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Thursday Night Football Preview & Predictions

We are going to start doing internal staff debates about football topics each week. If there’s a topic you’d like us to debate let us know on Twitter, @32beatwriters.

For the first one the two Zachs at 32BeatWriters decided they were going to go head-to-head. Their topic? Explain why they feel each of their respected teams will win this Thursday Night Football matchup. Zach chose the Cincinnati Bengals while Zachary chose the Miami Dolphins. The current spread on the game is Cincinnati -3.5 with an over/under of 48.5.

If there’s one thing we’ve learned so far this season, it’s that no one has any idea what’s going to happen in any given week. The Cowboys are 2-0 without Dak Prescott, the Jags waxed the Chargers in LA, the Bears and Broncos are 2-1 despite setting football back decades, the Eagles and Dolphins are the last remaining unbeaten teams, and the NFC and AFC Wests are a combined 10-14. So with that said, let’s try and predict this week’s Thursday night game between the 3-0 Miami Dolphins and the 1-2 Cincinnati Bengals.

Zachary: The fact that the Miami Dolphins are 3.5 point underdogs to the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 4 is disrespectful. All that the Dolphins have done through three weeks is prove to everyone that they are a legitimate threat in the AFC. The Dolphins are not only 3-0 on the year, but also 3-0 against the spread and they are coming off of a win against the Super Bowl favorite Buffalo Bills. On Thursday, they will keep their undefeated streak alive as they swim past the Bengals.

Zach: Miami is battered, bruised, and exhausted after their thrilling win last week against the Buffalo Bills. They escaped with a win despite being outgained by 283 total yards and having a butt punt that turn into a safety. Tua Tagovailoa has ankle and back injuries that have limited him in practice this week. “I would say everything (is impacted by the back injury). Having to twist, to hand the ball off, having to toss the ball, having to throw the ball. Every aspect of it” said Tagovailoa. The Dolphins also have a couple ailing offensive linemen, Terron Armstead and Rob Hunt, that are questionable to play.

Check out more about Tua’s injury in our Week 4 Injury Report.

Zachary: From almost the moment he stepped onto the field, Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa has been much maligned. Perhaps in years past that was even deservedly so. This year, however, under new head coach Mike McDaniel, Tua has done everything he possibly could to prove that he belongs in this league. No, he may not be the second coming of Steve Young, but he doesn’t have to be. He just needs to see the field, point, shoot, and let Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle do the rest. That’s exactly what he has done through 3 games, and all of them have resulted in a win.

Zach: Enough about Tua. Cincinnati, on the other hand, is coming off a fairly easy victory against the New York Jets. Joe Burrow and company are mostly healthy, including Tee Higgins who took a nasty hit to the head last week. The Bengals offense has looked subpar so far this season. Joe Mixon hasn’t gotten anything going behind a reworked offensive line and Burrow has been inconsistent. I’m chalking their offensive woes up to a Super Bowl hangover plus Burrow missing most of the offseason due to an appendectomy. Mixon and the run game likely continue to struggle but the pass game started to click against the Jets. The Bengals are actually 3.5 point favorites in this game, which is easier to understand when you realize the game is in Cincy and that the Bengals are 2 plays away from being a 3-0 team.

Zachary: Last year, Joe Burrow led the Bengals to a Super Bowl and yes, it was a little bit magical. However, so far in 2022 his performance has been less than stellar. In fact, Tua has outplayed Burrow in almost every aspect of the game. Tua has 8 TDs with 2 INTs, while Burrow has 6 TDs and is tied for second in the league in INTs with 4. Tua is #2 in passer rating, at 117.8, and #1 in QBR at 82.8. Burrow, meanwhile, is #18 in passer rating at 85.2, and is at #19 for QBR, with 47.1. While the Bengals offensive line has been terrible (don’t worry, we’ll get there), the disparity so far this year grows even more from a clean pocket, with Tua’s passer rating going to 125.7, and Burrow’s down to 82.2.

Zach: Burrow will be fine. We know the Bengals have a capable offense, but their defense has been really good too and got a confidence boost against the Jets. They’ve given up 73 less passing yards per game than the Dolphins and 30 less rushing yards per game so far this season. Trey Hendrickson, the Bengals star defensive end, is a monster and could wreck havoc against a banged up Dolphins offensive line. On the outside, Eli Apple and Tyreek Hill have a history after Apple got the better of Hill in the AFC Championship game last year. After the victory over the Bills, Hill said “I can’t wait to go against Eli Apple. I owe you, boy. I owe you. I’m here. The Cheetah is here. That’s it.” Apple’s teammates said they have his back, so get your popcorn ready.

Zachary: You mentioned Miami’s offensive line injuries but what about Cincinnati’s situation? The Bengals line, according to PFF, has allowed 10 sacks and 40 pressures on 149 dropbacks. That’s a pressure rate of almost 27%! The Dolphins, on the other hand, have allowed only 3 sacks and 23 pressures on 110 passing attempts, for a pressure rate of about 20%. Joe Mixon is only running for 2.8 yards a carry, which is 51st among RBs. He has also been held completely scoreless. Whether that’s on Mixon or the offensive line, the running game also needs to be better if they are going to win at home.

Zach: At the end of the day, Burrow, Chase and company will do just enough on offense and the Bengals defense will dominate a tired, banged up Dolphins offense behind a rabid home atmosphere. Bengals win 24-17.

Zachary: The Dolphins have shown us who they are while playing the 2nd toughest strength of schedule, while the Bengals have struggled against a much weaker 23rd ranked schedule. I take Miami to beat up an already defeated Cincinnati line and not only cover, but pull off the win. Dolphins over Bengals, 24-21.

And there you have it. All and all it should be a great Thursday night game!

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