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Keys for the Miami Dolphins to beat the Cincinnati Bengals

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Miami Dolphins Keys vs Cincinnati Bengals

Miami Dolphins Keys vs Cincinnati Bengals
Frank Victores-US PRESSWIRE

Both the Miami Dolphins and the Cincinnati Bengals lost their 2012 opening games (both teams were annihilated week 1). In the 3 weeks since we have seen the 'Phins hammer the Oakland Raiders, but give away wins vs the New York Jets and the Arizona Cardinals. The Bengals, on the other hand, have romped to 3 straight wins and they sit pretty at 3-1 (tied for 1st place in the AFC North with the Baltimore Ravens). This slide show article is a look at some keys to look watch for the Dolphins to be able to go on the road and get their second 2012 victory.

The Bengals were a 2011 playoff team, but many had them projected to miss the 2012 playoffs. Week 1 was a 44-13 beat-down at the hands of the Ravens, but this team has surely righted their ship with 3 straight high-scoring games. They have averaged a whopping 33 points per game over these last 3 weeks. We will surely look at their passing game vs the Dolphins secondary.

Rookie QB Ryan Tannehill is getting a lot of praise for his week 4 performance vs the Cardinals, and we will look at the Miami passing game vs a Bengals secondary that was run by new Dolphins defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle for many many years.

We will look at the importance of the first quarter in this game. We will also look at the 3rd down stats for these 2 teams and how it could come into play on Sunday.

We will also look at the fantastic Dolphins defensive-line vs the Bengals offensive-line.

All of that, plus some more too. The Dolphins were projected to be a bottom-5 NFL team and a loss this week would plummet Miami to 3 straight losses and a 1-4 record. That is the makings of a bottom-5 season. The AFC East is still in-play as Miami is 1-3 but all other division foes are just 2-2. for all of my Miami Dolphins articles

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Miami Dolphins Keys vs Cincinnati Bengals

Miami Dolphins Keys vs Cincinnati Bengals
Frank Victores-US PRESSWIRE

The Bengals passing game began 2012 with a dud against the Ravens, but they have found their high-gear since then. QB Andy Dalton has thrown 1 INT every game, but he has thrown 3,3,2 TD passes these past 3 weeks (the game last week where he threw 2 TDs he also rushed for a TD...His production has been awesome, especially when you consider this is only his 2nd season). 2 of the last 3 games have been north of 300 passing yards, and the lowest completion % has been 65%. Strong passing performances these days for Cincy.

The main target for Dalton is 2nd-year WR A.J. Green. Green is awesome. His 43 targets are by-far the most on the team. In the last 2 games alone Green has 15 catches for 300 yards and 2 TDs. Wow. That is more (in just 2 weeks) than any Dolphins WR entire 2012 stats (except for Brian Hartline).

Green already has 3 TDs this season. The only WR with more is Andre Roberts whose 4th 2012 TD catch tied the game vs Miami last weekend on the final play of the game (o-u-c-h).

After Green the distribution is pretty even with young guys like Armon Binns and Andrew Hawkins, plus of course tight end Jermaine Gresham. We will surely keep an eye on Gresham as Miami usually struggles with pass-catching TEs with his skill-set. Hawkins is a sure after-the-catch threat so Richard Marshall (or perhaps a bit of Nolan Carroll) will have to be great at making the tackle right-away.

The first down threat, the TD threat, the big-play threat...All of that is Green, but Dalton is also doing a nice job of spreading the ball around if Green is covered

We will likely see CB Sean Smith draw the assignment of trying to hang with Green. Smith was good vs Larry Fitzgerald (2 INTs is great actually) and despite allowing 8 catches he only allowed 64 yards. I thought Smith was burned massively for the game-tying Roberts TD last weekend, but we certainly did see a lot of good play from Smith too.He is the guy who needs to draw the assignments vs the oppositions top WRs.

@craigballard77 and the new sports show is @RantingBenCraig

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Miami Dolphins Keys vs Cincinnati Bengals

Miami Dolphins Keys vs Cincinnati Bengals
Jennifer Stewart-US PRESSWIRE

The Miami running game has been good, but the passing game has been worse than people think. It is easy to look at the video-game #s the passing game put up last week, but overall it has been poor. 4 games in, just a putrid 2 passing TDs (worst in NFL).

The Bengals average 28 points per game (#7 in NFL, plus remember last 3 weeks that is up to 33 points per game) so Miami needs to generate TDs in this game to stay in this game (plus the miss-fires from K Dan Carpenter have directly led to losses the last 2 weeks so settling for FG attempts is not going to cut it).

When the Bengals D smells a pass-play they are currently the best in the NFL at pinning their ears and attacking the pocket. They lead the NFL with 17 sacks. This game will be a sure test for the offensive-line as they need to help the passing game too.

Geno Atkins and Michael Johnson in particular have been impressive at sacking the QB. Miami has allowed 8 sacks in 2012 and if they can hold off the pass-rush we could see a good day from Tannehill and the passing game.

