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Bengals at Dolphins preview: Joe Mixon, Andy Dalton, Tyler Boyd keys for Cincinnati

New England Patriots v Cincinnati Bengals Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The Miami Dolphins host the Cincinnati Bengals this afternoon in an end-of-season game featuring two teams looking forward to the 2020 NFL Draft. The Bengals appear set to have the first-overall pick in April, a position they will be guaranteed with a loss today, while the Dolphins are in a three-way tie for the second-position.

With both teams having down years this season, this game will not get a ton of attention around the league. It could, however, be the catalyst that starts a march back toward the postseason and relevance in the future. How will this game play out?

I spoke with Patrick Judis from SB Nation’s Bengals site, Cincy Jungle, to get a better idea of who the Bengals are this year. You can check out my answers to his Dolphins questions over on their site.

What are the strengths and weaknesses of the Bengals defense?

Right now the Bengals defense doesn’t look much like the version of itself from the first half of the season that couldn’t stop anyone. Their strength has started to become their pass rush and coverage.

Carl Lawson returning from injury has really given a boost, and it has allowed the Bengals to rotate him along with Sam Hubbard and Carlos Dunlap effectively.

Weakness is pretty easy. The running game still gives Cincinnati trouble if the running back is able to get through the trenches consistently. It hasn’t been as frequent as of late, but that is how teams have been able to move the ball consistently in the second half of the year against the Bengals.

What are the strengths and weaknesses of the Bengals offense?

Strength is Joe Mixon, who is about somehow pull a 1,000 rushing season off after this offense was on a historically low pace for the season. He has been making the first defender miss, and the coaching staff changed up the blocking scheme slightly to allow him a chance of creating plays without making defenders miss in the backfield.

This team still only goes as far as Andy Dalton can take him, and his style of play doesn’t work without having A.J. Green on the field to create one-on-one matchups for these other receivers.

Who will be the x-factor for the Bengals on Sunday?

Dalton is the decider. If he can make some good throws and decisions, this offense can move pretty easily against most teams. He just has to take care of the ball. Last week he threw four picks, and that was the main reason Cincinnati fell behind so badly. Many, including head coach Zac Taylor, put the blame on the wide receivers, but Dalton had a meltdown, and every Bengal fan knows exactly what happened.

Who is one player no one is talking about for the Bengals but will have an impact?

Not enough credit is given to Lawson as a pass rusher, and he is always someone who I will mention here, but considering I already talked about him a little bit I’ll throw out Tyler Boyd. Despite being the best receiver on this team, he sort of hides in the shadows when the national media talks about Cincinnati.

If the Bengals win. Boyd had himself a day with over 100 yards. Honestly, how have only really scratched the surface of what Boyd can be in this offense. He has been held back by being the main focus of the passing game for every defense to stop, and Dalton and Ryan Finley’s inconsistent play hasn’t helped. He is going to be a Cooper Kupp type player in this offense very soon.

Who wins and why? What are your expectations for the Bengals in the 2020 offseason/Draft?

The Dolphins are at home, and they are running out of chances to prove the media and everyone wrong about that team. I think they come out with a fire.

I also think the piece of humble pie the Patriots gave the Bengals last week may play a huge part in the effort we see from the Bengals.

Overall, turnovers end up deciding a close game without much scoring.

Dolphins 17 Bengals 14

As far as draft, the Bengals go with Joe Burrow to really ring in the Taylor era. Any thought of taking Chase Young has been erased at this point. If they end up picking 2nd and being hopped for Burrow, then we have to have a serious talk about Young and Tua Tagovailoa, which probably ends up depending on his diagnosis come draft time. I’d Still stick with Tagovailoa.