On Halloween, two teams very much in need of a win will take the field in Cincinnati. For the Dolphins, nothing will help cure the hangover from last week's loss like another road victory. For the Bengals, they just need to win for the first time since week three. They are actually even more desperate than the Dolphins - though you wouldn't know that if you've been hearing what many Dolphin fans have been saying.
Last week, the Dolphins were effective in two of the three points I identified as the main ingredients to a win over the Steelers. The one that they fell short on? They were clearly afraid to put the ball in Chad Henne's hands. Otherwise they would have attempted some more passes down inside the red zone - and maybe would have found the endzone.
Here are this week's three main ingredients to a Dolphins won on Sunday.
1. Run, Run, Run. I know what you're thinking - I wanted to see Henne pass a lot last week. So why do I want the Dolphins to emphasize the run this week?
Well we all know the Dolphins have been disappointing (to say the least) on the ground this year. They are averaging their fewest yards per carry since the 2004 season. For an offense built around the running game and that has an offensive coordinator who wants to run, that's a huge problem.
The Bengals, though, might just be the remedy to Miami's running woes. Cincinnati is allowing 118 yards per game on the ground and 4.5 yards per carry. Of Miami's previous six opponents, only the Bills and Packers have allowed more yards per carry than Cincy. It just so happens that those were Miami's two best rushing games of the year - averaging over 140 yards per game against those two.
If the Dolphins can't run the football in this game, they can still win. There's no question about that. But struggling to run against this particular defense would be the final nail in the "run first mentality" coffin.
2. Make the Bengals one-dimensional. And what I mean by that is simple - stop their running game and force Carson Palmer to throw it.
No, I didn't lose my mind.
As Tony Sparano pointed out on Thursday, the Bengals have held the football for over 36 minutes in their last ten wins. That means that the Bengals were committed to the run and kept the opposing defense on the field, wearing them down as the game went on. Is Cedric Benson an elite talent? No. But the Bengals will abandon the run in a hurry if he isn't effective early and they fall behind.
Carson Palmer, meanwhile, isn't the same player he was a few years ago. His arm strength is not what it once was and he can be rattled if he's under pressure. He's already turned the football over eight times this season. And though he played well last week against a leaky Falcons secondary, Palmer is averaging over a turnover per game since the start of last season.
I know that Cincinnati's receivers are as talented as they come. But I have faith in Miami's pass rush and this secondary to make some plays if they can force Palmer to throw more than 35 passes. In games when Carson has thrown 35+ passes the past two years, the Bengals are 4-7. In games when Palmer has thrown fewer than 35 passes, the Bengals are 8-4.
3. Win the battle of bad special teams. We all know that Miami' special teams play - outside of kicker Dan Carpenter - has been bad. But the Dolphins may have found their equal in terms of poor special teams play.
Though the Bengals are yet to have a punt blocked (the Dolphins have had two blocked), they rank lower than the Dolphins in three key special teams categories. The Dolphins are 23rd in yards per kickoff return; the Bengals are 29th. The Dolphins are 7th in yards per punt return; the Bengals are 28th. The Dolphins are 8th in average length of kickoff; the Bengals are 21st. And while the Dolphins are dead last in yards allowed per kickoff return, the Bengals aren't much better - ranking 29th in the league and allowing just two fewer yards per return than Miami.
So which team will perform better in the often forgotten about "third phase of the game?"