The Cincinnati Bengals are one of the hottest teams in the NFL - and they'll look to keep the good times rolling at Raymond James Stadium Thursday.Offense
Winners of four straight, the 6-2 Bengals visit Miami for what can only be described as a must-win game for the 3-4 Dolphins. Miami has dropped four straight games following a 3-0 start, and now has to contend with a Bengals team that lit up the New York Jets for 49 points in a one-sided victory last weekend.
Here's the breakdown in our betting tale of the tape:
The Bengals struggled with consistency on the offensive end through the first five weeks but have hit their stride of late, averaging better than 34 points over their last three games. Andy Dalton has the passing game ranked seventh in the NFL in yards per game (269.9) thanks to a 325-yard performance in Sunday's 40-point rout of the Jets. The running game remains a work in progress, ranked 15th in total yardage but just tied for 26th in yards per attempt (3.6).
Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill has improved in his second season, vaulting Miami into the middle of the pack in passing yards per game (222). He has thrown 11 touchdown passes against nine interceptions, and has thrown for a score in every game this season. The two-headed rush attack of Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas combined for 136 yards in last week's loss to New England but Miami averages just 89 per game - good for 23rd in the league.Edge:
Cincinnati is building off the defensive momentum it created last year, ranked 11th in the NFL in passing yards against (225.3) and eighth in opposition rushing yards (97.3). The Bengals were at their stingiest against the Jets, limiting them to 147 yards in the air. One area Cincinnati has struggled is on third-down defense; the Bengals have allowed opposing teams to convert nearly 42 percent of their chances, the seventh-worst mark in the NFL.
Miami's pass defense has been slightly below average when it comes to yards per game allowed (245, 20th) but has surrendered just nine touchdowns while racking up eight interceptions. The Dolphins are also near the middle of the pack on the pass rush, accumulating 20 sacks for 125 yards. The Miami run defense has been somewhat successful to date, surrendering seven touchdowns but limiting opponents to 109.9 yards per game on 3.8 yards per carry.Edge:
Cincinnati has had a decent return game in 2013, ranked seventh in kick-return average (26.3) and 21st in punt-return yardage (7.1). The Bengals are allowing opponents to gain 23.2 yards per kickoff return - the 12th-best mark in the NFL - and 7.3 yards per punt return. Veteran kicker Mike Nugent, who settled for seven extra points in last week's drubbing, is just 10-for-13 in field-goal attempts on the season.
While Miami's kick-return game is solid (24.9 ypa, 11th), it has managed to compile just 62 yards on 12 punt-return attempts for a 5.2 ypa average - good for 27th in the league. Miami is allowing more yards to opponents on both fronts - 26 yards per kickoff attempt and 9.1 yards per punt return. Kicker Caleb Sturgis has connected on just 11 of 15 field-goal chances in 2013, and missed a pair in last Sunday's loss to the Patriots.Edge:
"It's a lot of fun to come out and play the way we've been doing. It has been a lot of fun for the fans and everybody that's in Cincinnati that is rooting for us. If we can keep delivering and we can keep playing like we have been, I think there will be a lot of happy people." - Dalton
"I understand that there are probably four right tackles in the NFL that can block Elvis Dumervil and Mario Williams consistently one-on-one. At this point in my career, it doesn't appear that I'm one of them." - Dolphins OL Tyson Clabo, who was benched last week after allowing eight sacks in six games