The season gets no easier for the Miami Dolphins as they travel to the cold of the AFC North and take on the 3-1 Cincinnati Bengals, the 4th division leader the Dolphins have had to face in the last five weeks. Yes, I am playing with the facts just a bit, but there is still truth in what I am saying.
The Houston Texans were in a four way tie for first when they played the Dolphins since it was the first game of the season, but they kept their position and are one of the last unbeaten teams in the NFL. The Arizona Cardinals were undefeated last weekend when the Dolphins came to town, and even though they lost on Thursday night, they are still at the top of a surprisingly good NFC West. The New York Jets are even at 2-2, but somehow they still share the division lead with the New England Patriots, just as the Bengals share the top spot of their division with the Baltimore Ravens.
This makes four division leaders out of the five opponents Miami has faced, and while it may be early in the season, it still goes to show the quality of the opponents the Dolphins have faced. The Jets and the Cardinals have questions swirling about the validity of their division leading status, but Cincinnati belongs where they are, and will likely show why on Sunday.
The Bengals were one of three teams from their division to make the playoffs last season. This alone is a noteworthy fun-fact, but when you take in to consideration the fact they were led by a rookie quarterback whose number one target was a rookie wide receiver, you realize how incredible a feat it truly was.
The Cincinnati run game may come under fire for not being productive enough, but Andy Dalton is more than capable of making up for it with the passing attack. Unfortunately for the Dolphins, this plays right into their weakness.
Miami has the best run defense in the league through the first four games, but a paper thin secondary has been getting burned whenever the stakes are high. This weakness has proven fatal for the Dolphins in their last two games, and it will not get any easier for them this week, especially with the absence of starting cornerback, Richard Marshall, who will be out this week with a back injury. Cameron Wake and the rest of the Dolphins front 7 are going to need to do all they can to disrupt the flow on the Bengals offense; otherwise this could easily turn into a blow out.
The Bengals defense has been solid through the first quarter of the season, and they will be looking to give the Dolphins rookie quarterback all he can handle. Any team that has the Marvin Lewis fingerprint on it is going to have a unique defense that gives confusing and distracting looks. Ryan Tannehill has shown why he was a top ten selection over the last few weeks, but he is going to need to take care of the ball if he wants to lead his team to a victory on the road.
Time is already running out for the 1-3 Dolphins. New England is ahead of Miami by just one game in the AFC East, but last week’s come from behind stomping of the Buffalo Bills should probably be taken as a sign that the Patriots have found their groove and are ready to take control. Miami is going to have to play inspired ball if they want to have a chance at keeping pace.
Jeff Everette is a Featured Columnist for RantSports.com, covering the NFL and NBA. Follow Jeff on twitter @jeverettesports, like his page on FaceBook, or add his Google + to your circles for all of his latest articles, thoughts, and rants.