Tonight’s Thursday night game features two AFC teams with playoff aspirations and in desperate need of a win. The Dolphins hit the road to Cincinnati to face the Bengals as both teams look to avoid falling to 1-3. To this point, both of these teams have had fairly difficult schedules so this contest should be an interesting measuring stick for both franchises.
Now in his fifth year in the league, Ryan Tannehill seems very much the guy he was coming in. This could be due to the revolving door of coordinators and coaches he has dealt with, or as a player this might just be what he is. I’m thinking it is a mix of both factors. Tannehill often will show plays that offer a lot of promise, but cancel that out with some head-scratching throws. This has been apparent the last two weeks as Tannehill has had five turnovers in that stretch.
Despite the inconsistency, the Dolphins will likely have Tannehill airing it out 40 plus times tonight. Not only have the Dolphins failed to get things going on the ground, but the Bengals are a stout defense in that regard. When they do run the ball, look for a four man committee which I figure will be led by Kenyan Drake and Jay Ajayi. Both players figure to max out at around 10 to 15 touches, so using either of them in fantasy football is a risky play.
The good news is the Dolphins have no shortage of weapons in the passing game. Jarvis Landry has built off his strong 2015 catching 24 passes through his first three games. With his ability to catch in traffic and create after the catch, Landry once again seems likely to have at least ten throws in his direction. DeVante Parker has battled with injuries in the early stages of his career, but offers immense big play potential every time he touches the field. The Bengals secondary had their struggles last week, so it wouldn’t be stunning if one of these two wideouts had a big game. Kenny Stills and Dion Sims also figure to be in line for some targets.
Compared to last season with Andy Dalton at the helm, the Bengals offense has struggled. However, they still have plenty of talent so that very well could be an indicator of their tough early schedule. With a favorable matchup in the pass and running game, this could be the slump buster that Dalton and company have needed.
Right from the start look for the tandem of Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard to be heavily involved. In the last two weeks, the Dolphins have allowed nearly 300 yards on the ground and the potential game flow could be a beneficial factor. This is especially true for Hill if the Bengals need to milk the clock. Look for Hill to see around 20 total touches with Bernard getting 12 to 15.
In the passing game, A.J. Green who has come back to earth after a phenomenal week one has to be licking his chops in this one. Green figures to see plenty of Byron Maxwell, who was on the other end of most of Terrelle Pryor’s impressive Sunday. Green should be able to produce early and often. Rookie cornerback Xavien Howard has had common struggles of a young player, but it’s not known if he will be covering Brandon LaFell or Tyler Boyd. Both wideouts figure to see 5 to 7 targets, but both options are too “boom or bust” for fantasy purposes to trust. With Tyler Eifert set to return next week, C.J. Uzomah is currently the Bengals tight end to watch in the passing game. While his skillset would make him intriguing for this matchup, there are too many other weapons to feel confident in Uzomah from a fantasy standpoint.
While I feel the Dolphins have the pieces to keep this game interesting, it’s awfully hard to against the Bengals in this one. We’ve seen them struggle in prime time before, but in a conference where 10-6 for a wildcard seems likely this is a game they really need. My prediction is Dolphins 20 Bengals (-7) 28.