NFL GAME PREVIEW

Thursday Night Preview: Dolphins at Bengals

The Sports Xchange

September 27, 2016 at 9:44 pm.

Sep 25, 2016; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green (18) makes a move past Denver Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib (21) in the first half at Paul Brown Stadium. Photo Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Sep 25, 2016; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green (18) makes a move past Denver Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib (21) in the first half at Paul Brown Stadium. Photo Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

By Frank Cooney

Miami (1-2) at Cincinnati (1-2)

KICKOFF: Thursday, 8:25 p.m. ET, Paul Brown Stadium. TV: NFL Network, Jim Nantz, Phil Simms, Tracy Wolfson

SERIES HISTORY: 21st regular-season meeting. Miami leads 15-5. Miami defeated Cincinnati 22-20 in overtime in 2013 on Halloween. That game was memorable because it was the same night the story broke that former offensive tackle Jonathan Martin alleged he was bullied by ex-guard Richie Incognito. The game ended on a safety when defensive end Cam Wake sacked quarterback Andy Dalton in the end zone with 6:38 left in OT.

GAMEDATE: 9/29/16

KEYS TO THE GAME: Cincinnati needs a win badly and so does Miami. But the Bengals are playing at home and coming off a disheartening loss to Denver in a game that they led in the second half. Cincinnati did a decent job of keeping pressure off Andy Dalton and keeping Broncos Super Bowl MVP Von Miller under wraps, but they face another challenge Thursday in Ndamukong Suh.

Look for the Bengals to establish the running game early, which they managed for a while at Denver. Dalton may enjoy the return of Pro Bowl tight end Tyler Eifert, who had offseason ankle surgery. He led all tight ends with 13 touchdowns last year and caught 52 passes for 615 yards in 13 games.

Bengals linebackers need to keep Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill in the pocket. He is Miami’s leading rusher through three games, averaging 4.5 per carry, and is only 40 yards shy of a franchise record for rushing yards by a quarterback.

The Dolphins must find something that works offensively and defensively. Miami wants its offense to be led by the passing game and its defense to be led by the defensive line, but both have been spotty, at best.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH:

–Bengals WR A.J. Green vs. Dolphins CB Xavien Howard. This is interesting because it could have a ripple effect. Last week, Cleveland’s Terrelle Pryor did so well against Howard, a rookie second-round pick, that Miami moved CB Byron Maxwell to cover Pryor. That could happen again this week. Pryor torched both of them (eight receptions, 144 yards).

–Dolphins’ run offense vs. Bengals’ run defense. Miami must find a way to run the ball effectively so it has some sort of balance. Right now, the Dolphins have 113 passes to 62 runs, almost a 2-to-1 ratio. Some of that is because the Dolphins trailed and had to pass, but their rushing offense (83 yards per game) is 25th in the NFL. The combination of Bengals DT Geno Atkins and LBs Karlos Dansby, Vontaze Burfict and Rey Maualuga might be too much.

PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Dolphins RT Ja’Wuan James. The 2015 first-round pick was yanked last week for the overtime period against Cleveland because of poor performance. Coach Adam Gase hasn’t yet indicated whether James will start. Gase has James, and perhaps a few other starters, on a short leash. James will likely spend most of his time against Bengals DE Carlos Dunlap.

FAST FACTS: Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill won both of his previous starts vs. the Bengals while posting a 92.4 passer rating. He passed for 319 yards and three touchdowns TDs last week, and he aims for third game with 300-plus yards. … Bengals QB Andy Dalton leads AFC with 938 passing yards. In his past 10 home games, he has 16 touchdowns, six interceptions and a 103 passer rating.

PREDICTION: The Bengals, and Dalton, face a Miami defense that allowed Cleveland 430 total yards, and the Dolphins escaped with a W only because the Browns missed makeable field goals.

OUR PICK: Bengals, 27-16.

–Frank Cooney

 

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