The Bengals are looking to bounce back against the Dolphins. Cincinnati’s primetime history is well-known. They’ll try to flip the script against the Phins.
The Bengals are in unfamiliar territory. Sitting at 1-2 for the first time since 2011, Cincinnati aims to even their mark on Thursday in their first of four primetime games in 2016.
The Bengals will have to overcome a team that has had their number in the past. Miami is the lone AFC opponent quarterback Andy Dalton has yet to beat, going 0-2. In their previous matchup –also on TNF –, Dalton threw three interceptions and was sacked in the end zone for a game-winning safety in a 22-20 decision on Halloween 2013.
Miami also comes in 1-2 after defeating the Cleveland Browns in overtime last week.
We all know the story. The national narrative on the Bengals and why they can never reach the promise land: They can’t win when the lights shine brightest.
It is true when looking at the record. Since 2012, the Bengals are 4-10 in regular-season primetime games. In four nationally televised affairs last season, the Bengals went 1-3. However, they were competitive in all four. After defeating the Browns, 31-10, Cincinnati followed with one-possession losses to Houston, Arizona, and Denver.
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Much scrutiny revolves around Dalton. The Red Rifle has put together an impressive 47-19-1 record in afternoon games over his six-year tenure but is just 4-9 at night. The peak of Dalton’s night terror came in a 24-3 loss to Cleveland in 2014 where he threw for only 86 yards and three interceptions. But last season, Dalton appeared to turn the corner and put the primetime blows behind him.
In three primetime games (he missed the loss to Denver with a thumb injury), Dalton completed 62.5 percent of his passes for 746 yards with five touchdowns and just one interception.
In his career, Dalton is 2-2 on Thursday night games.
Defendants of the Bengals’ primetime woes have made the argument that usually on the big stage, you play quality opponents. However, Cincinnati drew a favorable straw for Thursday. The Dolphins come to town with a lengthy injury report after narrowly avoiding an 0-3 start.
Thursday offers a great chance for the Bengals’ offense to get on the right track after being slowed down by Denver. Miami is 18th against the pass and 31st versus the run through three games.
Miami was burned by Russell Wilson (258 yards, TD) and the duo of Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett (322 yards, 3 TD) in their first two games. Then, rookie quarterback Cody Kessler was able to play steady, turnover-free football against Miami, completing 21 of 33 for 244 yards.
It’s no secret Cincinnati has been working with limited options in the passing game. Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu have found new homes, and Tyler Eifert appears to be out at least one more week. That leaves the door wide open for AJ Green to have a big game on Thursday night.
After torching the Jets in week one, Green was held to two catches against Pittsburgh, and despite being the leading receiver (eight catches for 77 yards) against Denver, his crucial third-down drop was a back-breaker in the fourth quarter.
Now, Green goes up against corner Byron Maxwell, who is working for his third team in as many years. Terrelle Pryor only had eight career catches before he burned Maxwell and the Miami secondary for 144 yards and eight receptions last week.
Jeremy Hill had a slump-busting performance against Denver last week. After just 53 yards in the first two games, Hill ran for 97 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 17 attempts. Miami’s 31st-ranked run defense (147.3 yards per game) could provide some favorable running lanes for the LSU product.
All signs point to a high offensive output for the Bengals on Thursday. It’s also a great opportunity for Cincinnati to end their primetime dilemma.
The four Bengals’ primetime opponents this season (MIA, NYG, PIT, HOU) combined for a 31-33 record in 2015.