could easily be a trap game for the Bengals if they let it. The Dolphins have a pretty good pass defense, so if Andy Dalton is looking to continue his hot streak he needs to continue to execute just like he has been, distributing the ball around the field and timing his passes perfectly. Because of the injuries the Bengals suffered last week, they will not put on their best performance of the year but they should still come out of Miami with the win to move to 7-2 on the season.