Week 5 of the NFL schedule includes a battle of surprising 3-1 teams as the Cincinnati Bengals host the Miami Dolphins. Kickoff is set for 1:00 EST on Sunday, October 7, at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati. Fans in local markets can watch the game on CBS.
According to this week’s NFL betting odds, the Bengals are 6-point favorites at home. That line has inched up slightly after Cincinnati opened the week as 5.5-point favorites. The over/under for the game is set at 50.5 points.
As mentioned, the Bengals are one of the more surprising 3-1 teams in the NFL early in the season. Thus far, they are getting it done with offense. Cincinnati has scored 34 or more points in their three wins against the Colts, Ravens, and Falcons. Andy Dalton looks like he’s been born again after a couple of subpar years. He has the Bengals ranked fourth in the NFL in points through the first month of the season. Even more impressive is that the Bengals have played three of their first four games on the road and have still started 3-1.
Of course, 3-1 only has the Bengals tied atop the AFC North with the Ravens. It’s important not to forget about the Steelers, who figure to get hot sooner or later. Even the Browns look like more of a threat than they have in recent years. In short, there’s plenty of pressure on the Bengals to keep winning despite the promising start.
Miami, meanwhile, sits on top of the AFC East despite crashing back down to earth last week with a 38-7 loss to the Patriots. Prior to that, the Dolphins had taken care of business with wins against the Titans, Jets, and Raiders. While that win against the Titans is looking more and more impressive every week, one-possession wins over the Jets and Raiders are a little less convincing.
It’s fair to say that we’re still waiting to see if the Dolphins are for real or not. A 3-1 start to the season, of course, is a good way for the Dolphins to get themselves into the playoff race later in the year. However, a challenging October schedule should tell us more about the Dolphins, starting with this week’s road trip to Cincinnati.
Admittedly, I’m a little nervous about swallowing this many points for a game between two 3-1 teams. However, the Cincinnati offense is rolling, and it’s hard to imagine that stopping as they come home for just the second time this season. I’ll take my chances that the Dolphins won’t be able to keep up in a shootout and lean toward the Bengals to cover.
To be fair, the Bengals haven’t played that many good defensive teams this year. For instance, the Atlanta defense they faced last week is a total nightmare. However, the weapons around Dalton are difficult for any defense to cover, even with Tyler Eifert lost for the season. Tyler Boyd actually has more receiving yards than A.J. Green this season, which will make it more difficult for opposing teams to focus their efforts on Green. Giovani Bernard has also emerged as a threat while there’s a chance Joe Mixon could return from injury this week.
All of that is bad news for the Dolphins, who are ranked toward the bottom of the NFL in pass defense. Miami’s defense was shredded by Tom Brady last week. Of course, the Dolphins weren’t particularly dominant against less affluent offensive teams during the first three weeks of the season. That doesn’t fill me with a lot of confidence that they can hit the road and slow down the Cincinnati offense.
Miami’s biggest problem this season has been a lack of a pass rush. In four games, they have just six sacks. With the way Dalton has looked early in the season, he could rip apart the Miami defense as easily as Brady did last week if the Dolphins aren’t applying any pressure. I don’t see any reason why the Bengals can’t score 30-plus points against the Dolphins this week.
That will leave it up to Ryan Tannehill and the Miami offense to keep up in a shootout. Cincinnati’s defense could possibly cooperate in that endeavor. The Bengals are giving up 28 points per game, as they’ve been shredded by a few opposing quarterbacks as well.
The problem for Miami is that Tannehill is averaging fewer than 200 yards passing per game. Miami has just nine pass plays of 20 yards or more in four games, which isn’t nearly enough when you might need 30-plus points to win. Also, the Dolphins aren’t using their running game all that much, so this could be all on Tannehill, which is a concern.
I don’t want to overreact too much to one lopsided loss against the Patriots, because that wasn’t that unexpected. However, last week’s loss raised some questions for me about the Dolphins. I think going on the road against a team that can score at will is a tough matchup for Miami. I’ll lean toward the Bengals to pull away in the 2nd half and cover the 6-point spread.