Thursday Night Football Preview: Dolphins, Bengals collide in potential AFC playoff preview

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Steve Luciano/AP/Shutterstock (13425748e) Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow (9) looks to pass the ball during an NFL football game against the New York Jets, in East Rutherford, N.J Bengals Football, East Rutherford, United States – 25 Sep 2022

Thursday Night Football Preview: Dolphins, Bengals collide in potential AFC playoff preview

Miami Dolphins at Cincinnati Bengals

Time: 7:15pm CT

TV: Amazon Prime Video

The Miami Dolphins head to Cincinnati for a battle with last year’s AFC Champions, the Cincinnati Bengals. Tickets are hard to come by in Cincinnati, the cheapest costing more than $150 as fan enthusiasm is at an all-time high after last season. Those fans ought to be treated to an exciting matchup, as their Bengals host an undefeated Dolphins squad getting hype from all angles. 

The atmosphere could prove troublesome for Miami in several ways. Traveling on a short week to play Thursday Night Football is hard enough, but Cincinnati’s weather looks unforgiving, given it is only late September. The Dolphins played last week’s game against Buffalo in sweltering heat and humidity but will have to adjust fast as temperatures are expected to dip into the 40s at Paycor Stadium. 

The Miami Dolphins have made believers of almost everyone through three weeks, blowing out the Patriots before earning hard-fought, comeback wins against the playoff-hopeful Ravens and Bills. Their offense has looked explosive at times, as Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle each possess the elite speed that gives them quick-strike potential at any moment. The defense was dominant in Week 1 against New England, showing flashes of what they’re capable of on that side of the ball as well. 

Quietly, though, there’s a clear argument to be made that the Dolphins are just as likely to be 1-2 as they are to hold their current 3-0 record. Buffalo dominated them statistically, racking up 497 yards of offense on 93 plays to Miami’s 212 yards on 39 plays. The Dolphins survived thanks to an untimely fumble by Josh Allen and held strong at the goal line to end the game. Miami was outgained by Baltimore as well, and the 547 yards allowed there amount to more than 1,000 yards of offense allowed over the past two weeks. Miami trailed that game by three touchdowns in the third quarter but exploded to take the game over late on the backs of Hill and Waddle. If the Dolphins hope to stay undefeated Thursday night in Cincinnati, they’ll need to return to the defensive form they showcased in Week 1 against New England. 

The Bengals have opened their season with somewhat opposite feelings, falling to 1-2 through two weeks. Joe Burrow has been under duress almost constantly, sacked 15 times through just three weeks of football. Cincinnati got things back on track last weekend with a 27-12 win at Metlife Stadium over the New York Jets, a game in which they exerted complete control from the opening kickoff and didn’t allow a touchdown until the final minutes of garbage time. Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow played turnover-free football in the win, passing for three touchdowns without an interception. 

On the defensive side of the ball, Cincinnati has plenty of bulletin board material to use as motivation. Dolphins’ wideout Tyreek Hill has spoken openly this week about his excitement to get revenge on Eli Apple and the Bengals’ secondary after they knocked out his Chiefs from last year’s playoffs. The Bengals’ secondary is deeper than Apple, boasting veterans like Mike Hilton, Jessie Bates, and Vonn Bell – all of whom will be excited for the assignment in front of a loud home crowd. 

I’m expecting a focused, motivated Bengals team to take the field in front of their home crowd tomorrow night, desperate to move to 2-2 and stay afloat in the early playoff hunt. Between the chilly air and bright lights, Thursday night will likely feel like a playoff atmosphere by the banks of the Ohio River – and if the last several years have been any indication, that’s just how Ohio native Joe Burrow likes it. 

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