The final countdown is underway as the Miami Dolphins and Cincinnati Bengals prepare to kickoff Week 4. Tonight’s Thursday Night Football game will air at 8:15 p.m. ET on Amazon Prime Video as well as on NFL+. In Miami, you will be able to catch the game on CW39.
As we get closer to the game, it is also time to get a closer look at the Bengals and what Miami might be facing tonight. To do that, I spoke with Anthony Cosenza from SB Nation’s Cincy Jungle about the all-white look the Bengals will use tonight, the improvement of Joe Burrow from the two losses to start the season to last week’s win over the New York Jets, and the Cincinnati defense.
First and foremost, what are your thoughts on the all-white look making its debut on Thursday for the Bengals?
This is hard for me personally, as I’m a bit of a traditionalist and a history buff. I think many who have been drawn to the Bengals, particularly at a young age, were at least in part to their creative orange and black-striped helmet design.
But, the aesthetic of the ensemble does look pretty sweet. For those watching the game this Thursday and being used to seeing the Bengals’ uniforms over the years, this will be a bit of a shock, but I expect it to be well-received by the masses. Cincinnati’s ownership has long been viewed as rigid and not taking chances of any kind in their history, so it has been immensely nice to see them engage in a lot of different organizational practices of late—even in a little thing like differing uniforms.
Their new uniforms they unveiled last year have been pretty nice, so these “all-whites” are a nice change-of-pace, as well. I would like to see the team throw in the old school uniforms with the “BENGALS” in block lettering over the orange helmet sometime, but we’ll see if that ever happens.
Joe Burrow did not look like Joe Burrow the first couple of weeks of the season, but a game against the New York Jets is always a good palate cleanser. He looked more decisive with his passing and he was effective, seeing his passer rating jump from 61.7 in Week 1 and 89.9 in Week 2 to 114.9 last week. What was the issue against the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Dallas Cowboys, and what changed against the Jets?
The offensive line did not hold up well against premier pass-rushers in the first couple of weeks. T.J. Watt, Cam Heyward, Micah Parsons and even Alex Highsmith had big plays.
There have been a myriad of factors contributing to the hits, sacks and issues this year. Cincinnati’s tackles (Jonah Williams and La’El Collins) didn’t play well in the first two games, while defenses took away the deep ball with two-high safety looks.
Additionally, Burrow likes to play a bit of “backyard football”, wherein he ad-libs when plays break down. This accumulates hits and sacks, but he also forced a couple of throws that became interceptions against the Steelers, prompting debates on the preseason playing time narrative.
The bottom line is that since the postseason last year, teams have been attempting to have the Bengals beat them a different way than they took it to teams throughout the better part of the 2021 season, and they are attempting to adapt to that. Throw in four new starters on the offensive line and the aforementioned lack of playing time in the preseason and you have the product seen in the first two weeks.
The offensive line has been the Achilles heel for the Bengals in recent years (and as a fan of a team that has had some bad offensive lines, I know how that feels). Already this season, the line has allowed 15 sacks and the rushing attack is averaging just 3.3 yards per attempt. Is the offensive line still a concern? How can the Dolphins attack it and find success?
In the case of the Bengals, the offensive line will continue to be a concern for the team until it just isn’t anymore, if you catch my drift. As mentioned above, the Bengals invested heavy capital in attempting to fix the line and we’re still seeing a lot of the same problems this year.
Mixon remains one of the best backs in the NFL, but he has missed some reads, while also continuously being met in the backfield. Still, Samaje Perine came in for clock drain duty last week against the Jets at the end of the game and his one-cut, north-south style paid dividends.
Interior pressure is never fun for any quarterback, so if Miami can achieve that, it could make Burrow uncomfortable. Cincinnati did adjust to a bit more of a quick-hitting, get-the-ball-out quickly passing attack last week that helped minimize sacks and give the Bengals a nice lead.
Still, if Miami can stymie Mixon for losses on early downs, that will put the Bengals in a hole. From there, generating pressure should come easier, as could those hits and sacks.
Cincinnati’s defense headlined them into the Super Bowl last year and appears to be rounding into form this year. They sacked Joe Flacco four times last week, with nine quarterback hits, 25 pressures, eight passes defensed, and two interceptions. It was the Jets and Flacco, but that is an impressive all-around performance from the Bengals. What is working for them and where can Miami exploit some weaknesses?
I don’t know that the defense “headlined them into the Super Bowl”, per se, with all of the offensive talent that had/have, but I’m glad to see those who cover other teams give the Bengals’ defense their due. They were opportunistic and just did a lot of facets pretty well last year.
In the first two games this year, the Bengals’ defense has done an outstanding job of getting off of the field and limiting points, but it was last week where the turnovers and sacks finally came back with consistency.
Trey Hendrickson was the AFC Defensive Player of the Week versus New York with 2.5 sacks and two forced fumbles. Cincinnati has been striving to find ways to get pressure with other rotational players and second-year man Cam Sample, as well as rookie Zachary Carter helped last week.
Oddly enough, one of their best pass-rushers has been their nose tackle, D.J. Reader. He is now out “indefinitely” with a knee injury, so that’s a big loss all-around for the Cincy D. If I were Miami, I’d exploit his vacancy.
The Bengals are currently listed as four-point favorites for Thursday night with the point-total set at 47, according to DraftKings Sportsbook. How would you pick against the spread and over/under on the point total?
I’d say over the 47 total point threshold. In terms of the Bengals covering, Colin Cowherd said on his show Wednesday that he has Cincinnati winning by ten or so. Not that he’s a gambling soothsayer, but I think Cincinnati may be starting to hit its stride.
They also may sense that starting the season 1-3 after dropping two very winnable games to start the season (Pittsburgh and Dallas with a backup quarterback) may spell doom. They need this one, and while I think Miami is very talented and could be a 2021 Bengals-like team this year, I never like picking road teams on these short weeks.
The one caveat is that these Bengals largely love playing in close games over the past couple of seasons, so that’s something to watch out for as well.