Dolphins vs. Bengals Odds & Picks: Miami Should Control Sunday’s Game
Chris Coduto/Getty Images. Pictured: Miami Dolphins standout DeVante Parker.
Dolphins vs. Bengals Odds
Editor’s note: Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is expected to start today’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals. The rookie quarterback missed last week’s game with a left thumb injury he suffered during a Nov. 25 practice.
The Bengals badly missed Joe Burrow last week — their offense gained only 155 yards against the Giants, Cincinnati’s fewest of the season. Now the challenge will get even tougher against a Dolphins’ defense that’s second in points allowed and turnovers forced.
While Miami’s defense has been able to impose its will, the offense has left something to be desired, ranking 30th in yards per game and 25th in yards per play. With a 10-point spread, backing either team seems too risky, so the total looks to be the better play.
Let’s examine which side the value lies on.
The Bengals’ 19-17 loss to the Giants might be the most misleading score of Week 12.
The Bengals were dominated on both sides of the ball. They were out-gained 386 to 155 yards and lost the turnover battle, three to one. The struggles of Brandon Allen were evident — he ended with 4.7 yards per attempt and a quarterback rating of 67.6.
With such poor quarterback play against the Dolphins, who have shown they can turn mistakes into touchdowns, the Bengals should turn to their rushing attack. The ground game has been an issue — they’re averaging only 3.9 yards per carry (25th in the NFL) — but the Dolphins have struggled against the run, allowing the fourth-most yards per carry (4.8).
And despite their defensive struggles, the Bengals have the personnel to match up with the Dolphins pass-catchers. Thanks to injuries, this mostly comes down to stopping DeVante Parker and Mike Gesicki. Jessie Bates is currently the highest-graded safety by Pro Football Focus and will likely be guarding Gesicki while Parker will be matched up with William Jackson, who ranks 24th of 125 cornerbacks.
Slowing the Dolphins’ run game may have gotten easier throughout the week: Matt Breida was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list while Salvon Ahmed and DeAndre Washington are currently marked as doubtful. They did activate Myles Gaskin, but he’s missed the past four games with a knee sprain and might not be as effective.
The Dolphins have relied on their aggressive defense, and it’s paid off.
Ranking third in blitz rate per Pro Football Reference, Miami uses aggression to pressure opposing quarterbacks into mistakes. This has been particularly effective against immobile quarterbacks — Cam Newton, Josh Allen, Russell Wilson and Kyler Murray are the only quarterbacks who have had better than an 85 passer rating against Miami. And since Allen is nowhere near as mobile as those four, a long day lies ahead for the Bengals quarterback.
Being able to blitz as much as the Dolphins have is largely thanks to the coverage unit holding up in man coverage. Xavien Howard leads this group and ranks first in Pro Football Focus’ cornerback grades. He’ll be matched up against Bengals rookie receiver Tee Higgins — stopping Higgins, who leads Cincinnati with 8.9 yards per target, will be critical.
Meanwhile, despite his thumb injury, Tua Tagovailoa is expected to be active –but whether he or Ryan Fitzpatrick will start is yet to be determined.
With differing styles, starting conservative Tagovailoa or risk-taker Fitzpatrick presumably impacts the spread. However, despite averaging only 4.3 yards per play in Tagovailoa’s starts compared to 5.6 behind Fitzpatrick, Miami averages about 26 points per game regardless of which quarterback starts.
This means Fitzpatrick’s turnovers offset the extra production: He has nine turnovers in his seven starts compared to Tagovailoa’s one in four starts. Either starter does not change my view on how to bet the total.
Even though they rank dead last at 3.6 yards per carry, the Dolphins still commit to running, doing so 44% of the time (11th in the NFL). They run even more in situations when they are leading, with the split rising to 52%.
As a 10-point favorite, the Dolphins will lead and likely continue to ride their inefficient rushing attack.
The Dolphins at -10.5 is dangerous since they have shown a willingness to play conservatively with a lead. On the other hand, the Bengals will be starting Allen, who showed no reason to be trusted against the Giants.
Looking at the total, though, this should be a game the Dolphins can control from the beginning: After getting an early lead, they should look to play more conservatively to minimize the chance of a costly turnover.
That should force the Bengals to play more aggressively to catch up. However, the Bengals’ passing attack has shown no signs of life without Burrow.
Give me the under.
PICK: Under 42.5