Matchups Week 4: Dolphins vs. Bengals

Tua Tagovailoa Dolphins vs. Bengals

Thursday Night Football: Miami Dolphins (3-0) at Cincinnati Bengals (1-2)

Opening Spread: Bengals -3.

Opening Game Total: 47.5.

Team Totals: Bengals (25.25), Dolphins (22.25).

Weather: Outdoors, no current concerns.

The Line Report

  • This line opened as Bengals -3.
  • This line has moved all that way to Bengals -4.5 as of Wednesday afternoon.
  • DraftKings Pick’Em has the Bengals -4.5.
  • Circa Sports Millions Pro Football Contest has the Bengals -3.5.
  • This total opened at 47.5 points.
  • This total has settled at 47.5 points, despite the Bengals becoming a more significant favorite.

Notable Injuries

Bengals – Out: DT D.J. Reader, Questionable: RT La’el Collins.

Dolphins – Out: CB Byron Jones. Questionable: QB Tua Tagovailoa, WR Jaylen Waddle, WR Cedrick Wilson Jr., LT Terron Armstead, RG Robert Hunt, NT Raekwon Davis, CB Xavien Howard, S Brandon Jones. 

The Bengals Offense vs. the Dolphins Defense

Cincinnati’s offensive line has struggled mightily, with Joe Burrow taking a league-leading 15 sacks. They have also allowed the fifth-most pressures through the first three games. The Bengals started the season against two talented pass rushes in the Steelers and Cowboys. The Bengals’ offensive line was better but still shaky against the Jets’ fringe top-10 front last week.

The Bengals’ offensive line matchup against the Dolphins’ average front will be the first time the Bengals’ offensive line won’t be at a disadvantage in the trenches this season. That said, Miami is among the more blitz-happy teams in the league, which could present problems for Cincinnati’s still struggling line.

Cincinnati has one of, if not, the best wide receiver trios in football. Throw in running back Joe Mixon along with tight end Hayden Hurst, and the Bengals have one of the best overall skill groups in the sport. This group collectively presents a challenge to any defense. At full strength, the Dolphins have a good safety duo, a high-end cornerback in Howard, another good one in Byron Jones and Jerome Baker is an underrated linebacker. Unfortunately for Miami, Byron Jones is out, and Howard is on the injury report.

Notes and Observations

  • The Bengals are 1-2 against the spread this season.
  • The Bengals are 0-3 on overs this season.
  • Per The Edge, Burrow is 10th in the league in yards passing but 25th in yards per attempt and 22nd in air yards per attempt.
  • We can reasonably attribute some of those low yards per attempt figures to the Bengals’ early struggles in pass protection.
  • Among running backs, Mixon is 20th in the league in yards rushing and fifth in yards receiving.
  • Miami has allowed the third-fewest yards rushing and the fourth most yards receiving to running backs this season.  
  • Chase leads the Bengals in snaps (219), routes run (110), target share (28.5%) and air yards share (34.3%).
  • Tyler Boyd is second among Bengals pass catchers in snaps (178), and routes run (89). Tee Higgins is second in target share (15.4%) and air yards share (26.1%).
  • Miami has allowed the 11th most yards receiving on the 17th most receptions to wide receivers this season.
  • Through three games, Hurst is right in the thick of it with Higgins and Boyd in snaps (166), routes run (88) and target share (13.8%). However, Hursts’ air yards share is significantly lower than both Boyd’s (17.3%) and Higgins’ (7.6%).
  • Miami has allowed the second most yards receiving on the most receptions to opposing tight ends this season. 

The Dolphins Offense vs. the Bengals Defense

Miami’s offensive line has improved this season with the additions of center Connor Williams and especially Armstead. But, they are still a slightly below-average unit due to their current vulnerabilities at right guard and right tackle. On the Bengals’ side, I have their pass rush as a similarly tiered unit, with Edge Trey Hendrickson serving as the centerpiece. Reader will miss this contest, which hurts the Bengals stout run defense. Consider this trench matchup a draw.

No one can truly match up with the elite speed that Tyreek Hill and Waddle bring to the table. As you’ll see below, the Bengals’ pass defense has been better than you might expect through the first three games. But, they’ve also played very limited offenses in Mitch Trubisky’s Steelers, Cooper Rush’s Cowboys and Joe Flacco’s Jets to start the season. There’s a chance Tagovailoa misses the game, so check the injury report often.

