This is a battle of two teams needing a win to stay in touch with the leaders in their division. Miami is seeking its fourth win on the road in as many games as it tries to keep pace with the New York Jets and New England (both 5-1) in the AFC East, while the Bengals are trying to snap a three-game losing streak. They are three wins behind both Pittsburgh (5-1) and Baltimore (5-2) in the AFC North, with a Monday Night Football game against the Steelers looming next week.
Keys for the Bengals
• Improve the pass rush. The Bengals have just six sacks in six games, which amazingly isn’t the worst in the NFL, but it has been a major reason why the defense is 20th in overall rankings and 25th in points allowed. Opposing quarterbacks are having too much time to find receivers downfield. In their four losses, the Bengals are allowing quarterbacks a 100.7 passer rating.
• Stop beating themselves. While they are not the most egregious offenders in the league, the Bengals have been their own worst enemies most of this season. They’ve committed 43 penalties and haven’t been good at overcoming those mistakes. It’s been particularly hurtful in the red zone, where the Bengals have scored just eight touchdowns in 20 possessions.
Keys for the Dolphins
• Get the ball to Brandon Marshall. Quarterback Chad Henne and Marshall could have big days in this one. Cincinnati’s secondary is hurting; cornerback Adam Jones is out for the season with a herniated disk in his neck, and starter Johnathan Joseph is slowed with an ankle injury. Atlanta’s Roddy White lit up the Bengals for 201 yards receiving last week, and Marshall is more than capable of producing a big game as well.
• Get out fast. The Dolphins don’t exactly light up the scoreboard, averaging 18.5 points per game, but if they can get the early lead it will play into their hands. Three times this season the Bengals have fallen behind by double digits in the first half and they’ve lost all three games.
The Bengals have been an undisciplined bunch this season and haven’t shown any consistency in any of the three phases. At some point they just might put things together, but Miami can be more efficient on offense and more physical on defense. Dolphins 21–17.