Kickoff: 1:00 P.M. EST
Where: Paul Brown Stadium (Cincinnati, OH)
Spread: Bengals by 1.5
Last Week: Miami lost to Pittsburgh 23-22, Cincinnati lost a thriller in Atlanta 39-32
Miami Injuries: None
Cincinnati Injuries: WR Terrell Owens (Probable), QB Carson Palmer (Questionable), CB John Joseph (Questionable), RB Brian Leonard (Probable), CB Leon Hall (Questionable), CB Morgan Trent (Questionable)
When Miami has the ball… Miami wants to improve their below average 3.9 yards per rush, which ranks 25th in the NFL. It’s a far cry from their 4.4 average last season. The interior offensive line has to get more of a push off the snap and the running backs have to hit the hole harder. Ricky Williams did a good job at this last week while Ronnie Brown was ineffective.
Brown has a tendency to “dance” in the backfield before he makes his move, something he can’t afford to do when the holes are scarce. One cut and hit the hole hard. The Bengals defense is mediocre on the whole, ranking in the bottom half of the league in rush (22nd) and pass defense (19th).
Cincy’s top two corners in Johnathan Joseph and Leon Hall are both banged up. As is safety Chinedum Ndukwe, who did not practice on Thursday. If Hall isn’t able to go, Brandon Marshall could have a field day against this defense.
Cincinnati runs into problems in coverage not because the secondary is weak but only because they don’t get consistent pressure up front. They have just 10 sacks on the season. Look for more of a downfield mentality from the Dolphins aerial attack.
When Cincinnati has the ball… They love to throw it and are effective when they do with some dynamic players at the skill positions. Quarterback Carson Palmer will be playing with a bad hip. It’s critical Cameron Wake and the Miami pass rush put him on the ground early and often.
The more time he has to throw, the more dangerous deep threats Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens become. Pressure will disrupt their timing and keep the vertical threats in check.
Running back Cedric Benson has struggled this year behind a mediocre offensive line. Miami’s run defense was superb last week against Pittsburgh allowing just 58 yards on the ground, and they look to build upon that performance.
In the secondary, Miami continues to have instability opposite of corner Vontae Davis. Sean Smith is primed to regain the second corner spot from Jason Allen, who has struggled tremendously since his breakout performance in Minnesota. Smith received most of the reps in the latter portion of the Pittsburgh game.
The secondary is going to have opportunities to make plays in this one because the Bengals are not afraid to take continuously take chances down the field.
1. Running the football with efficiency (4+ YPC)
2. Special teams coverage
3. Vertical passing game
Prediction: Miami suffered a heartbreaker last week against the Steelers at home. I don’t think Cincinnati matches the physicality of the Dolphins defense and ultimately that will be the difference in what might be a shootout.
Miami 30 Cincinnati 24