Happy Halloween to all the spooks and ghouls out there trick or treating tonight. The NFL has actually given us all a “treat”, an interesting Thursday Night game. We have the Bengals traveling to Miami to take on the Dolphins. The “trick” is on these poor teams having to play on 3 days rest for that NFL Network TV commercial money. Let’s do some analysis to kick off the week of games and also to kick off November as National Football Month.
Besides having the right uniforms for the occasion, Cincinnati is coming in as one of the hottest teams in the NFL at 6-2, with a 4 game winning streak. They have quality wins as well, including against the Packers and Patriots, and on the road at Detroit and Buffalo. Their two losses consist of a Week One game against Chicago and a head scratcher on the road at Cleveland. Last week they completely dominated the Jets 49-9. The easy win didn’t come without a cost though. The Bengals lost two defensive starters, S Taylor Mays and LB Rey Maualuga (both former USC Trojans). Anyone who watched Hard Knocks this summer knows that the Bengals are deep on defense. Lead by Geno Atkins and a great front 4, the Bengals have been a top 10 defense for a few years now. This year they are 8th in the league in yards per game and 5th in points per game. Their strength is stopping the run (opponents are averaging only 97 yards a game on the ground) and getting after the QB (22 sacks, good for 10th in the league). The real step forward the Bengals have made this year is the improvement of their passing offense with Andy Dalton in the midst of a breakout season. Despite his occasional lapse back to his rookie ways, (see Browns game), Dalton has really played well as of late. During this 4 game winning streak he has completed 68% of his passes, averaged over 300 yards a game and thrown 11 TDs compared to only 3 picks. While it may be that he has finally made “the leap” ala Joe Flacco last year, I am skeptical, because I don’t trust any change (I still question that Flacco has made the Leap and wonder if he didn’t just get hot at the right time). What I see is the emergence of other targets besides AJ Green for him to throw to. Dalton now has Tyler Eifert to go along with Grisham at TE, Gio Bernard out of the back field, and Marvin Jones emerging as a legitimate red zone threat catching like 8 TDs last week. The biggest problem I have with the Bengals is they can’t really run the ball. They are currently 19th in total rushing offense, merely outrushing their opponents by less than 2 yards a game. Most of this is because their backs are flawed. The Law Firm is really kind of slow, and Gio Bernard is really kind of small. If you could combine them into a super back they would have something. With gay marriage newly legal, two men CAN become one, but not in the way I’m suggesting.
The Fins are coming in as one of the coldest teams in the NFL. After a 3-0 start, including a win at Indy, the Tuna casualty fish have not won since. Their last two losses have been especially painful, losing to a Thad Lewis led Bills team at home and blowing a huge halftime lead to wannabe Lion Tom Brady. That’s right Tom Brady wishes he was me, not the other way around…riiiiight. Honestly, I would have thought he would be the one to dress up as Dorothy knowing him.
Anyway, the biggest problem with the Dolphins is their offense. Ryan Tannehill is very turnover prone and hasn’t shown much progress since year one. Also, the Dolphins have given up more sacks than any other team in the NFL. Maybe they should have kept Jake Long and his tall and attractive wife in Miami. The WRs are not particularly impressive either. Mike Wallace is proving that the Steelers were right to let him walk as he has never really been a number 1; he is the number 2 that stretches the field. The other guys are not even worth mentioning. Brian Hartline? Ha. Even worse than Miami’s passing attack is the Dolphin’s running game. They are currently 23rd in the league in total rushing offense. It’s easy to see why; Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas are no Reggie Bush. I am pretty sure though, that you can blame the Offensive Line for all this ineptitude as holes at the point of attack never seem to materialize for Lamar and Danny to rush through. The Dolphins D has been pretty respectable and has made them as competitive as they are, however, they just seem to be hung out to try by bad field position caused by the offensive ineptitude. A quick perusal of the Miami media shows that there is a call for the Offensive Coordinator’s job. It’s only Week 9. That’s how bad it is right now.
Fantasy Players to watch:
Andy Dalton, (if you have had him on your team the past few weeks, and started him, congratulations assholes), AJ Green, Gio Bernard, Gresham and maybe Eifert and Marvin Jones.
Wallace and maybe Lamar Miller.
The line: Miami +2.5 O/U 43.
This line is not a huge surprise as home teams usually play pretty well at home on a short week. Normally I would lean toward the Dolphins expecting a let down by the Bengals after a big win on a short week, however, I can’t see past the fact that the Bengals have a very good DL and the Dolphins cannot keep Tannehill from getting sacked. The Dolphins won’t be able to run the ball on the Bengals front seven, even considering the injuries to the Bengals D. If you can’t run or pass you aren’t going to win. Still, I don’t believe Andy Dalton will keep up this pace of throwing for 300 yards a game, and I think it will be an ugly, low scoring game, even by Thursday Night Standards. I see all of the above fantasy players having below average weeks and I like the Bengals and the Under… or the opposite of whatever the Dazzle is picking, which to this point in the season, has been the safest bet of all.