The time has come for the Miami Dolphins, aka, the best team in the AFC to make their prime-time TV debut. Thursday Night Football will have Tua Tagovailoa and the Dolphins hit the road to Paycor Stadium in Ohio to play Joe Burrow and the Bengals.
After both Miami and Cincinnati scored wins against AFC East rivals in Week 3, the stage is set for what could be a great, offense-first clash between this year’s hottest offense and last year’s Cinderella story. But what could tip the scale in each team’s favor in their TNF matchup? Let’s take a closer look.
Miami Should Continue Building on Their Momentum
Before the season started, the Miami Dolphins were being taken as dark-horse candidates in the AFC. Now, while holding a 3-0 record and having the best offense in its conference, Miami is looking like it ditched the dark horse moniker and decided to focus on dominating.
In their last game against the Bills, the Dolphins looked like a team ready to go through any opponent. Not only did they manage to beat the favorite squad to win the Super Bowl this season, but they did it convincingly. Offensively, Miami managed to hold strong against Buffalo’s stellar defense. While before, in the first two games of the season, Miami relied heavily on the Tagovailoa-Tyreek Hill-Jaylen Waddle trident, against Buffalo, it was its running attack that made a definitive difference.
More importantly, on defense, the Dolphins front seven came through enormously. Playing against guys like Josh Allen and Steffon Diggs is never easy, but Miami’s defensive line kept the best QB-WR duo in the league in check. After sacking Allen four times and leading Buffalo to an offensive breakdown at the end of the game, the Dolphins were able to score their most significant and convincing win.
Now, as they visit the Bengals, who are coming off their first win of the year against the Jets, Miami needs to keep that momentum growing stronger. On offense, Hill already got the game started, calling out Bengals CB Eli Apple. Tagovailoa looks poised to have another great outing, especially against a Bengals defense that is nowhere as dominant as Baltimore’s or Buffalo’s. If we add those factors up and mix in another strong performance from Miami’s rushing attack, as well as another strong showing from the Dolphins’ defense and secondary, it’s almost impossible to not envision a ‘Fins win.
1-2 Should Mean Nothing When Facing the Bengals
The Cincinnati Bengals are 1-2. It’s weird to think that last year’s AFC Champions would start out in such a slow form, only having scored their first win last week. Still, if you’ve been keeping track of how Cincinnati has performed this year, that 1-2 record doesn’t reflect how the Bengals have been on the field.
Offensively, Joe Burrow has put up top-10 QB numbers, with 812 passing yards and six touchdowns. Great numbers for a player that looks like he is still just warming up to get going. Once Burrow, Ja’Marr Chase, Tyler Boyd, and Tee Higgins get hot, believe me, this will be an offense nobody will want to face.
To beat Miami, the Bengals will need two things specifically. First, offensive efficiency. Miami’s defense has had its fair share of tests in the past two weeks against Baltimore and Buffalo. While they have put up solid numbers, they are still getting caught up in mistakes that end up causing them big.
If Burrow takes a couple of ideas out of Lamar Jackson’s strategy against the ‘Fins, he could end up hitting Miami right where it hurts, in its secondary. Cincinnati’s passing game getting into its groove early could be a key.
But also, to achieve that, the Bengals’ O-line needs to protect Burrow better. This is a QB that can read the field and release the ball in an instant. He plays comfortably in the pocket and can dodge defenders like it’s an everyday thing, but he needs proper protection. Give Burrow enough time in the pocket and he will deliver sound results, it’s as simple as that.
Secondly, on defense, the Bengals need not allow Miami any room to breathe. Cincinnati has been solid. This is a unit that is not keen on allowing teams to rake up passing or rushing yards. Against a team as explosive on offense as Miami, smart coverages down the field and deep pressuring on Tua Tagovailoa will be of the utmost importance. Miami’s running game is decent, which means that if the Bengals manage to keep the Dolphins’ passing attack on hold as long as possible, they could finish the night with a 2-2 record.
- NFL Team: Cincinnati Bengals Profile & Stats
- NFL Player: Joe Burrow’s Profile & Stats
- NFL Player: Tua Tagovailoa’s Profile & Stats
Who’s Winning Between Tua and Hill or Burrow and Chase?
The Bengals are starting to wake up and that is something that will become a problem for opponents. But given how strong Miami has been playing and especially after an essential win as they had against Buffalo, I have to go with the Dolphins here to take the game and move to 4-0.