Game: Miami Dolphins (3-0) @ Cincinnati Bengals (1-2)
Date/Time/TV: September 29th, 2022 / 8:15 PM ET / Amazon Prime Video
Location: Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati, Ohio
SB Nation: Cincy Jungle | @CincyJungle
The Dolphins enter this primetime matchup against the Bengals at 3-0, and atop the AFC standings. Miami saw out a tense 21-19 win over the Buffalo Bills in Week 2, while the Bengals the took care of the New York Jets with a 27-12 win on the road.
The Dolphins have won have won their last 2 contests against the Bengals at home, but haven’t actually won in Cincinnati since 2012.
Who’s Got The Edge?
QB - Bengals. Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is definitely on the up and up, as he currently ranks Top-3 in the NFL for passing yards, passer rating, and touchdowns. However, you’d be a fool to discredit Joe Burrow after his elite run of performances in the playoffs last year. Even this season, in what many consider to be a slow start for the Bengals quarterback, he’s still only 2 touchdowns behind Tagovailoa, and also ranks Top-10 in passing yards. For now, he’s still the better player.
RB - Bengals. It’s been a weird year for NFL running backs so far, with big names failing to produce at the normal level expected of them. While Bengals RB Joe Mixon does fall into this category, he’s still shown far more than either of Miami’s backs. He’s ran for 163 yards on the ground so far this season, higher than Chase Edmonds and Raheem Mostert’s totals combined (157 yards).
WR - Dolphins. The Bengals are one of the few teams who can match up against Miami’s receivers (in terms of talent) with the likes of Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins. But unfortunately for them, I’m still taking the Cheetah and the Penguin. Sorry, not sorry.
TE - Bengals. Mike Gesicki may be more talented than Bengals TE Hayden Hurst, but his production levels have been fairly underwhelming this season, posting just 6 catches for 48 yards, and 1 touchdown. Hurst, meanwhile, has already grabbed 11 balls for 77 yards, and is also a significantly better blocker than Gesicki.
OL - Dolphins. In last week’s Who’s Got The Edge, I wrote that a solid performance in Week 3 would ease my concerns about Miami’s offensive line. Well, not only were those concerns eased last Sunday, but they’ve almost been lifted entirely. Miami’s OL has performed exceptionally over the first 3 weeks of the season (3rd-lowest sacks allowed), and they deserve their flowers.
Meanwhile, the Bengals’ offensive line has actually started the season worse than last season, allowing 15 sacks over just 3 games. Considering they signed 3 starting linemen in free-agency, that’s not great.
DL - Bengals. While the Dolphins and the Bengals have both managed 6 sacks so far this season, Cincinnati has allowed just 248 rushing yards (8th-best in the league). The Dolphins are far behind at 348 rushing yards allowed, just barely scraping Top-20 in the league. Miami has talent in the trenches, but they’ve yet to show it this season.
LB - Bengals. Both units hover around the middle of the pack in terms of the NFL’s best linebacking cores. However, while Miami has better run-stopping linebackers, the Bengals’ linebackers are easily better in coverage, which I believe to be more important in today’s NFL.
DB - Dolphins. Although the Dolphins’ secondary has underwhelmed at times this season, it’s still far better than anything the Bengals have to offer. I mean, Eli Apple? Really?
Xavien Howard hasn’t looked his best this year (partly due to a groin injury), but Jevon Holland, Brandon Jones, Nik Needham, and Kader Kohou have helped Miami maintain a relatively solid secondary over the first few weeks of the season.
Special Teams - Bengals. Bengals kicker Evan McPherson established himself as one of the league’s best kickers in last season’s playoffs, putting 14/14 through the uprights. McPherson has continued his form this season making 7 of his 9 attempts, including 2 from 50+ yards. Miami’s Jason Sanders is a perfect 100% from the field this season, but has only attempted 2 field goals so far.
Which Matchups Will Decide The Game?
1) Miami’s Running Game vs Cincinnati’s Front-7
With Tua Tagovailoa nursing a back injury, the Dolphins likely won’t be able to replicate the same potent passing attack on Thursday that we’ve come to expect from them this season.
So, if the Dolphins’ offense wants to continue moving the ball efficiently, it has to be on the ground. Miami’s run game has been underwhelming to start the season, but an explosive performance on Thursday would certainly help change that narrative.
If the Dolphins can grab a lead early, I expect a lot more carries for the likes of Raheem Mostert and Chase Edmonds. From there, it’s up to them to make the most of it.
2) Miami’s Front-7 vs Joe Burrow
As mentioned before, the Bengals offensive line has been extremely poor to start the season. However, Miami’s front-7 hasn’t been particularly great either. Jaelen Phillips and Emmanuel Ogbah have both started the season slow, with the pair combining for just 1 sack all season. That absolutely needs to change on Thursday, end of story.
Joe Burrow is a great quarterback, but he’s not Lamar Jackson and he’s not Josh Allen. In other words, he’s not winning any games with his legs. If Miami can get to Joe Burrow early in the game, disrupting his rhythm for the rest of the night shouldn’t be too difficult. Do that, and the Dolphins will likely find themselves on the winning side of the football.
Under normal circumstances, I’d probably predict a Miami victory here. However, with just a 3-day rest from Week 3, on the road, and dealing with multiple injuries all over the field, I just can’t see Miami leaving Cincinnati with a win.
So, what are you predictions for Thursday’s game? Will the Dolphins extend their winning streak to 4 games, or will the Bengals be the first team to put out Miami’s fire?