The Miami Dolphins (1-2) will travel to Cincinnati on a short week to face the Bengals (1-2) on Thursday. Cincinnati is coming off a tough loss to Denver while Miami barely pulled out a win against the ailing Cleveland Browns.
Both teams are struggling right now—each needs a convincing win. Miami seems to have picked up the injury bug with numerous starters in question for Thursday’s game. The Bengals are relatively healthy.
Here are several matchups to watch for:
Cincinnati’s running game vs. Miami’s defense
Miami currently has the second-worst rushing defense in the NFL, giving up more than 147 yards per game. To make matters even worse, Miami may be without linebackers Jelani Jenkins and Koa Misi, who suffered injuries in week 3.
Although Cincy’s rushing offense is only averaging 82 yards a game and 3.8 yards per carry, running back Jeremy Hill had 97 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries last week.
Cincinnati’s two backs have given Miami problems in the past. Hill is a physical runner, which Miami has had issues with this season. Giovani Bernard is a shifty pass-catcher who has a tendency to escape the backfield for big gains.
Miami will have another long day if it can’t stop the run.
Miami’s defensive line vs. Cincinnati’s offensive line
Though seemingly ineffective, Miami’s defense is currently tied for seventh in the NFL with nine sacks. Cincinnati has given up 12 sacks on offense, which is tied for last in the NFL.
Miami currently has eight players who registered at least a half sack, with Ndamukong Suh leading the team with 2.5 sacks.
Expect Cameron Wake to receive more snaps this week in an effort to make pass rushing a factor. Wake is relatively ineffective against the run, so if Cincy is having its way on the ground, Wake will likely remain a non-factor.
Miami’s secondary vs. Cincinnati receiver A.J. Green
A.J. Green is responsible for nearly one-third of Cincinnati’s passing offense, which is ranked seventh in the NFL. Miami is in the bottom half of the league in passing defense, giving up a 94.8 quarterback rating to opposing teams.
Miami’s starter, Byron Maxwell, has been picked on by opposing receivers. Maxwell trailing receivers by several yards has been an all-too familiar sight for Miami’s defense.
As always, Miami will have to rely on Reshad Jones to make game-changing plays in the secondary.
Miami’s rookie corner, Xavien Howard, has been the most consistent corner of the group.
Miami’s air attack vs. Cincinnati’s secondary
Though inconsistent, Miami’s passing offense is the only reason it has scored points this season.
Cincinnati struggled mightily against Denver’s passing offense last week and first-season starting quarterback, Trevor Siemian. Cincinnati gave up four passing touchdowns and allowed Siemian a 132.1 passer rating. It was the Bengals worst defensive showing of the season so far.
Jarvis Landry remains the most consistent weapon on offense, while DeVante Parker looks like he is fully healed from hamstring issues that plagued him during training camp.
Jordan Cameron will be sidelined with a concussion, which paves the way for tight end Dion Sims to make his presence felt.
Bengals starting corner Dre Kirkpatrick is likely sidelined with an injury.
After Miami’s defense was exposed by the Browns—yes, the Browns—expect more of the same against a Cincinnati team that hasn’t played up to its potential.
If you have A.J. Green or Jeremy Hill in fantasy football, you should definitely start them in this matchup.
You should also expect some points in this one, as both offenses will likely exploit the opposing defenses.
Both teams will also be in their “Color Rush” uniforms, with Miami sporting all orange and Cincinnati wearing all white.
Indianapolis Colts at Jacksonville Jaguars, 1 p.m.—Is this the week the Jaguars get their first victory? The offense this season hasn’t been as explosive as the Jaguars expected, but if I had to guess, this would be the week it gets back on track against a weak Colts defensive unit.
Denver Broncos at Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 4:05 p.m.—Like the rest of the teams in Florida, Tampa Bay is struggling to get wins. After giving up 37 points to the Rams in a loss last week, the Bucs will host the undefeated Broncos who, despite a first-year starting quarterback, look like one of the stronger teams in the NFL.