Two underachievers will meet when the Miami Dolphins face off with the Cincinnati Bengals on Thursday Night Football at Paul Brown Stadium to start Week 4.
Both teams are 1-2, although only the visiting Dolphins were winners in Week 3, after needing an overtime touchdown run to beat the lowly Cleveland Browns at home. By contrast, the Bengals were humbled in front of their own crowd by the defending Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos.
Cincy couldn’t move the ball on the ground or through the air with any consistency. Yet, the Bengals may fancy their chances of scoring more points against a Miami defense that’s been very generous the last two weeks. The Dolphins were burned for over 400 yards of offense by the Browns, and now own the NFL‘s softest run defense.
Of course, the Bengals need a credible threat on the ground to take advantage of the Dolphins’ surprisingly soft underbelly. What offensive coordinator Ken Zampese really needs is for one of Jeremy Hill or Giovani Bernard to emerge as a workhorse, after the pair combined for just 22 carries against the Broncos, per the league’s official site.
Like the Bengals, the Dolphins would also love to boast a credible rushing threat. Miami’s offense is ranked a lowly 25th on the ground, but head coach Adam Gase isn’t worried, according to Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald. Instead, Gase is willing to give his ground game the benefit of the doubt after facing two tough defensive fronts, the Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots, in the first two weeks.
But Gase won’t have been in a forgiving mood after watching his offense still struggle to run the ball against the Browns. The Dolphins totalled 115 yards on the ground, but needed 25 attempts and six different runners to gain them.
Those problems could give confidence to a Cincinnati defense inconsistent against the run before shutting down C.J. Anderson in Week 3, holding him to just 37 yards on 14 attempts. In fact, the Broncos averaged a mere 2.3 yards per rush.
Those numbers perhaps signal a very deep and talented D-line is back on form. Nose tackle Domata Peko was a particular menace, and he could cause havoc in the middle with Dolphins center Mike Pouncey, whose yet to play, likely to miss out.
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The Bengals will be smarting after two-straight defeats featuring stale performances on both sides of the ball. It will be important for Peko and fellow D-tackle Geno Atkins to force the Dolphins offense into being one-dimensional and heap the pressure on under-performing quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
Speaking of a struggling passer, Bengals signal-caller Andy Dalton must make smarter decisions from the pocket and get the ball into the hands of his playmakers quicker than he did against the Broncos.