Halfway through the 2013 NFL season, several teams that got off to a slow start are looking to turn their seasons around before it’s too late. The Miami Dolphins, however, are headed in the opposite direction.
The Dolphins might have been the biggest surprise of the first three games, going undefeated and defeating the likes of the Indianapolis Colts and Atlanta Falcons, who had high expectations in the preseason. Since then, however, the Dolphins have drifted from their winning formula, losing four straight.
"We have to do a better job to close out games," said receiver Mike Wallace. "We just have to step on their throat. We can't let up, that's all -- the whole team, in all three phases."
In recent weeks, the Dolphins have blown second half leads to divisional opponents. In Week Seven, they were beaten by the Buffalo Bills on a field goal with 33 seconds remaining. On Sunday, they appeared poised to upset the New England Patriots on the road, taking a 17-3 lead into the half and causing fans to boo Tom Brady and the defending AFC East champs when they went into the locker room. The quarterback finished the game with just 116 passing yards, but that was still enough to beat the Dolphins by 10 points.
In Week Nine, Miami kicks off the schedule with a "Thursday Night Football" matchup with the Cincinnati Bengals. The Dolphins are getting points at home, with the betting line set at Cincinnati -2.5. With both teams on short rest, the home underdog usually has a good chance of covering the point spread. However, the Dolphins have failed to cover the spread in any of their four losses.
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All of this could add up for another good week for the Bengals. While Miami has lost four in a row, Cincinnati hasn’t been defeated in the past month. Following their Week Four loss to the Cleveland Browns, the Bengals have played like a serious Super Bowl contender. During their winning streak, the Bengals have beaten potential playoff teams like the Patriots and Detroit Lions. On Sunday, they had the biggest win of the week, routing the New York Jets 49-9.
"This is where I want to be," said quarterback Andy Dalton. "This is how I want to be playing. It's tough to do."
Dalton has emerged as a legitimate contender to make the Pro Bowl. He’s led his team to the biggest lead in any division, throwing for 16 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Only three quarterbacks have thrown for more yards, and he ranks sixth in passer rating.
The Dolphins signal caller made strides at the start of 2013, but opposing defenses have adjusted during Miami’s losing streak. Ryan Tannehill has turned the ball over 10 times in the four losses. The 25-year-old has 11 touchdown passes on the season.
With the way these two teams have been playing of late, this contest could be out of hand before the start of the fourth quarter. Three days of rest won’t be enough for Miami to fix their problems and defeat one of the best teams in the AFC.
Prediction: Cincinnati 30, Miami 16