NFL on Sling: Bengals Eyeing Dolphins' Soft Underbelly

Sep 29, 2016 by Sling Staff

Miami Dolphins (1-2) vs. Cincinnati Bengals (1-2) 8:25pm ET Thursday, NFL Network

How bad are the Dolphins? Their only win this year came last week against the Browns, and they needed overtime to do it. And now their O-line’s been decimated by injuries, and their best receiver is ailing. As for the Bengals, they needed a last-minute field goal against the Jets to secure their lone victory, and they can’t seem to get the running game and passing game going on the same day. Still, the Bengals should win this one handily at home.

‘Phins QB Ryan Tannehill has been much better since a Week 1 loss against Seattle, but he’s still thrown just 5 touchdowns vs. 4 interceptions, and this week he’ll be without starting tight end Jordan Cameron, who suffered a concussion in Week 3. Tannehill hopes to still have his best target on the field, however, third-year wide receiver Jarvis Landry, who is building on last year’s Pro Bowl season with 24 catches for 314 yards and a TD. Landry hurt his shoulder against Cleveland but is likely for Thursday.

The Miami offense’s real problem is a lack of a running game, as they’ve gained just 83 yards per game on the ground with 3 TDs and 6 fumbles. Most damning is the fact the Tannehill is the team’s leading rusher with just 54 yards on 12 carries. Arian Foster was brought in to help, but the four-time Pro Bowler is coming off a ruptured Achilles and is on the wrong side of 30. The writing was on the wall last season, even before the injury, as Foster gained just 163 yards on 63 carries in 4 games, and this year isn’t much better, with 16 carries for 47 yards. But Foster sat out last week’s game, and won’t be playing this week either, leaving the rushing to rookie Kenyan Drake, who so far in his three-game career has rushed for 49 yards and a TD on 11 carries.

Given that they’ve been on the field for more snaps than any other defense in the NFL, Miami’s D has held up reasonably well, holding opponents to just 5.5 yards per play, and a tick below 22 points a game, both slightly better than the league average. That said, they’re allowing the second-most rushing yards in the league, at 147.3. Unfortunately, they make life a like more difficult for themselves by drawing the second-most flags for the fifth-most yards of any defense in the NFL.

Andy Dalton was in the midst of a career year when he broke his thumb last season during a loss to Pittsburgh, while trying to make a tackle following an interception, but he appears to be all the way back, on pace for career highs in completions and yards. That said, he’s only managed to throw 2 TD passes, and he’s been sacked a dozen times. A big part of Cincy’s problem on offense is its moribund running game, which was good for just 103 yards total in the first two games, before gaining 143 yards and 2 TDs last week against Denver. But in focusing on the run, the passing game suffered mightily, with Dalton connecting on just 21-for-31 for 206 yards and an interception, and Dalton was sacked 4 times. Cincy’s offensive line was ranked #4 in the league coming into the season by Pro Football Focus, and eveyone seems healthy, so why is Dalton getting slapped around, and where’s the ground game?

On defense, the Bengals have been pretty OK in terms of yards allowed on both the ground and in the air, finding themselves in the middle of the pack on both counts. But while their defense has allowed not a single TD on the ground (best in the league, not surprisingly), they’ve giving up 8 passing TDs, half of them last week against Denver.

The Dolphins barely function when they’re at full strength, and the Bengals just have too much talent, especially at quarterback, where Dalton should be able to have his way with a Miami D that has just one interception.

Watch the Miami Dolphins vs. the Cincinnati Bengals at 8:25pm ET Thursday on the NFL Network by subscribing to Sling Blue’s Sports Extra

Stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference and ESPN

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