As some of you may know, I am a fan of two teams. I don't particularly enjoy it when they both meet, but it is inevitable. I typically root for the one that still has playoff hopes and would benefit the most from a win. I can't pick a side this time, as both teams would benefit from this win. The Bengals would get closer to a week off and the Dolphins are in a 3 way tie for the second WC spot. I really just want to see a good showing from both teams.
On to the topic at hand:
The Dolphins, despite making giant grabs in free agency, are still a defensive team. Their DL, imho, is better than the Bengals when healthy, but they are both great DLs. I give the edge to the Dolphins because they are slightly better at rushing the passer. Dion Jordan has done well, much to my surprise.
The Dolphins host a good LBing corps, that they might want to improve upon, just like the Bengals. Ellerbe has been great this season and plays a lot like the Bengal's Burfict. He is a monster against the run, but is just solid against the pass. The second LBer that stays in on Nickel packages is Wheeler, formerly of the Colts. Wheelers is more of a blitzer than anything and is extremely fast and quick. It is almost a shame that he isn't better in coverage - athleticism isn't everything. Misi is our SAM and is a convert from the days we played a 3-4. Misi is a DE/Lber hybrid and plays like one. Misi is solid against the run and in zone coverage, but we never let him cover a talented receiver (much like Maualuga).
The Dolphins safeties are among the best in the league. Clemmons and Jones were rated by bleacher report as the best safety duo. Not sure if that is true, but they work very well together. Jones is our SS and is the risk taker of the two. He usually takes great angles and dishes out big hits in the ground game. He is very aggressive in both man and zone coverage. On the flip-side, Clemmons is the guy that plays his assignments to the letter and never trys to make something happen. Instead he lets the big plays come to him. When the other team makes a mistake he is there to take advantage. The best part about his play is he never has to run full speed, his anticipation for the play rarely requires him to use his elite top speed. Clemmons is also a nasty hitter and is invaluable when a play breaks down, as he rarely misses in space.
The Dolphins CBs deserve the most blame out of any unit on the defense. They have battled injuries this season, which hurt their performance, but they still have been inconsistent. Nolan Carrol has been a suprise, as most fans had him pegged as the #5 guy, but has emerged as the starter opposite Grimes. However, Carrol has been inconsistent. The rookies have also made rookie mistakes, when healthy, which hasn't helped. Grimes is the veteran of the group and is by far the best. Our CBs do not follow men, but rather are assigned sides and the offense dictates who is matched up against who. IMO, this is a design flaw on an otherwise good D. Overall this is a young unit, but is also the worst unit of the bunch. The future at this position relies heavily on the rookie's progression.
The Dolphins offense is another matter.
Tannehill has looked good, but has started to look rattled lately, most likely due to him getting sacked nearly 6 times a game. Many fans question his ability to feel pressure and avoid it, but an analysis after the Ravens game had every sack coming in under 2.5 seconds after the ball was snapped usually with no place to escape to. Tannehill is a very accurate QB that has been using his legs more often lately (to fans approval). If his OL can give him 2.5 second he can usually pick up solid yardage.
Our OL is among the worst in the league and it is scary to think what will happen against the Bengals DL, as the Dolphins haven't faced anything like it. Our weaknesses are RG, RT, and LT. Pouncey, the sole bright spot, was served a supeona after the game and might not play on Thursday. Seeing his backup in preseason get blown up by even the Jag's 2nd stringers doesn't give me much hope either.
Our WRs are a different story. Our best receiver is still the controversial wideout, Hartline (called Hateline by his supporters that think the criticisms are unfair). Hateline is a jack of all trade, master of none. He is a possession receiver that has the knack for the big play. This is done either by YAC or getting open down field using trickery. When he is making plays, it usually means our offense is about to score. He frequently uses the comeback route to get open and teams tend to jump on that (nullifying some of his usefulness). He will then use the double move to get open for a big play and perhaps a TD. Wallace, the $60 million dollar man, is our #2 wideout, but is given more targets than Hartline. For instance against the Pats, he was targeted 11 times for a total of 3 catches and 40-some-odd yards. Gibson was our physical slot receiver, but because of injury you will see Matthews there instead. Matthews has all the prototypical tools to become a top wideout (6'2" 220 lbs 4.49 40), but is raw. He is a 7th round pick out of Nevada and most have been impressed with his play. He is a big bodied receiver, which is something the Dolphins have lack with the others. I might be expecting too much, but I don't think we will see too much of a drop of production from Gibson to Matthews.
Our TEs are a decent bunch. Clay looks like his rookie self and that is the good thing. His nickname is the claymaker (a moniker joining his name with playmaker). Clay is not particularly fast for a receiving TE, but is extremely agile and a willing blocker. He has even said that this year things are clicking and that has been evident in his play. Dion Sims is our rookie at the TE position, but you will not see him much. The Dolphins mostly play 3 WR, 1 TE and 1 HB formations. Jordan is a very raw route runner, but is huge, with soft hands and is a good blocker. You may see him in on goalline formations.
We don't have much to offer other than the short passing game. I think this has everything to do with our OL rarely giving Tannehill a nice,clean pocket, but others blame the OC. Still, others say that only throwing 3 or 4 times past twenty yards downfield is not bad when you play in a quick passing offense.
Overall, I expect the Dolphins D to slow down the Bengals passing attack, but the Bengals win this one 31-17.