If you are looking for this Thursday night's game on CBS or Twitter, you won't find it. The NFL Network keeps a few Thursday game to itself each year to boost the value of that channel, and this week's game between the Dolphins and Bengals is only on the NFL Network.
With both clubs at 1-2, it's pretty much a must-win game for any playoff chances. I never thought the Dolphins were going to be in the 2016 postseason and still have no reason to believe so. But Cincinnati has made the playoffs each of the past five seasons and I expected would again. A loss here really puts the pressure on Coach Marvin Lewis. He was on the hot seat entering the year considering the Bengals are 0-7 under him in the playoffs.
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These teams haven't played since 2013. That was on a Halloween Thursday night in South Florida and Miami won 22-20 in overtime. Pretty unique ending there as Cameron Wake sacked Andy Dalton for a safety with 6:38 left in OT. I don't remember another game ending that way, although it was the third overtime safety in NFL history. The Bengals dominated that game statistically, including more than 40 minutes of possession, but turned it over four times.
Dolphins at Bengals Betting Story Lines
Miami is very fortunate to not be 0-3 as the Dolphins tried their hardest to blow Sunday's home opener vs. the Browns. That game really shouldn't have been close considering the Browns were minus their top two receivers, Josh Gordon and Corey Coleman, and starting a third-round rookie at quarterback for the first time in Cody Kessler. Miami was up 24-13 with 13 minutes left but the game was tied with about three minutes to go. With under 30 seconds to go, somehow Miami QB Ryan Tannehill managed to fumble the ball away on a sack. That's absolutely unforgivable that late in the game. But the Fins caught a break when Browns kicker Cody Parkey missed a 46-yard field goal as time expired in regulation. Miami won it on a Jay Ajayi 11-yard TD run in OT after Cleveland couldn't do anything offensively on its first possession.
The Miami defense left a lot to be desired in allowing the Browns 430 total yards and 169 rushing. But, a win is a win and a 2-2 record after four games would be pretty admirable considering the Dolphins' first two games were in Seattle and New England.
The Dolphins played Cleveland without starting tailback Arian Foster, and he's not expected to go here. Ajayi and rookie Kenyan Drake will split most of the carries. Out for sure is tight end Jordan Cameron, who suffered a concussion vs. the Browns. He has eight catches for 60 yards and a TD.
Cincinnati has played probably an even tougher schedule thus far than the Dolphins, winning Week 1 23-22 at the Jets but losing 24-16 Week 2 in Pittsburgh and then 29-17 last week in the team's home opener vs. Denver. The Bengals' pass defense was torched in that game, making Trevor Siemian look like John Elway as he threw for 312 yards, four TDs and no picks in his first career road start. Both Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas had at least 100 yards receiving and a touchdown.
The good news is that defense will see the season debut of top linebacker Vontaze Burfict on Thursday. He was suspended the first three games following a dirty hit on Pittsburgh receiver Antonio Brown in last year's wild-card game. At worst, he should help the run game as when Burfict played last season, the Bengals allowed only 82.2 rushing yards per game. When he didn't, they allowed 109.2 rushing yards per game.
Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton leads the AFC with 938 passing yards and hasn't had Pro Bowl tight end Tyler Eifert yet off ankle surgery. He returned to practice for the first time last week and could debut, although he will certainly be limited to a certain amount of snaps if he does play. Eifert's return should only help top receiver A.J. Green, who has been mostly quiet since a big Week 1 game.
Dolphins at Bengals Betting Odds and Trends
At 5Dimes , Cincinnati is a 7.5-point favorite (+120) with a total of 44.5. The Bengals are -280 on the moneyline and the Dolphins +240. On the alternate lines, the Bengals are -7 (+100) and -6.5 (-120). Miami is 1-2 against the spread this season (1-1 on road) and 2-1 "over/under" (1-1 on road). Cincinnati is 1-2 ATS (0-1 at home) and 2-1 O/U (1-0 at home).
The Dolphins are 2-5 ATS in their past seven road games. They are 1-6 ATS in their past seven after a win. The Bengals are 4-0 ATS in their past four following a double-digit home loss. They are 13-5 ATS overall in their past 18 after a loss. The under is 7-0-1 in Miami's past eight on Thursday. The under is 6-0 in Cincinnati's past six vs. teams with a losing record. The under is 3-1-1 in the past five meetings.
Dolphins at Bengals Betting Prediction
The Bengals are just 27th in rushing and the Dolphins 31st in stopping the run. Cincinnati had some early success on the ground behind Jeremy Hill vs. Denver but then got away from it in the second half. Sticking with that should be a priority here. My Thursday night ATS slump ends this week. Give the 6.5-point alternate line and go under.
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Read more articles by Alan Matthews
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