The Cincinnati Bengals are legit…or at least are on the precipice of legitimacy. They won one of the best football games I’ve watched in a while, last week, and play the Miami Dolphins, this week, right before their hated rivals, next week. Trap game this, ripe for an upset that (They are currently favored by five), regardless of how you pluck it, this feathery matchup is as must a must-win as they must.
The Bengals have played the fins 21 times in the two franchises’ history, having lost 15 of those games. Cincinnati won the last matchup, in 2016, at Paul Brown Stadium, but Marvin is 3-3, overall, against Miami.
What has worked for the Bengals in 2018 (Andy Dalton to AJ Green) was what led them to a victory in 2016 against the Dolphins. I mentioned it in the wide receivers matchup post, but AJ whooped up on the Miami secondary with 10 catches, 173 yards, and the lone Bengals TD. Mike Nugent then kicked a million field goals to give the Bengals a 22-7 win.
This year, Dalton to Green has led to the all-pro wideout leading the AFC in touchdown receptions, with five. The passing game has even flourished outside of Green, considering he isn’t the team leader in receptions orreceiving yards. I can count on one finger the number of times I remember hearing that.
Tyler Boyd and his 26 receptions (6th in AFC) for 349 yards (5th) are atop the Bengals regiment of receivers, which just further affirm James’s nickname for him ofAndy’s Safety Blanket.
Getting to the ground game, Joe Mixon returns in week five. Gio Bernard, though, goes down for a few weeks with a knee injury. Sounds familiar as Joe missed the last two weeks with a knee injury. Mixon will look to pick up where he left off after gaining 179 yards in two games. Miami actually ranks just one spot above the Bengals in rush defense, this season, having allowed 442 yards. The opposition has scored four times against them, but the blueprint must be to take the air out of the ball, as teams have more rushing attempts against Miami, minimizing the Dolphins yards allowed per carry to 3.7. With Gio going down, and the Bengals, essentially, still running with two backs, I don’t expect a heavy dose of running, unless Thomas Rawls is activated.
Boy, it’s been tough this season for the Bengals defense. Despite having a plethora of talent in the front seven, the Bengals rank 27th in total defense and have given up 28.3 points per game. Much to all of Bengaldom’s joy, Vontaze Burfict returns to action in week five and figures to play around 60% of the snaps, out of the gate. It will be interesting to see if he’s ready to acclimate to all of the rule changes, initially, or if there be an adjustment period.
In their history, the Bengals have allowed 469 points to the Dolphins. Since Marvin took over in Cincy, the Fins have averaged just 17 points per, though, so maybe they will get the defense going this week.
I hate to overuse this saying, because mathematically this isn’t true, but, this is a must win for the Bengals. This game is a tone setter for the rest of the season. If they enter the Steelers game with just one loss, then they already have the upper hand. Should they win that game, too, then the division is theirs to lose. Joe Mixon will need to get plenty of touches, whether by hand off or pass, and Andy will need to mitigate the mistakes and not throw the ball to any Miami defenders.
Defensively, the coverage has a chance to get right this week as the Dolphins receivers are right at league average, talent-wise, maybe a little below average. The defensive line will have its first chance to showcase its ability to get to the quarterback as both the center and one of the guards will not play for the Dolphins.
Bringing it Home
This is not the Falcons offense that the Bengals defense got torched by, last week. This is a beatable offense that has overachieved, thus far in 2018. It won’t be a blowout, as there are few of those in the NFL, but this should be a good win for the Bengals, as long as they stay grounded and focused. Marvin has been a good driver of the “do your job” mentality, and this is another good example of a situation for him to excel in. I’m thinking the defense forces a turnover, or two, and keeps Tannehill on his back for most of the game. Andy and the offense will take it from there.
Prediction: Bengals win 28-17
Check out @lockedonBengals on Twitter as well as my handle @jefffcarr. I will be tweeting about football and other lovely things.
Not Another Bengals, Chiefs Preview
Week seven of the NFL regular season is upon us and the Cincinnati Bengals have a golden opportunity this Sunday on the road against the Kansas City Chiefs. Guessing that’s not where your mind went when you thought of this game?
The Bengals and Chiefs have squared off 28 times, over the years, with the Bengals holding a slight 15-13 advantage. Cincinnati holds a four-game winning streak over Kansas City with the last loss coming at Arrowhead in 2007. Marvin Lewis is 6-2 against the Chiefs and 2-2 at Arrowhead. The Lewis-led Bengals have outscored the Chiefs 167 to 136, in their eight meetings.
The last game between these two teams was in week four of the 2015 season. The Bengals won in Paul Brown Stadium 36-21 with four of the touchdowns coming from running plays. Three TDs were scored by Jeremy Hill and the other came from Giovanni Bernard. The lone TD pass was a 55-yarder to Brandon Tate from Andy Dalton.
This is a marvelous chance for Andy and the offense to get back on track. They managed just nine total yards in the third quarter against the Steelers, but will be facing a very pedestrian defensive squad, this coming Sunday night. In two games career games against the Chiefs, Dalton has completed 66% of his passes for 551 yards and three scores. He will face a Chiefs defense that ranks stone cold last in pass defense, allowing 340 yards per game, through the air.
Joe Mixon will be happy, though, as the Chiefs also allow an average of 127 rushing yards, per game. In fact, the Bengals offense, as a whole, should feast on Sunday. They’re averaging 29 points per game and the Chiefs allow 28.7 per game.
