If there’s one type of team the Miami Dolphins would be well to avoid at this point with all of their offensive line struggles, it’s a club like the Cincinnati Bengals, with one of the best pass-rush schemes in the NFL.
In general, the Bengals are simply a better team, heading into their Thursday Night game against the Dolphins on the back of four consecutive wins and Andy Dalton, all of a sudden, playing like a quarterback the team can count on when the game is on the line.
The Dolphins, on the other hand, have lost their last four games, and Ryan Tannehill just can’t catch a break. He has thrown four touchdowns over the last two games, including the 27-17 loss to the New England Patriots which included the Dolphins dropping a 14 point lead. However, he has thrown 7 interceptions over his last nine games, and has a disappointing 60.9 passer rating in fourth quarters. The biggest problem for him has been avoiding the sack – he’s been sacked 32 times this season, more than any other quarterback, which has also led to five fumbles.
Another problem for the second-year quarterback has been losing receiver Brandon Gibson, who has caught three touchdown passes this season, but also miss the rest of it with a knee injury he suffered in the New England game. Despite the offensive line problems, they have run for 276 yards in the last two games, including a season-high 156 against the Patriots.
The Bengals are one of the best in the league when it comes to stopping the run, allowing 97.2 yards on the ground, 8th in the NFL. That efficiency might be hindered due to the knee injury Ray Maualuga is suffering from, keeping him out of the game.
But the Bengals’ real strength has been their defensive line and their defense in general. They’re allowing 18 points per game (5th in the NFL), and recorded four sacks and two interceptions in a 49-9 win over the New York Jets. They are 2-2 on the road this season, but have won their last two in Buffalo and Detroit.
Andy Dalton has also shown a vast improvement, maybe due to the help he’s gotten on the ground from Giovani Bernanrd and BenJarvus Green-Ellis. Dalton has completed 65.2% of his attempts for 15 yards or longer during the four-game win streak, while the league average during that time has been 41%.
Prediction – Ryan Tannehill is going to be a great quarterback, but even the best of ’em need great protection. The Bengals’ defense will be too much for the Dolphins to handle, even at home.