Week 4 Preview @ Cincinnati: Sweeping the Swing State

Miami Dolphins (1-2) @ Cincinnati Bengals (1-2)

Thursday September 29 – 8:30 PM EST, Paul Brown Stadium, NFL Network

dolphins-bengals
A third straight win over the Bengals would restore mediocrity in Miami

We all know the definition of insanity by now – yet we adhere to it’s very definition constantly. Message boards remain the most amusing Sunday destination as the fan bases of the 16 losing teams of any given week are ready to fire the entire staff and replace every player.

The lone difference for the Dolphins just four days ago? They were on the winning side. An overtime victory vs. a team starting a rookie third string quarterback, down its top pass rusher, defensive back, wide receiver and using a street free agent kicker; and all of that on top of a prediction that this team would finish with a top three draft pick PRIOR to the injuries doesn’t exactly inspire hope for our beloved Fins.

So here come the Dolphins, limping into Cincinnati on a short week with an injury report longer than the mistakes list from week three.

The Bengals aren’t exactly fulfilling their lofty expectations either. Unlike Miami, Cincinnati has Super Bowl aspirations under the second longest tenured head coach in the league, Marvin Lewis.

The fans aren’t the only ones suffering from Déjà vu. Adam Gase’s Dolphins have been showing tendencies of Miami’s past. His Dave Wannstedt-esque play calling, the slow starts reminiscent of Joe Philbin led teams – Coach Gase is officially faced with his first serving of adversity.

If the Dolphins can pull off a win, the hope is instantly restored. With an upcoming slate of opponents listed here:

Tennessee

Pittsburgh

Buffalo

BYE WEEK

New York Jets

@ San Diego

@ Los Angeles

San Francisco

@ Baltimore

There is one game on that list that looks like a game the Dolphins should have no chance in. Before you begin arguing that the Dolphins can’t stop the run, can’t defend the pass, that stupid day-walker quarterback needs to be replaced, just R-E-L-A-X.

I hated hearing that 400 times when Aaron Rodgers said it, but not more than I hate using three games to forecast the next 13. Since when has September ever told the entire story of the NFL? It just doesn’t work like that. The truth is, you will get 16 different  versions of this Dolphins team.

So far, we’ve seen one dominant defensive performance, one offensive onslaught and one wildly streaky performance on all fronts. The Dolphins haven’t put together a complete game and they may not, but that’s not enough for me to definitively say this is a four-win team, because it’s not.

Beyond the rah-rah, how do the Dolphins actually compete with this Bengals team? On paper, this is a team that should run it down Miami’s throat, complete 42 deep balls to A.J. Green and dominate the interior offensive line of the Fins.

It appears Anthony Steen will be on the shelf as the Dolphins turn to Kraig Urbik to start at center. Once Urbik entered the game, the pass protection fell apart. The line calls were even shakier and interior pressure collapsed on Ryan Tannehill constantly.

Jelani Jenkins might miss the game, but that would be a boon as the superior Neville Hewitt would see more playing time. Koa Misi is banged up (when is he not?), Branden Albert should be good to go and even Jarvis Landry is listed with a shoulder injury.

The Bengals have issues of their own. No quarterback has been sacked more than Andy Dalton, Tyler Eifert’s production hasn’t been replaced and the secondary looks every bit the part of a Kevin Coyle (former Miami defensive coordinator) defense. Trevor Siemen just torched this crew for four touchdowns and 312 yards.

The Bengals want to play near the middle of the field, establish the run and take shots down the field to A.J. Green. The offensive line returns four starters from a group that was dominant a year ago but is struggling up the middle and off the right edge.

Fortunately, for Miami, this is an area of strength on the defense. But as big as that advantage goes in the Dolphins favor, the ability to cover down the field should be a concern. I’d like to see Vance Joseph challenge Andy Dalton to push the ball up the field, keep Reshad Jones near the box and play a cover one with Byron Maxwell pressing A.J. Green.

I know, Maxwell isn’t capable of much, but he has been defending the deep route well so let’s see what they can do. I’d rather see Maxwell get torched deep than watch Jeremy Hill bury his head for eight yards a carry right down the middle of this Miami defense.

The Dolphins offense is going to need to pass to set up the run. Adam Gase attempted to establish the run early and often in the Cleveland game, and it just didn’t work out. The Bengals linebackers, which gets Vontaze Burfict back, plays with speed but lacks discipline at times. In breaking routes behind the linebackers with Devante Parker and Jarvis Landry should be the plan.