They’re banged up, and they’re outgunned in this matchup. Statistically, Cincinnati’s defense has fared only slightly better than Kansas City’s. The Bengals are allowing just over 400 total yards, a game, and 26 points per game. Couple that with the high-flying offense of Patrick Mahomes, who averages 418 total yards and 35 points per game, and I’d say you should bet the over, whatever Vegas has it set as.
Nick Vigil and Darqueze Dennard have been ruled out and Shawn Williams is listed as questionable. Given that eight different defensive starters came off the field last Sunday, at different points in the game, and this coming game may be crazy, simply from a health standpoint.
This matchup has a real chance at being a playoff preview as well as a carbon copy of the Falcons game, a few weeks back. The Chiefs will be in a battle with the Chargers, all season, for the AFC West and the Bengals, though on top for the moment, have no room for comfort with the Ravens and Steelers knocking on the door. Whoever has the ball last in this pivotal game could very well end up the winner.
I’d expect to see a lot of William Jackson and Tyreek Hill matchups. Some have said Hill is the best receiver, in the game, this year so Jackson will need to be on his toes for all 60 minutes. Meanwhile, Kansas City receiving threat 1-B, Travis Kelce, will probably be Teryl Austin’s biggest headache. The Bengals, no matter the personnel or the coaching staff, have always struggled to cover the opposing tight end. Enter, arguably, the best tight end in the NFL with his 468 receiving yards and three TDs. I’m no expert fantasy football predictor, but I’d bet he is a top scorer, this week. And I haven’t even mentioned the Chiefs’ stud running back, Kareem Hunt. Dude is a threat to run all over the place (456 yds, 4th in NFL) and be a pain to the Bengals pass defense (17 yards per catch). Pray for Austin and the Bengals defense.
Bringing it Home
That being said, this is a winnable game for the Bengals. They have the firepower to hang with Kansas City. If you jumped off the wagon after the loss to the Steelers and think the Bengals are going to get absolutely crushed by the Chiefs, you won’t agree with me, so whatevs, but this game isn’t that big of a mismatch. John Ross will be on the field for Cincinnati, giving them their bonafide deep threat to contend with the Chiefs’ big play abilities. AJ Green has nobody to worry about on the Chiefs defense, and will be able to roam free, looking for holes in the coverage. Which just means Tyler Boyd will be able to give as much of his safety blanket-ness to Andy as he can. Should the line have a rough day protecting the pocket, Dalton will have plenty of chances to scramble and make something happen while extending the play. One of these two teams will begin the game hot only to try to slow it down with the rushing game, but I believe both defenses will be porous enough to allow some highlight reel plays deep. This is going to be an entertaining game to watch, if your pacemaker doesn’t give out in the first half. Call me crazy, call me a homer (whatevs, I’m no professional), but I say the Bengals win.
Prediction: Bengals 42, Chiefs 38
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WATCH: Houshmandzadeh says the Bengals are going to beat the Chiefs
Former Bengals wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh says the Bengals are going to beat the Chiefs on Sunday night football. He also thinks Andy Dalton’s struggles in primetime games are just a ‘coincidence.’ He was a guest on ‘The Herd’ on Fox Sports One. Watch the video below.
‘Vontaze can be as great as he wants to be’
Vontaze Burfict has been talked about a lot this week. Not for his dominant play, but for a questionable hit on Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown.
— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) October 14, 2018
This isn’t new for Burfict. His play has been discussed for years. He’s been fined or suspended 11 times in his career, which has cost him over $1 million in salary.
Some people believe Burfict should be suspended for the rest of the season. Others think he should be out of the NFL forever. There’s no denying that he’s earned his reputation.
Burfict doesn’t like how he’s viewed in the media. If he wants to change it, he can start by playing like an elite linebacker against Kansas City. He doesn’t look like the player he once was. It’s probably because he’s missed so much time over the past few years. Burfict has appeared in 11 games or fewer in his last four seasons due to suspensions and injuries. He hasn’t forced a turnover since 2016, which is the last time he was playing at an elite level.
That leads me to a question that has been asked a lot this week: Is Burfict worth the headache? His teammates certainly think so.
“Vontaze can be as great as he wants to be,” Carlos Dunlap said earlier this week. “And as you’ve seen up to this level he’s played as one of the best linebackers in the league. And I feel like he has the potential to be even better.”
Sunday is an opportunity for Burfict to put on a show. It’s a chance for him to remind people that he is one of the best linebackers in the league. If he goes out there, dominates and does it without any questionable hits, then the entire country will see why the Bengals signed him to two contract extensions. Leading a struggling defense into Kansas City and getting a win would be huge for how people view him. Fans and media could discuss his stellar play, instead of a late-hit or a PED suspension.
He needs to remind people, including fans, that he can be a great player. Burfict just turned 28-years-old. He signed a contract extension with the Bengals last season. There has been plenty of chatter about Burfict this week, but that isn’t bothering rookie safety Jessie Bates.
“He’s so smart and he makes things easier for me communication wise,” Bates said on Wednesday. “Obviously he’s been doing this for a long time. He plays very violent and some people don’t like that. I’m glad that he’s on our team.”
It’s hard to envision Burfict changing at this point, but he can use Sunday to his advantage. He can show a national television audience that he’s able to play the game at a high level and do so without getting fined, flagged or suspended for questionable play.
Once upon a time Burfict was an undrafted free agent who impressed coaches with his knowledge of the game. Fast forward to present day and he’s a ‘dirty player’ who should be suspended or worse. Burfict has a chance to remind everyone of how good he can be. Whether or not he takes advantage of it is up to him.
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