Game Scout: Bengals at Dolphins

Derek Harper, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

Cincinnati Bengals (6-2) at Miami Dolphins (3-4)
Thursday, 8:40 p.m. ET, at Sun Life Stadium, Miami Gardens, Fla. - TV: NFL Network
*TV announcers: Brad Nessler, Mike Mayock, Alex Flanagan
*Keys to the game: Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill is under constant heat -- from increasingly disgruntled fans in South Florida to the swarms of pass rushers he finds in his grill. He has been sacked a league-leading 32 times, including at least four times in six of seven games. During the team's four-game losing streak, that has contributed heavily to his 10 turnovers. The Bengals have 24 sacks and are dangerous up front primarily because they have pass rushers capable of getting into the backfield across the line. Dolphins RB Lamar Miller is averaging 4.5 yards per carry after rushing for 89 at New England last week. Miami needs to keep the game close and keep feeding Miller - if the Dolphins are forced to go one-dimensional, things could go south quickly. That's because Cincinnati's offense has stepped it up a notch - or five. The Bengals have 13 touchdown drives of 80-plus yards this season; they had 10 all of last season. With playmakers including WR Marvin Jones and rookie TE Tyler Eifert taking advantage of the attention paid to A.J. Green, QB Andy Dalton spreads the ball around to more receivers than the Dolphins can cover unless their own pass rush gets home.
*Matchup to watch - Bengals LT Anthony Collins vs. Dolphins DE Olivier Vernon: With Cam Wake still not 100 percent, Vernon leads the team with 4.5 sacks. Collins, who is expected to start in place of Andrew Whitworth (knee), is an experienced backup who will also see time against rookie Dion Jordan.
*Player spotlight - Dolphins WR Rishard Matthews: Matthews isn't a slot receiver by trade, but will receive significant snaps following Brandon Gibson's season-ending injury. Gibson is tied for second on the team with 30 catches and Tannehill needs production out of that role in the passing game.
*Fast facts: Miami is the first team since the 2002 New England Patriots to win their first three games and then lose their next four. ... Dalton has thrown for 300-plus yards, three or more touchdowns and had a triple digit passer rating in three consecutive games.
The NFL is a league of overreacting - the Bengals aren't as dominating as their four-game winning streak might suggest and the Dolphins aren't cupcakes despite a four-game skid. If Miami can stay balanced offensively it can stay competitive. Ultimately, Bengals QB Andy Dalton just has far more reliable weapons to move the ball with.
*Our pick: Bengals 26-23

What to Read Next