Sunday, October 7, 2012

Gameday Deciding Factors: Dolphins at Bengals


After two difficult losses, the Miami Dolphins (1-3) travel to Cincinnati to take on the AFC North-leading Bengals (3-1). Ryan Tannehill, Brian Hartline and the Dolphins' offense are confident after a record-setting performance at Arizona in Week 4, but the Dolphins' main concern should be on the defensive side of the ball.

For the first time since its 30-10 Week 1 loss to the Houston Texans, Miami faces a dynamic passing attack. Led by second-year players Andy Dalton and A.J. Green, Cincinnati boasts the NFL's eighth-ranked aerial assault that has helped the Bengals average 33 points in their last three games.


Slow down Cincy's passing game.
Dalton and Green are a dangerous combination in their own right, but Miami also needs to worry about tight end Jermaine Gresham and emerging slot target Andrew Hawkins. Despite playing well overall, Miami's defense ranks just 30th against the pass. To make matters worse, the Dolphins' already thin secondary will be missing starting cornerback Richard Marshall, who is out due to a back ailment. Miami must rely on Jimmy Wilson, Nolan Carroll and newcomer R.J. Stanford to shoulder the burden. (Photo: Navin75, Flickr)

Control the ball. Miami's running game has been a pleasant surprise in the first quarter of the season and now faces a defense ranked dead last in yards allowed per attempt. A key in the game will be the Dolphins' ability to gain first downs, control the clock and limit the opportunities that Dalton has to wear out Miami's weakened secondary. Reggie Bush, who appears to be healthy enough to go, should be the main driver of the offense.

Win the turnover margin. The Dolphins' 1-3 start boils down to one theme: when they turn the ball over, they lose. In each of Miami's three losses, it was a crucial giveaway that allowed the opponent to either comeback in the game or outright win. The story is the same this game; Miami needs to come away with a positive turnover differential in order to register its second victory.

Hit field goals. Dan Carpenter is a one-time Pro Bowl kicker who has generally been a steady asset for the Dolphins. But lately, he has been shaky from long distance, missing attempts from 51, 48, and 47 in Miami's last two losses, both of which were decided in overtime. Those field goals are by no means chip shots, but if he converts two or more of them, the Dolphins are sitting at 3-1. The team is keeping games competitive, but Carpenter needs to come through when called upon.
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