Dolphins vs. Bengals: Keys to victory in crucial Thursday night matchup

Bengals vs. Dolphins, Joe Burrow (Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images)
Bengals vs. Dolphins, Joe Burrow (Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images) /
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Dolphins vs. Bengals
Dolphins vs. Bengals, Tua Tagovailoa, Tyreek Hill (Photo by Megan Briggs/Getty Images) /

Dolphins keys to victory vs. Bengals on Thursday Night Football

Miami is perhaps the most unexpected undefeated team in the NFL. It’s a close race since the Eagles are also undefeated, but who saw this coming? Miami started the season against three teams that are considered playoff or Super Bowl contenders, yet here we are at 3-0. What gives?

As it turns out, that schedule wasn’t as daunting as it appeared in August. The Raiders have turned out to be a disaster despite the addition of Davante Adams, and the Chargers are disjointed and can’t run the ball. But the Bills, that one is hard to explain. Perhaps Buffalo was overlooking Miami after beating the Rams and absolutely dismantling the Titans in Nashville in Week 2. Whatever the reason, the Dolphins laid the blueprint on how to play Josh Allen and the Bills.

Cincinnati on the other hand? They play good defense on the back end, rarely miss open field tackles, and are stingy against the run, which is something Miami hasn’t proven capable of yet. So how does Miami approach this Bengal team that seems to have found itself?

On Offense

Miami must attempt to establish some sort of run game. Cincinnati can’t be allowed to sit back in coverage guarding against deep stuff to Hill and Waddle. The Bengals will be missing DJ Reader, but the Dolphins lack a runner with the size to pound the ball up inside. Cincinnati’s rush ends do a good job in contain, so running wide will be difficult as well.

Their best bet will be to run short stuff and hope one of the speed guys can shake a tackle and take one the distance. The Bengals finally got some pass rush going against the Jets, and both ends are capable of dropping Tua if he holds the ball too long. Tua is no threat to run, so the linebackers can be freed up to cover rather than account for Tua. My suspicion is this will be the first week without a long ball from either Hill or Waddle.

The Bengals know how to guard Tyreek, and if they keep plays in front of them, it could make for a long day for Tua. However, if the Dolphins can run misdirection, or establish any semblance of a run game, one of these receivers could be in for a big game.

On Defense

The Dolphins did a good job limiting the big plays from Josh Allen Sunday, even if they did give up 400 yards passing. However, the Bengals have a dimension that the Bills lack. A run game. Not to say Allen can’t run, but the Bills offered no threat from the position. The Bengals’ Joe Mixon has gotten off to a slow start, but Cincinnati has at least attempted to run. After Week 2 Mixon was second in the league in carries. With what seems to be an improving offensive line, the Bengals may try to get Mixon untracked to control the clock and keep Waddle and Hill off the field.

Which of the Bengals’ three-headed monster at wide receiver that the Dolphins focus on stopping is anyone’s guess. Last week Tyler Boyd had a big game ad Chase was quiet. The week before Higgins excelled. Miami will need to pressure Burrow and hope to keep him throwing short to Boyd and Hurst, however, if they fail to harass Burrow, he will sit back and pick this secondary apart. For the Dolphins to win, they will need to employ the bend and don’t break philosophy they had against the Bills.