We know the WR group is undergoing an overhaul (starter Legedu Naanee OUT veteran Jabar Gaffney IN) and we know that if Tannehill is provided time in the pocket he is getting better and better at distributing the ball to his play-makers. This Cincy D has 0 INTs from their CBs, and in fact just 1 INT in total (Safety Chris Crocker last week vs Jacksonville Jaguars).

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Miami Dolphins Keys vs Cincinnati Bengals

Miami Dolphins Keys vs Cincinnati Bengals

A strong start is (again) likely. The question becomes can Miami bring the game home in the 4th quarter.

The Jets and Cardinals combined for a total 3 first-half points vs Miami. The vast majority of NFL teams will keep those games as wins (Miami has been turning these strong starts into losses). Cincy in ranked near the bottom for scoring points in the 1st quarter, and Miami is a top team when it comes to fewest 1st Q points allowed (only Arizona, Seattle Seahawks, and New York Giants have allowed fewer 1st Q points than Miami).

A lot has been made (rightfully so) of the idea that FG misses from Carpenter have been massive and contributed to the losses, but we also see a 'Phins team that has yet to learn how to close out games (aka win games). Miami has turned 10-3 (Jets game) and 13-0 (Cardinals game) halftime leads into losses by getting smoked in the 2nd half by a combined 44-18.

Chicago Bulls/Los Angeles Lakers ex-coach Phil Jackson always put emphasis on the 3-4 minutes to end a quarter/half, and the 3-4 minutes to open the next quarter/half as the times where games are won or lost. This Bengals team may subscribe to the same theory. The 2012 Bengals are at 112 points scored, well 44 of those (a whopping 40%) of those points have come within the last 5 minutes of the first half and first 5 minutes of 2nd half. Cincy is using these crucial points of the game to execute on a different level than their foes which has allowed them to get back into games, and/or take a strangle-hold on the game.

If Miami can take their usual 1st half lead they will need to be on-point to overcome the Bengals strong play to close the 1st half and open the 2nd half. for all of my Dolphins work

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Miami Dolphins Keys vs Cincinnati Bengals

Miami Dolphins Keys vs Cincinnati Bengals
Matt Kartozian-US PRESSWIRE

The Miami defensive line has been marvelous. We figured teams would struggle to run vs the front-7 (in particular vs the d-line of Cameron Wake, Paul Soliai, Randy Starks, and Jared Odrick). Well struggle turns out to be an understatement. The 2010 Pittsburgh Steelers rush-defense was the best I have ever seen. That was the work of long-time d-coordinator Dick LeBeau. I am impressed that 1st-time d-coordinator Kevin Coyle has this unit rocking against the run, but to be honest it is mostly due to the sheer talent on that d-line. I cannot say this defense will be as good as the 2010 Steelers, but they are off to a dominant start.

The pass-rush is suddenly working for Miami too. This is potentially huge vs the Bengals because their o-line is committing several false start, and offensive holding penalties. Miami is coming off a 8 sack beat-down of the Arizona o-line and this Cincy o-line surely knows their work is cut out for them this week.

The totals so far are that Miami has recorded 12 sacks while Cincy has yielded 12 sacks. No pass-rush gives Dalton a chance to let Green have time to separate from his defenders and that is a sure-fire recipe for yielding big passing plays. Example - in the Arizona game Fitz did get 8 catches, but none were big-yard plays (only short plays are available vs this hot d-line these days).

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Miami Dolphins Keys vs Cincinnati Bengals

Miami Dolphins Keys vs Cincinnati Bengals
Matt Kartozian-US PRESSWIRE

The Miami running game will have a chance to dominate this game vs a very poor Bengals rush-defense.

Reggie Bush is banged up. I personally do not believe in Daniel Thomas. Lamar Miller is a rookie so we expect ups-and-downs from him. That said, we can anticipate a heavy dose of the Miami run-game this week.

Miami is likely to have all three guys play this week. The Miami running game is a top-5 running game. The Cincy run defense is the worst in the NFL. The Bengals yield 5.4 yards per carry (FYI the Miami rush-D yields less than half of that!...#1 rush D vs #32 rush D).

To Cincinnati's credit they did shut down Maurice Jones-Drew last weekend, but they were torched for 200+ by the Redskins, 100+ by Trent Richardson, and they yielded a pair of TD runs to Ray Rice also.

Bush prides himself on his (under-the-radar) ability to run between the tackles. That should be on full display this week as the Bengals allow a ton of yards up the middle.

Cincy has yielded 5 rushing TDs (again we see Miami has less that half of that number too). The best we have seen from Miami in 2012 was when the offense was led by Bush and his running ability (the Raiders game, plus 1st half of Jets game was allll Bush).

I felt that Bush was trying to be to fine/cute vs the Cardinals. Not every play has a chance for a home-run, but vs the Bengals this RB-trio should romp and be able to contribute to a Dolphins win.

The math for this game is simple. 2-3 = bad and have a ton of work to do. 1-4 = attention turns to 2013 NFL draft.

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