The first of five scheduled primetime games for the Cincinnati Bengals has one of the two remaining undefeated teams coming to Paycor Stadium. The Miami Dolphins’ 3-0 start is as hot as the temperature was during their last game vs. the Buffalo Bills on Sunday.
If any team can withstand the heat, it’s the team that practices at the bottom of the continental United States, but a quick turnaround following a divisional slugfest can’t be dismissed outright.
Combined with the fact that quarterback Tua Tagovailoa may be out and leave Teddy Bridgewater to start, perhaps it’s not a real surprise to see the Bengals are 4-point favorites via DraftKings.
There’s not much preparation or recovery time for either team, which means it’s the time for Jimmys and Joes to outweigh the X’s and O’s. Here are said Jimmys and Joes to watch for tomorrow night.
Jessie Bates and Vonn Bell vs. Jaylen Waddle & Tyreek Hill
What, you thought Eli Apple would be left on an island against either of these two? Chidobe Awuzie, maybe, but let’s be serious. Lou Anarumo only had a few days to prepare this defense for two of the most explosive receivers in the game. He’s not going to go out of the box.
Through three games, Waddle and Hill have combined for 659 yards on just 177 routes ran, and 241 of those yards have come from 52 routes in the slot. The efficiency is off the charts.
Jaylen Waddle running Corner & Corner/Post pic.twitter.com/7ocifxh2wK— Coach Dan Casey (@CoachDanCasey) September 28, 2022
Miami will test all areas of the Bengals’ secondary, and their big plays come from working past the safeties, who have no choice but to play deep and bracket. This leads to an interesting decision for Anarumo.
Bell has had his moments playing deep halves, but he undoubtedly does his best work closer to the line of scrimmage. With the health of Germaine Pratt in question, this could be the week we see Bell essentially play a hybrid linebacker for most of the game while Dax Hill and Bates play as split safeties.
Whatever the plan is, Bates and Bell need masterclass performances to keep the lid on the Dolphins’ passing attack.
B.J. Hill vs. Liam Eichenberg
The Dolphins own the fastest speedboat in the league despite the leak they have at left guard. Pro Football Focus has Eichenberg with a 0.0 pass-blocking grade on true pass sets. It’s no wonder they’re averaging about 10 of those plays per game thus far. Play action, RPOs, and other means to help out the line have done wonders.
Not only is this matchup great for Hill, it comes at a time when he’ll be counted on more than ever. The absence of D.J. Reader will be heavy, and Hill may have to wear multiple hats for the foreseeable future. He may play as a heads up nose tackle when they deploy their base five-man fronts, and as a shaded nose in even fronts.
He also may just stay at 3-tech and bully Eichenberg, as his pass-rushing grade of 84.4 against true pass sets would indicate.
Alex Cappa vs. Christian Wilkins
The term bully applies to both Cappa and Wilkins. Aside from some lapses last week, Cappa has lived up to the billing of the highest-paid guard in Bengals history. His imposing play style is even rubbing off on rookie Cordell Volson.
Not many defensive tackles can beat Cappa on physicality alone, but Wilkins might be an exception. The fourth-year interior menace out of Clemson has made his money stuffing the run at all costs. He’s racked up over 100 defensive stops in his career, and not by accident. His strength against Cappa will be fun to observe,