CINCINNATI BENGALS (6-2)
at MIAMI DOLPHINS (3-4)
Kickoff: Thursday, 8:25 p.m. ET
Line: Cincinnati -2.5, Total: 43
Two teams heading in opposite directions meet Thursday night when the Bengals put their four-game win streak on the line versus the Dolphins, losers of four straight (SU and ATS).
Cincinnati QB Andy Dalton has been on fire in the past three games with 1,034 passing yards and 11 TD, including four scoring throws to WR Marvin Jones in Sunday’s 49-9 rout of the Jets. Miami QB Ryan Tannehill has been awful during his team's losing skid, completing just 54.5% of his passes with seven interceptions and 18 sacks taken. This includes absorbing six sacks in Sunday’s 27-17 loss at New England in a game the Dolphins led 17-3 at half. Miami beat the Bengals 17-13 in a defensive struggle last year, as the clubs combined for five turnovers and just 148 rushing yards (2.7 YPC). Neither Tannehill (223 pass yards, 0 TD, 0 INT) nor Dalton (234 pass yards, 1 TD, 2 INT) were very effective in that 2012 meeting. Both teams have some favorable betting trends to consider for Thursday. The Bengals are 9-1 ATS after a double-digit win over the past three seasons and are 6-0 ATS on the road after gaining 400+ yards in two straight games under head coach Marvin Lewis. However, Miami benefits from Lewis going 7-16 ATS (30%) versus AFC East opponents and that the Bengals are 10-23 ATS (30%) when facing a marginal losing team (40% to 49% win pct.) since 1992. Both teams announced season-ending injuries to key players this past week with news that Cincinnati DBs Leon Hall (Achilles) and Taylor Mays (shoulder), and Dolphins WR Brandon Gibson (knee) are all done for the year.
Can the Dolphins end their long losing skid on Thursday night? For the answer, connect to NFL Best Bets for all the StatFox Experts picks throughout the 2013 season and playoffs. The experts are heating up in NFL Best Bets, combining for a 58% ATS record (43-31-2) over the past five weeks, including 77% ATS (10-3) in Week 8. StatFox Scott is 61% ATS (11-7) in the past four weeks, while StatFox Brian went 3-1 ATS in Week 8, marking his fifth straight week of finishing .500 or better. StatFox Dave was a perfect 3-0 ATS in Week 8, as was StatFox Gary (2-0 ATS), who improved to 63% ATS (10-6-1) in NFL Best Bets over the past five weeks.
As well as the Bengals have played during their four-game surge, they are just 1-2-1 ATS on the road this year with a pedestrian 20.2 PPG and 87 rushing YPG on 3.5 yards per carry. RBs BenJarvus Green-Ellis and rookie Giovani Bernard comprise a mediocre ground game (99.8 rush YPG) that has averaged a mere 3.6 yards per rush (26th in NFL). That has prompted the Bengals to take to the air with QB Andy Dalton, whose recent hot streak puts him fourth in the NFL in passing yards (2,249) and seventh in passer rating (8.1 YPA, 16 TD, 7 INT). In addition to Marvin Jones' four-score heroics last week, Dalton continues to rely on top WR A.J. Green who leads the AFC with 734 receiving yards and ranks among the top-10 wideouts in the NFL in both catches (46) and TD receptions (five). The offense is also helped by Bengals defense that allows just 4.8 yards per play (4th in NFL) and 18.0 PPG (T-5th in league). The run defense has given up just two 100-yard games all year, holding the past two opponents to 85.0 rushing YPG on 3.5 YPC. Cincinnati has generated 20 sacks over the past six contests and 12 takeaways on the year. Exploiting the shaky Dolphins offensive line with a consistent pass rush will be key with the injuries in the secondary to CB Leon Hall and SS Taylor Mays. Also, DT Devon Still (elbow) is questionable for this game while LB Rey Maualuga remains out indefinitely with a knee injury.
Miami's offense has been subpar in all facets this year with 311 total YPG (28th in NFL), 89.1 rushing YPG (23rd in league) and 5.95 passing yards per attempt (24th in NFL). But despite the struggles of QB Ryan Tannehill in recent weeks, the ground game has been excellent over the past two games with 276 yards on 4.9 YPC. Top RB Lamar Miller racked up 112 total yards in last week's loss to the Patriots, and did not get a carry against the Bengals last year. No. 2 RB Daniel Thomas rushed for a touchdown in that win in Cincinnati but finished with only 29 yards on 10 carries. But in the past two games, Thomas has exploded for 107 yards on 21 attempts (5.1 YPC) and remains in a near timeshare with Miller. With slot WR Brandon Gibson out for the season, second-year pro Rishard Matthews will fill his spot, coming off a three-catch, 30-yard performance when he was targeted a season-high six times last week. But Tannehill will still look mostly to consistent WR Brian Hartline (3+ catches in all seven games) and mercurial deep threat WR Mike Wallace who hauled in just three of 10 targets last week. The Miami defense ranks 20th in the NFL versus the pass (245 YPG) and 19th against the run (110 YPG), but a lot of that is due to being on the field for 31:27 (8th-most in NFL). The Dolphins have given up 23+ points in each of the past five games, but with DE Cameron Wake (15 sacks last year) nearly 100 percent recovered from his knee injury, the pass rush has been much better since the bye week, tallying seven sacks in two games. Miami's defense has also forced at least one turnover in every game this season, totaling 11 over their seven contests.