NFL: Cleveland Browns at Miami Dolphins
Landry walks into the end-zone prior to being flagged for 45 yards with of celebration penalties

Once the linebackers soften up, spread them thin with Kenyan Drake forcing the edge of the run defense and keep the pass rush in more of a contain technique. The Bengals secondary is talented and played with instinct and confidence a year ago.

We heard it while he was here, but all Kevin Coyle does is create confusing concepts. With this uncertainty, the Dolphins need to use the same double moves it did against Cleveland to free up some receivers in the secondary. We saw it last week with Simien, the Bengals are susceptible to the big play.

The five crucial match-ups in this game are:

1.) Ryan Tannehill vs. Kevin Coyle (well, Paul Guenther) –

Ryan Tannehill was confused by Cleveland’s various looks on Sunday. Some of the concepts in the Cincinnati defense should be things Tannehill is familiar with. He also plays better when he gets thrust back under the microscope of the question, “is he the guy?” I like the way he responds when challenged and I think Adam Gase can be the same type of guy in his effort to draw up an excellent plan on a short week.

Advantage: Miami

tannehill-gase
Gase and Tannehill need to turn it up when the lights come on Thursday

2.) Kraig Urbik vs. Geno Atkins –

This one has been keeping me up at night. I’d like to think a few days to get dialed in, Urbik can perform better as the starter than as a replacement. Dealing with an all-pro nose tackle might prove to be an impossible task as Atkins frees up those Cincinnati backers to destroy the Miami run game. Then there’s the issue of having pressure directly in Tannehill’s face.

Advantage: Cincinnati

3.) A.J. Green vs. Byron Maxwell –

I would consider making the switch from Maxwell to Tony Lippett, but then I remember Lippett’s pre-season performance. It’s an interesting watch as Maxwell and Lippett both play an outside leverage technique and invite receivers to the inside. Xavien Howard doesn’t do this. He plays out of his back pedal and it makes me question if these coaches just don’t feel like they have the personnel or if they believe this is best. Regardless, A.J. Green could ruin this game all by himself – and he just might.

Advantage: Cincinnati

4.) Cam Wake vs. Cedric Obuehi –

In his limited action, Cam Wake has been terrorizing quarterbacks thus far in 2016. He only got 16 snaps against Cleveland and made an impacted the game on six of them.

wake-walk-off
The most memorable play of the last five years, Cam Wake needs to be in Dalton’s face all night.

The rookie right tackle for the Bengals has had his struggles so far and Wake’s fresh legs on the short week should give him a bigger workload. Cam has already registered a walk off sack against this team, can we make another massive impact?

Advantage: Miami

5.) Dion Sims vs. George Iloka –

George Iloka is a better player than Dion Sims, make no mistake about that. Sims is a solid blocker that runs good routes and should be a heavier option in the red-zone. He’s kind of a hidden talent on this team. Because he has been so scarcely used, I expect the Bengals to overlook him and figure the Dolphins to pump the ball to its receivers. Sims could minimize Iloka in the ground game and sneak behind the coverage a couple of times.

Advantage: Miami

I think it’s safe to say the Dolphins slept walked through the game against Cleveland. They read the press clippings, probably read my massive blowout prediction column, and thought their 0-2 shit didn’t stink. But it did stink. Bad.

The Fins need a bounce back performance before returning home for four straight games over a five-week period. Go get a short week victory and enjoy sleeping in your own bed for the next month plus.

The Bengals, on the other hand, just played the most physical defense in football and chased receivers up and down the field all day. With another test next week in Dallas, the Bengals could view the Dolphins the same way the Dolphins viewed the Browns.

It’s tough for a 1-2 team to fall victim to a trap game, but that’s what I expect to happen. An Andy Dalton led team has never beaten the Dolphins, once in Cincinnati and once at home. The Bengals are notorious for getting “shrinkage” in primetime games, so that’s another thing for Miami to cling to.

This is going to be a one score game – that’s what the Dolphins do. I’m not positive who is going to win it, but the Dolphin thing to do is beat Cincinnati and lose next week to Tennessee. So, that leads me to this prediction:

Dolphins 22

Bengals 20

I will be live Tweeting the game while drinking beer @Travis_Writes (us west coast fans don’t get to drink during Fins games unless we feel like cracking them at 10 AM.)

You can contact me via email at traviswingfield@yahoo.com

Don’t forget to listen to the Perfectville Podcast this week as I join Sam to discuss this game and review the Browns game.

We won last week. Somewhere, I can hear Jim Mandich shouting, “Alllllllright Miami!”

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