The Miami Dolphins can be an extremely dangerous team for the Bengals, and it's not necessarily the difference between a four-game losing streak for the Dolphins that panics with, "trap game". Those are the usual suspects for games between teams traveling down different directions.
However, the Miami Dolphins are desperate for a win. Not only because they need to recover their preseason goal of making the postseason. They need a distraction from all of the other distractions that appear to be nagging the team's cohesion.
According to reports, offensive tackle Jonathan Martin snapped on teammates, who had began teasing the former second-round draft pick to the point that Martin "slammed a food tray on the ground" earlier this week and "hasn't been seen since." Fox Sports (via the Sun-Sentinel) writes that Martin is getting treatment.
Starting center Mike Pouncey was served a grand jury subpoena in connection to an ongoing investigation related to a gun trafficking investigation connected to Aaron Hernandez, who were former college teammates at Florida. He's expected to play Thursday. It's unclear how much involvement authorities are looking into Pouncey and whether he's a witness or suspect, but there appears to be an issue of finances.
"Overall, I would say this is a serious situation for Mike Pouncey," Greg Bedard with Sports Illustrated said. "This is not a situation where they just think he might have evidence towards the charges against Aaron Hernandez. If he goes in there [to testify before the grand jury] thinking that’s what it’s about, he will be underprepared. He should be prepared that the authorities are looking at him in regards to some charges."
While Pouncey doesn't call it a distraction, there are players starting to question their coaching staff in Miami.
Omar Kelly's commentary with the South Florida Sun-Sentinel touches on the issues related to the coaching staff losing their players' confidence.
The universal complaint heard about Joe Philbin is that he's (usually) listening, but does the Dolphins' second-year head coach comprehend? Does he grasp the issues, and is he able to provide a solution in a timely manner?
"We have to do a better job executing, but they need to do a better job coaching, putting us in positions to be successful," one player said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
Also writes Armando Salguero.
Defensive tackle Randy Starks, upset he is demoted from his starting job after going to the Pro Bowl last year, celebrates a sack by shooting his bench a one-fingered salute. The player denies it publicly, but the gesture was aimed at the coaching staff. It took receiver Mike Wallace one game to show his unhappiness with the Dolphins game plan when he wasn't targetted at all in the first half of the season opener and only five times all game. Wallace, by the way, has toned down his distaste for how he's being used publicly but not so much privately.
All the while Dolphins players aren't happy with offensive coordinator Cam Cameron's decision to ditch the rushing offense in the second half. Writes Jeff Darlington with the NFL Network (via The Phinsider):
"...there is some question of what offensive coordinator Mike Sherman is starting to do and it really started to come to a head after Sunday's 27-17 loss to the Patriots."
The dislike for Sherman's play-calling can be found throughout the Dolphins organization. One high-ranking person within the team is dumbfounded by Sherman's approach in some situations, saying the coach misses "101 stuff" -- meaning fundamental things.
It's not like the Bengals aren't facing their own issues; the short turnaround from Sunday to Thursday, the travel to Miami, and the injuries that Cincinnati has accumulated over the past month. Nothing like what Miami is dealing with, though.
However, nothing fixes the distractions that Miami is dealing with more than a win.