John Congemi 1) Stay Dominant on Defense
It's difficult to find an area on the Dolphins defense that has been a recurring problem. Yes, the run defense has ample room for improvement, but other areas of this unit have been able to more than mask this deficiency. What this defense does very well is find unique ways to rush the opposing quarterback, take the football away, and score points. Miami's defense has extended its takeaway streak to 17 games, while also landing in the upper tear of the NFL when it comes to pressures and sacks. It also went from the bottom of the league in scoring defense just one season ago, and now sits within the top three with just five regular season games remaining. It's so important for this defense to apply undue stress to the Cincinnati offensive line on Sunday, because the Bengals have multiple issues of their own to deal with. They have difficulty establishing a consistent rushing attack, and have allowed 38 sacks this season. Fourth-year starter Brandon Allen has ability, but he's making just his second start of the season this week, and led the Bengals offense to a lethargic 155 total yards in last weeks loss to the Giants. The Bengals strength on offense is their receivers, led by Tyler Boyd. Boyd, Tee Higgins and A.J Green all can take over a single game, but this trio plays directly into the coverage strength of the Miami secondary. If the Dolphins defense can squeeze the pocket around Allen, it will eliminate the time and the threat these wide outs can cause. With Xavien Howard, Byron Jones, Nik Needham playing at such a high level, the advantage in this matchup should lean to Miami.
2) Make Bengals Defend Entire Field
Applying stress to a defense at all levels gives the offense the ability to dictate coverage and makes a defense play on its heels. That can only happen if the Dolphins offensive rushing attack holds up their end of the bargain. It starts up front with the offensive line. Over the last month, too many plays have been derailed by both mental and physical errors. Cincinnati run defense has shown cracks, and those flaws need to be exposed on Sunday. It shouldn't matter who lines up at running back for the Dolphins, because they all possess the same physical traits to get the job done. Myles Gaskin should be available and get the first opportunity to create some balance to the offense. His quickness and vision should allow offensive coordinator Chan Gailey to use those traits in the run and screen game, as well as checking the ball down in the passing game. Those types of plays move the chains, and it also makes the defense come out of coverage and tackle in space. Last week against the Jets, quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick was able to get just enough out of running backs DeAndre Washington and Matt Breida that it opened up the perimeter for the passing game. Fitz hit 11 different receivers and kept the Jets defense guessing. No matter if it's Fitzpatrick or rookie Tua Tagovailoa at quarterback this weekend, both will benefit from a game plan that's stretching the field vertically in the air, and creating some balance with the run and quick screen game.
3) Getting Points in Plus Territory
There are several areas that this entire football team has improved from last season to this year. On offense, one of the most surprising things that has happened is this offense hasn't settled for field goal opportunities once inside the twenty yard line. Miami's offense has been very good at attacking the red zone with the passing game and throwing touchdowns to multiple receivers. It always helps an offense if you have the ability to run in tight areas, but the Dolphins offense has used a lot of imagination to get the job done. I've seen double screens, shovel passes, wildcat formations, middle screens and throw backs to tight ends used to perfection. The offense must continue this pattern not only this Sunday, but for the remaining weeks of the season. Coming away with six points when you're inside the 15 or ten yard line lifts the entire football team. So does kicking the ball through the uprights from 50 yards plus! Place kicker Jason Sanders has been simply outstanding, making eight kicks in a row from 50 yards or more. He's success and consistency from anywhere on the field has allowed the Dolphins to play with confidence. Knowing you're in the scoring zone when you cross the plus 40-yard line is a luxury. Miami needs to continue to play complementary football against Cincinnati this Sunday. The defense and special teams have consistently flipped the field for the offense, allowing them to take advantage of that field position and turn it into touchdowns.