Dolphins vs. Bengals: Pick and Prediction for NFL Week 4 Thursday Night Football

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Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa #1 of the Miami Dolphins calls out a play against the Buffalo Bills. Megan Briggs/Getty Images/AFP.

Top sportsbooks have released their NFL odds for this week’s upcoming Thursday night game between Miami and Cincinnati.

The Dolphins enter this game 3-0 in a rather fantastic fashion. After achieving an incredible comeback in Baltimore, they edged out previously undefeated Buffalo.

While the Bengals have looked much less convincing at 1-2, their latest game, a 27-12 victory over the Jets, is renewing optimism.

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Miami Dolphins vs. Cincinnati Bengals

Thursday, September 29, 2022 – 08:15 PM EDT at Paycor Stadium

Misleading Stats About Miami's Defense

There might seem to be something dreadfully wrong with the Dolphins' defense in the sense that they rank second-to-last at limiting opposing passing yards.

The reason for this statistic is important to highlight because many people will point to it in order to cheaply predict that Bengals' quarterback Joe Burrow will thrive on Thursday night.

But Miami's defense has really only played one bad half of football, and this half was the first one in Baltimore, for which Miami redeemed itself by sufficiently shutting down the Ravens' offense in the second half to permit its offense to come back.

Most recently, the fact that Buffalo lacks a competent group of running backs also compelled Josh Allen to throw the ball 63 times. Allen averaged all of 6.3 yards per attempt (YPA) in his game against Miami, which was 1.4 YPA below his season average.

Bend But Don't Break

Against Buffalo, the Dolphins played a great bend-but-don't-break game. Their focus on preventing touchdowns led to Buffalo, in the second half, having to attempt two 30-to-40-yard field goals and turning the ball over on downs from Miami's two-yard line.

It is my contention that the Dolphins' defense's ability to keep everything in front of them will be decisive in limiting Burrow on Thursday.

Joe Burrow's Slow Start

Undoubtedly, the Bengals' quarterback has not enjoyed the start to his season that he and likely everyone envisioned him to have. Even after his last game against the lowly Jets, his passer rating is 23.1 points lower than it was last season.

Last season, Burrow shredded defenses when they presented him with single-high safety looks. This coverage suits Burrow's proclivity to be aggressive. He wants to make big plays downfield, and a quarterback is more able to connect on big passing plays against a single-high safety look.

Burrow is still aggressive; according to Next Gen Stats, Burrow's aggressiveness percentage is even significantly higher than it was last season. The problem with this aggressiveness is that teams are dealing him more two-high safety looks in order to take away his vertical passing endeavors.

Trying to make things happen, Burrow is taking a ridiculous number of sacks and is otherwise failing to achieve big plays.

Joe Mixon's Struggles

One way to induce the opposing defense to devote an extra safety to the box is by running the ball well. But Cincinnati's starting running back is not himself right now. Joe Mixon is averaging 1.3 fewer YPC than he did last season.

Mixon is slower and more hesitant to hit available holes, and he's struggling to withstand contact.

Cincinnati poses a negligible threat on the ground particularly with Mixon struggling, leaving their opposing defenses with every inclination to do what Miami just did against Buffalo and focus on keeping the offense in front of them.

Xavien Howard's Mission

It also helps to have two-time All-Pro selection and three-time Pro Bowler Xavien Howard. Miami's stud cornerback will presumably be tasked with limiting Burrow's favorite target, Ja'Marr Chase.

Howard is allowing a 58.8 passer rating when targeted. Through two games, he has allowed a combined total of 36 yards while shadowing Patriots' DeVante Parker in Week 1 and Ravens' Rashod Bateman in Week 2.

Tua Tagovailoa's Health

As for Miami's starting quarterback, the health of Tua Tagovailoa seems to be a concern.

While he finished the game, the NFLPA is investigating his return onto the field after taking a hit that left him visibly wobbly to the point that he literally collapsed while trying to walk on his own.

He'll need to be fit because, similar to Cincinnati, Miami won't be able to count on its run game. The Dolphins' leading running back averages all of 3.4 YPC.

Bengals' Pass Defense

Cincinnati's pass defense poses a strong test, ranking fifth at limiting the opposing passer rating.

Miami's top wide receivers, Jaylen Waddle and Tyreek Hill, are characterized by their speed. But their Bengals' enemies, Chidobe Awuzie and Eli Apple, will not be intimidated. Both Bengals' cornerbacks rank in the 90th percentile or above in speed rate.

While Awuzie yielded a 49.4 passer rating through two weeks after dealing with Steelers' Diontae Johnson and Dallas' CeeDee Lamb, Apple helped limit Jets' receivers most recently.

Dolphins vs. Bengals: Pick and Prediction

With your best bets in mind, expect a lower-scoring game where both pass defenses limit the opposing quarterback.

The long drives that Burrow does put together will tend to end in field goals while Cincinnati's cornerback group effectively matches the quality of Miami's.

For the above reasons, I recommend playing the "Under" for your NFL picks.

Score Prediction: Dolphins 13 - Bengals 16

NFL Pick: Under 47.5 (-110) at BetOnline (visit our BetOnline Review)

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Under 47.5 (-110)
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