After finishing up the toughest three-game slate of the NFL, the (1-2) Cincinnati Bengals are back home to face the (1-2) Miami Dolphins (8.25pm ET Thursday on CBS).
The Bengals are desperate for the win to keep pace in the competitive AFC North. Miami are looking for their second win in a row to stay within striking distance of the undefeated New England Patriots in the AFC East.
Can Cincinnati Stop Miami’s Run by Committee Approach?
While the Dolphins have been nothing more than a middle of the road team over the first three weeks of the season, there is one thing that they have done pretty well as a team and that’s the running game. But unlike teams with traditional success, Miami has not done this with just one runningback or even two in a backfield split. No, the Dolphins are reliant on a tandem of four, which last week rushed for a season high 115 yards on 22 carries. A true timeshare, not one of the four received double digit carries, with Kenyan Drake (pictured) working as the primary man this week, receiving a team-high nine rushes.
These numbers were good enough to help the Dolphins get their crucial first win of the season against the (0-3) Cleveland Browns. Relying on so many to have good days against a much tougher Cincinnati team is less than ideal. The team is looking for a workhorse in the absence of the injured Arian Foster but until one emerges, the backfield will continue to be by committee. This week, they’ll face a tough test as the Bengals are 18th in the league in run defense and will be getting Vontaze Burflict back from his three game suspension to start the season. Burflict joins a solid front defensive line which also features Geno Atkins and Karlos Dansby (22 tackles).
Miami is coming off a good game but so is Cincinnati’s defense. They most recently, despite losing to the undefeated Denver Broncos, allowed their opponents just 45 yards and no touchdowns on 18 carries. CJ Anderson, who rushed for over 70 yards in the first two games of the year was held to just 37 and his average yards per carry which was just shy of 4.0, dipped to 2.6. The edge in this one goes to the Bengals.
QB Battle Pits Ryan Tannehill against Andy Dalton
Both Ryan Tannehill and Andy Dalton have been in the league a few years now and both have had varied levels of success. Dalton has been a great regular season quarterback, leading a top offense for most of his career, but he has yet to perform in the postseason. Tannehill meanwhile has yet to be in the position to play in the postseason, however he too has been a top QB ever since 2013, throwing at least 24 touchdowns a game.
The battle itself is not between Dalton and Tannehill but between the two QBs and the defenses they will be opposing on Thursday night.
For Tannehill, the match-up is pretty favorable. Cincinnati does boast a strong pair of cornerbacks in the secondary, but Tannehill’s receivers are every bit as good as the backs who will be defending them. This starts with Jarvis Landry, who leads the team with 24 receptions and 314 yards through the air, Kenny Stills (8 REC, 131 YDS) and the guy many consider to be Tannehill’s secret weapon, DeVante Parker (11 REC, 157 YDS). Parker has the explosiveness and big play ability that makes him a real deep threat. If he can get open and really cause trouble in the secondary, Miami should have a solid day offensively.
Dalton has been in much the same boat as far as mediocrity but he has arguably the best weapon to throw the ball to and that is wide receiver AJ Green, who has 22 receptions and 295 yards on the season. Green is behind just Antonio Brown of the Steelers, Odell Beckham of the Giants and Stefon Diggs of the Vikings in terms of overall use and importance in his team’s offense. Green’s role is simple and against a less than stellar CB unit, he should have no trouble torching the Dolphins on Thursday.
Both teams have opportunities to make big plays on offense and neither are really that good on defense. This preview’s prediction is a bit of a toss-up with regards a moneyline betting pick, but I give a slight edge to Miami and the depth of weapons they have. Tannehill has more options and that could be the key to his team’s success.
Our Preview’s Miami Dolphins at Cincinnati Bengals Betting Picks
In the rushing game, the edge goes to the Bengals and the in the passing game it belongs to the Dolphins. So what are the x-factors that could determine which of these teams enters the long week as 1-3 and which of them returns to an at least respectable 2-2?
For starters, there is the home field advantage. Over the past few years the Bengals have been a great team when playing at Paul Brown. There’s no reason to really expect that to be any different this year, even if they are 0-1 so far at home this year. But that loss came against the defending Super Bowl champion Broncos so it’s really nothing for the Bengals to be too upset about.
One of the reasons home field advantage can be so important is in the kicking game, where the Dolphins have the advantage. Punter Matt Darr, with an average of 48.2 yards per punt is in the top 10 in the NFL. He’s been outstanding at flipping the field and that’s something the Dolphins could use to their advantage as they face a tough road game.
Cincinnati is a huge 7.5pts favorite in the betting lines with the best United States offshore sportsbooks. Given that both of these NFL teams are about equal this seems like a lofty margin and one that even in victory the Bengals won’t be able to cover. So here are the betting predictions and picks for this preview:
- With an expectation of a Miami win, bet on the Dolphins +7.5pts @ -120 betting odds with 5Dimes Sportsbook. The next best bet comes with BetOnline who are +7pts for -105, while Bovada offer +7.5pts at -115.
- As for the pick for the total points scored in this game of 44.5, this could be a little high considering these offenses are mediocre at best. Take the under 44.5pts @ -105 betting odds with Bovada. Both 5Dimes and BetOnline are -110 for the same total.
Marilee writes on NFL, MLB, NBA & tennis for USA Betting. Another area of her sporting journalistic expertise is pro wrestling. A native of Philadelphia and a big Eagles fan, she has been a sports writer for many major websites including Bleacher Report and Rant Sports. She started her journalistic career early, as sports editor for her college newspaper.