Two of the worst teams in the NFL will cross paths in Week 16 in an oddly anticipated matchup between the Miami Dolphins and Cincinnati Bengals. The game is set to kick off at 1:00 EST on Sunday, December 22 at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida. Fans in local markets can watch the game on CBS.
Oddsmakers list the Dolphins as 1-point favorites at home with an over/under of 46.5 points. Click here to check out a full list of the Week 16 NFL betting odds.
For the Bengals, this game is their last chance to avoid the shame and privilege of having the top overall pick in next year’s draft. At this point, Cincinnati will have to win their last two games, including this week’s game with the Dolphins, while Miami loses their final two games in order to avoid finishing with the worst record in the NFL. In the long run, it’ll probably benefit the Bengals to have the top pick, so they can reboot their franchise, presumably with a new quarterback.
However, rookie head coach Zac Taylor surely doesn’t want to end his first season in charge with a 1-15 record. He should be motivated to get a win or two during the final two weeks of the season. That being said, the Bengals weren’t exactly full of life last week. They were crushed by the Patriots at home 34-13. With five turnovers, the Bengals were masters of their own downfall and will have a lot of mistakes to clean up in practice this week.
Of course, at the start of the season, most circled this game as one of Miami’s few chances to get a win and avoid a winless season. But the Dolphins have surprised many people be pulling off wins over the Jets, Colts, and Eagles. Miami’s young and inexperienced roster has continued to play hard for rookie head coach Brian Flores, which is always nice to see for a team that knew going into the season they wouldn’t be in the playoff hunt.
That being said, the Dolphins did look a little discouraged, losing 36-20 to the Giants. Miami’s last-second loss to the Jets a couple of weeks ago might have been the straw that broke the young team’s back. Flores will have to find a way to rally his team for their home finale in hopes of breaking out of the pack of 3-win teams.
To be honest, neither of these teams look like they’re up for winning a game after last week. Both look demoralized and could struggle to find motivation. But since I have to pick a side, I like the Bengals a little more than the Dolphins despite Cincinnati having a worse record. Also, if the game goes to overtime and ultimately ends in a tie (which isn’t that crazy if you think about it), it’ll pay off to take the underdog.
Joe Mixon might be the most important player to watch in this game. He couldn’t get anything going early in the season, but he’s now just 75 yards away from reaching 1,000 rushing yards on the year. More importantly, he’s gone off for 282 yards over the past two weeks against the Browns and Patriots. Against a Miami defense that allowed a struggling Saquon Barkley to get back on track and rush for over 100 yards last week, I foresee another big game for Mixon to help carry the Cincinnati offense.
In fairness, I can’t ignore the fact that Andy Dalton threw four interceptions last week, giving him more picks than touchdown passes on the season. However, that was against a New England defense that’s given subpar quarterbacks problems all year. Dalton was reasonably adequate in previous weeks. Again, we have to consider that he’ll catch a break by facing the Miami defense, which is giving up a league-high 31 points per game. Even with three interceptions, the Dolphins couldn’t slow down the aging Eli Manning last week. That gives me a little hope that Dalton can put together a decent performance this week.
Meanwhile, I think the Bengals might have a slight edge on the other side of the ball as well. Compared to the other teams in the bottom tier of the NFL hierarchy, the Cincinnati defense hasn’t been that bad this year. They’re allowing around 25 points per game on the season, and that’s with nine of their 14 games coming against teams with a winning record and an offense that’s produced nothing.
It also helps that the Cincinnati defense will get to face a Miami offense that’s turnover prone and lacking playmakers. Through 14 games, Ryan Fitzpatrick is Miami’s leading rusher, which says everything you need to know about the Miami rushing attack. Current lead back Patrick Laird hasn’t topped 48 rushing yards in a single game this season. While Fitzpatrick and DeVante Parker have formed a nice tandem in the passing game, the Dolphins are otherwise limited offensively. Fitzpatrick has also taken 19 sacks over his last five games, as the Miami O-line is falling apart late in the year.
Quite frankly, this is the worst type of toss-up game. It’s more or less a battle of what team can be a little less inept. In the end, I think the Bengals are more likely to run the ball effectively and might be a little better defensively. That should be enough to put them over the top. With the Dolphins getting no discernible home-field advantage, I’ll take a chance on Cincinnati being able to win on the road.