Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
December 1, 2022

Thursday Night Football preview: Will the Dolphins remain undefeated?

By JONATHAN MISDARY | September 29, 2022

miami-dolphins

CHRIS J. NELSON / CC BY 3.0 

This week's Thursday Night Football game is a premier matchup between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Miami Dolphins.

Thursday Night Football features a matchup between two of the most exciting teams in football: the undefeated (3-0) Miami Dolphins and the (1-2) Cincinnati Bengals. 

The Dolphins are coming off a grueling 21-19 victory over their divisional rival Buffalo Bills, a game best characterized by the infamous “Butt Punt” and the Bills Offensive Coordinator Ken Dorsey losing his mind in the final seconds of the game. As for Cincinnati, the Bengals return home after a get-right 27-12 win over the New York Jets, who couldn’t stand the idea of looking competent two weeks in a row. 

1. Dolphins energy level

Although I alluded to it earlier, I would be remiss to not devote more time to detailing the potential effects of the Dolphins’ most recent fixture against the Bills. Due to the heat, the Bills lost offensive linemen: starting tight end Dawson Knox, receivers Isaiah McKenzie and Jake Kumerow and most notably Stefon Diggs for long stretches of the game. Any time pickle juice and IVs are fixtures on the sidelines, it's usually a sign that energy is spare.

The Bills offense ran four drives of more than five minutes and three drives with double-digit plays, holding the ball for 40 minutes and 40 seconds. Playing any Thursday night game tests mental and physical resolve, but with limited rest after such a grueling matchup, it's fair to question how much juice (not of the pickle variety) the Dolphins, and more specifically their defense, can bring. 

2. Joe Burrow under pressure

Among quarterbacks, Burrow is tied for being the most sacked (15) and third in most yards lost via sacks (87). He is certainly grateful that he doesn’t have to see Dallas Cowboys defensive end Micah Parsons again this year. Much was made of the Bengals’ improvements on the offensive line this offseason, adding three new starters in center Ted Karras, right guard Alex Cappa and right tackle La’el Collins. Thus far though, the unit has looked out of sync. While one can point to Burrow for holding on to the ball too long, they have also struggled in the run game. Three games in, they rank 20th in rushing yards per game and a more indicative 30th in rushing yards per attempt. 

It’s difficult to assess just how good the Dolphins’ defense is considering they have faced elite quarterbacks Lamar Jackson and Josh Allen in back-to-back weeks. But with emerging second year player Jaelen Phillips and edge rusher Emmanuel Ogbah facing off against the struggling right tackle Jonah Williams, it could be a long day for Burrow. 

It’s essential that just as he did in the Jets game, Burrow balances trusting his checkdowns and preventing negative plays while also taking shots deep downfield when the Dolphins aren’t sitting in Cover-2 defense. They will try to lure the Bengals to run the ball and go underneath, but when they leave Bengals receivers Tee Higgins or Ja’Marr Chase one-on-one (even with Xavien Howard), Burrow must give them a chance as that is the real strength of this team. 

3. Jaylen Waddle vs. Chidobe Awuzie

Two of the best at their respective positions, the matchup between Dolphins receiver Waddle and Bengals cornerback Awuzie will be of great importance this week. Waddle has been spectacular three weeks in, averaging six catches for 114 yards and a touchdown. 

If any corner in the league could be up for the challenge, it's Awuzie who has quietly asserted himself as one of the most formidable slot corners in the league. Obviously, he won’t be able to completely neutralize Waddle, but if he can force Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa to make throws outside the numbers and take away easy throws in the middle of the field, it would go a long way to stymieing the Dolphins explosive attack. 

Prediction

Bengals 24 — Dolphins 20

Burrow will navigate the pocket well (look out for Tee Higgins to have a big game), and the limited rest will be too much to overcome as the Dolphins suffer their first loss of the year. 

Comments powered by Disqus

Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The News-Letter.

News-Letter Special Editions