The Miami Dolphins had little time this week to dwell on Sunday's collapse against the New England Patriots. Only four days after blowing a 17-3 halftime lead against the Pats, Miami hosts the Cincinnati Bengals in a Thursday-night clash at Sun Life Stadium.
"We are in a tough spot, obviously, coming off four losses," Miami QB Ryan Tannehill said this week. "At home, short week, a very good opponent — it's a big game for us."
Having lost four straight games, the optimism that surrounded the Dolphins after their surprising 3-0 start is but a distant memory. If they do not win Thursday, Miami will have to win 6 of its final 8 games if they want to finish with a winning record for the first time since 2008.
When the Dolphins have the ball: Miami's struggling offense will have its work cut out for it against the Bengals. Cincinnati is fifth in the NFL in scoring defense, and is giving up an absurdly low 5.4 yards per passing play. Defensive linemen Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap have combined for 9 sacks.
That should be especially concerning, since starting RT Jonathan Martin will likely miss Thursday's game. He is listed as doubtful and did not practice Wednesday. Cincinnati will be without CB Leon Hall, who tore his Achilles tendon in Week 7.
Miami's rushing offense has improved since a rough Week 1, but the Bengals boast a top-ten run defense. It could be up to Tannehill and WR Mike Wallace to test the Bengal secondary with some deep throws in order to open up some room underneath for RBs Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas to run effectively.
When the Bengals have the ball: Bengals QB Andy Dalton is quietly having a very effective season, completing 66% of his passes for 281 yards per game. WR AJ Green has been just as effective, averaging over 90 yards receiving per game.
Cincinnati's rushing tandem of BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Giovani Bernard have not been nearly as effective, combining to average a ho-hum 3.5 yards per rush. But the Bengals also have a pair of big tight ends who could give the Dolphins plenty of trouble: Jermaine Gresham and Tyler Eifert.
The Dolphins held New England to just 252 yards of total offense last week, but hurt themselves with untimely penalties. The defense will need to be on their game Thursday, as Cincinnati has gained over 400 yards of offense in each of their past three games.
Who has the edge? The Dolphins have found new ways to hurt themselves each week, making it hard to believe they can pull off the upset at home.
The Pick: Bengals 24-Dolphins 10
Details: Cincinnati Bengals (6-2) at Miami Dolphins (3-4)
TV: NFL Network, 8:25pm ET, Brad Nessler, Mike Mayock
Line: Bengals by 3
Previously: Miami beat Cincinnati 17-13 in Week 5 of the 2012 season