The Cincinnati Bengals are coming off a tremendous win over the New York Jets and are colliding with a Miami Dolphins team which has appeared on the ropes for four straight weeks now.
The Miami Dolphins need to win to stay a viable contender in the AFC East.
The Bengals would like to put more distance between themselves and the rest of the AFC North, perhaps proving they belong in the upper echelon of NFL teams this season.
It’s a critical AFC matchup with two teams going in opposite directions. Here’s what to watch for in tonight’s game.
- Can the Dolphins protect quarterback Ryan Tannehill? The offensive line allowed Tannehill to be sacked six times last week—in one half. Add the two they allowed to the Buffalo Bills and that’s eight sacks in two games. This team has allowed Tannehill to be hit 48 times, 32 of which resulted in sacks (most sacks in the league according to NFL.com). Now they lose Jonathan Martin due to an emotional breakdown and while he hasn’t played all that well, can you afford to lose anyone on a line this shallow and bad? Tannehill also needs to get rid of the ball but the offensive line has to start playing better.
- Andy Dalton had a tremendous week against the New York Jets, throwing for 325-yards and five touchdowns against one of the better defenses in the league, though clearly one with some issues in the secondary. The Dolphins have a tough front seven and some OK defensive backs—can Dalton continue to build on his success from the last three weeks? In that span he has thrown for 1,034-yards, 11 touchdowns and just two interceptions. Has he finally proved his doubters wrong?
- Can Mike Wallace start living up to his contract? He’s only costing the Dolphins $3.25 against the cap this year but jumps to $17.25 next year. So far it appears as if even the cap hit this year is way too much money. Wallace is catching only 46.9% of his targets right now, has dropped several passes and is tied for 70th with just four plays of 20 yards or more according to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. He needs to step it up as much as Tannehill and the offense need to get him involved.
Andrew Garda is a member of the Pro Football Writers Association. He is also a member of the fantasy football staff at FootballGuys.com, the NFL writer at CheeseheadTV.com and an NFL Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report. You can follow him at @andrew_garda on Twitter.