The Miami Dolphins' 3-0 start to the season is now a very distant memory as the team has lost four straight games heading into Thursday night's matchup against the 6-2 Cincinnati Bengals at Sun Life Stadium.
Despite not being able to record a victory in over a month, the Dolphins remain in the mix for one of the final playoff spots in the AFC, finding themselves one game back of the 6th seed as Week 9 is set to begin. However, Miami will be in tough to gain ground if they fall to 3-5 which makes tonight's matchup a must-win.
It's been a short week for the Dolphins since Sunday's loss in New England but its been filled with plenty of adversity. Reports of dysfunction in the Miami locker room have surfaced, mainly due to a lack of confidence in the team's offensive gameplan. Jonathan Martin's emotional meltdown made matters worse as it indicated the team was in shambles and quickly falling apart after a promising start. On behalf of Phins Phocus, I hope Martin is able to get the assistance he requires in this difficult time for him and his family.
Back to the Dolphins-Bengals tilt which is looking like a game that will be decided in the trenches, specifically the Dolphins offensive line versus the Bengals defensive line. For Miami to have any chance at leaving this game with a victory, the offensive line will need to replicate their performance from the first half against the Patriots, except this time they will need to perform at a high level for the full 60 minutes. When Tannehill was kept upright and the running backs were given space to operate, the Dolphins were able to successfully move the ball down field and put points on the board. In the final two quarters, where Tannehill was sacked 6 times, Miami failed to score a single point.
The Dolphins need to get back to what's been working for them in recent weeks; handing the ball off to Lamar Miller. In the first half in New England, the duo of Miller and Thomas rushed for 169 yards before Mike Sherman inexplicably abandoned the run in the second half. Of course, the offensive line must create holes for the Dolphins backs to thrive but its clear Miami's offense is most dynamic when Miller is having success. With the absence of Bengals linebacker Rey Maualuga, the Dolphins would be wise to attack Cincinnati along the ground early and often.
This game is of the utmost importance for the Dolphins as a loss would leave them with only a shred of hope at making the postseason. With the issues surrounding the team, one would think it will be a significant challenge to defeat a red-hot Benglas team. However, the players can use the fact that almost no one is giving them a shot tonight as motivation and play with urgency in what could be the defining moment of their season. If the offensive line holds up and they limit the turnovers, the Dolphins should be in good shape.
One thing is for sure, winning fixes everything.