Notes and Observations

  • The Dolphins are 3-0 against the spread this season.
  • The Dolphins are 1-2 on overs this season.
  • Per The Edge, Tagovailoa is second in the league in yards passing and yards per attempt.
  • Tagovailoa is also 13th in air yards per attempt among quarterbacks that have started at least one game this season. If Tagovailoa misses this contest, we can reasonably expect this offense to be more conservative under backup QB Teddy Bridgewater.
  • Dolphins running backs Chase Edmonds (88 snaps, 23 carries, eight targets, 36 routes run) and Raheem Mostert (86 snaps, 24 carries, six targets, 22 routes run) have seen similar playing time and opportunities, though Edmonds has a bigger passing game role.
  • The Bengals have allowed the ninth fewest yards rushing yards and the 13th most yards receiving to running backs this season. As mentioned above, Cincinnati will be without Reader this week.
  • Through three games, Hill (28.7% target share, 35.6% air yards share, 4.8 yards per route run, 9.7 ADOT) and Waddle (29.7% target share, 42% air yards share, 5.18 yards per route run, 11.1 ADOT) still have remarkably similar, premium roles. Still, Waddle has taken a slight lead in all of these categories.
  • Through the first three games, the Bengals have allowed the third-fewest yards receiving on the 13th fewest receptions to opposing wide receivers.
  • Durham Smythe has out-snapped Mike Gesicki 129-to-81, but Gesicki has a 43-to-25 edge on routes run. Both Dolphins’ tight ends have a 5.9% target share.
  • Cincinnati has allowed the third-most yards receiving on the sixth most receptions to tight ends this season.

This is What You’re Betting On in Bengals vs. Dolphins

A bet on the Bengals is a bet on Burrow’s high-ceiling offense at least meeting expectations. For the Bengals offense to start taking significant steps forward, their struggling offensive line needs to stabilize. This is the first game where Cincinnati won’t face a top-10 caliber front four.

That said, Miami is among the most blitz-heavy defenses in the league. Can they do that against the Bengals’ wide receivers with Bryon Jones out and Howard banged up? Your biggest concern on a Bengals bet in this situation is everyone will be hard-pressed to mitigate the dynamic duo of Hill and Waddle. This line may slide back down towards Bengals -3 if Tagovailoa plays.

A bet on the Dolphins is a bet on a 3-0 team that has beaten Baltimore and Buffalo the past two weeks. What’s most impressive is Miami beat those two high-end opponents with dramatically different styles. Winning football games in several ways is a common trait amongst contending teams. On the positive side, you get Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel’s strategic edge paired with Miami’s receiver duo, which is a mismatch for anyone they play. Throw in Miami’s capable defense, and the Dolphins have a few different paths to making any game a close one.

Your biggest concerns with a Dolphins bet are that Miami is on the road on Thursday Night Football, and the Bengals will be extra motivated since they need a win to get back to .500.

Additionally, Miami will be relying on either Bridgewater or a banged-up Tagovailoa at quarterback. Factor in that Miami has just beaten two high-caliber opponents in a row, and we’re starting to ask a lot out of a banged-up roster.

A Thursday Night Football Update

Per TruMedia, during the last 149 games played on Thursday Night Football, home teams are 79-66-4 ATS during that span. On average, home teams have covered by just shy of one point while outright winning by a margin just shy of six points during this sample. Give the home team a slight baseline edge in your decision-making process on the short week.

Dolphins vs. Bengals Pool Picks

Awards Market Ramifications: McDaniel is a Coach of the Year favorite. Tagovailoa is an MVP contender.  Hill and Waddle are Offensive Player of the Year candidates.

Winner/ Confidence Pool: I’m going to take the Bengals in winner pools that may end up being the less popular selection in this contest despite being -4.5-point favorites. 

Spread Pool: I might have considered taking the Bengals as three-point favorites in tournaments. Since this line has moved to Bengals -4.5, I will pass on this one. I believe in Miami long-term. However, a banged-up roster on a short week while traveling is a cluster of variables I want to avoid against a Bengals team that needs a win.

Survivor: I’m going to avoid this contest for survivor purposes.

WATCH MORE:  Marty Mornhinweg Says Tua Tagovailoa Is One of the Best Quarterbacks in the NFL.

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