Well, I think it’s fair to say that even though I was optimistic leading up to this season, I did not think I would be sitting here, talking about a 3-0 Miami Dolphins team, that came back in extraordinary fashion against the Ravens and defensively held out a 90 snap performance from the Buffalo offense.

Yet here we are.

Mike McDaniel, is yet to be beaten as a head coach. Tua is in the top 5 of the majority of QB statistics and teams taking swipes at our stadium structure as a way of explaining how they lost to us. This Miami team is making people sit up and take notice. We are a talking topic on most talk shows, we are turning doubters into believers and are constantly in the minds and mouths of pundits across the football landscape.

And now we take our unbeaten Dolphins into a short week, to visit a team who is underperforming after last year’s Super Bowl appearance with a real opportunity to move to 4-0 in what was widely considered to be the toughest part of our schedule. We have a banged up roster with key players carrying injuries, but we have beaten the odds plenty already this season, so why can’t we do it again?

This week I have teamed up with Rory-Joe Daniels (@rjdanielsnfl) of Bengals site Stripe Hype and The Touchdown to get the Bengals’ perspective on how this week’s match-up could go down…


Hello mate, I’m thrilled to get you involved here, some of my first ever NFL articles came from our link-ups, so to bring it together within this regular series is something I am really pleased with. But I’m sure there are plenty of Dolphins fans who are less familiar with you, so give us an insight into yourself please buddy.

No problem, thanks for the invite. I’m a big NFL fan from the UK and have followed the game for around 20 years. Back then, there was only a weekly magazine First Down to keep me up-to-date so the array of viewing options now is fantastic.

I watch every Bengals game and currently write for Stripe Hype, a Bengals fan blog. I’m also a massive NFL Draft geek and college football watcher so most of my weekends are spent watching American Football!

Yeah following the NFL back then wasn’t an easy thing was it, haha, but right now we have it good, as much coverage as ever and with London games growing the passion for many more people, it can only get better.

But to your Bengals. What a season last season! So so close to the biggest prize of all. Coming into the season you must have been feeling good and looking to take that final step? How does that compare to which must be an underwhelming start to the season so far?

Confidence was high with a revamped offensive line, considering that was the only glaring weak point on the roster. It was a shock to the system with the two early losses especially when the issues were with the offensive unit that dominated late in 2021.

You can chalk it down to Burrow missing some off-season preparation time with his appendix operation and the o-line taking time to gel but it is an opportunity missed considering this schedule has a sting in the tail, with tough games racking up near the end of the year.

So there’s a bit of frustration that you haven’t made improvements in your weaker units, and that your stronger units are underperforming? We seem to be in an opposite position coming through the first three. Our weaker areas seem to be stepping up and the areas strengthened seem to be performing as expected.

Its interesting that Joe Burrow missing that time has had that impact on the whole roster. Obviously, he is key to your success but to see him having such a major impact from that one issue must be a concern. So is that the main concern or are there other things that aren’t working so far? And did your in against the Jets calm those worries, or was it merely papering over the cracks?

The offense struggled mightily to contain TJ Watt and Micah Parsons in the first two games. There was a miscommunication between the o-line and Burrow was too often trying to make something happen.

The Jets game did quell some of the concerns, but it wasn’t dominating enough to suggest this offense was functioning at the level it did last year. On the defensive side, the Bengals had been strong without impacting the game. Against the Jets, pass rushers found their targets and we got four turnovers.

Having faced Mitch Trubisky, Cooper Rush, and Joe Flacco, this week’s tilt against the Dolphins is shaping up to be a different kettle of fish.

You say that, but from what we are seeing, there is a considerable risk that Tua is not going to be fit enough to play this Thursday. With the back problems cause by the injury at weekend, the short week could mean the game comes too soon for Tua, which would mean for the 3rd time in 4 games, you are facing a backup QB. And looking at our injury report, he may not be the only one not to make it.

So if we bring a banged-up roster, and we want to continue our unbeaten start and keep your resurgence to just one week, where should we look to exploit?

Cover 2 has been the coverage scheme Burrow and the offense have had trouble with. Jets’ head coach Robert Saleh refused to change his scheme to incorporate a lot more of that and Burrow thrived.

When the picture is muddied and more bodies in the defensive backfield, Burrow hasn’t been as efficient. When things are spread out and he can pick a one-on-one matchup to exploit, he is surgical.

Both offensive tackles have had big blown blocks that led to sacks so sending the blitz and testing the edge is certainly advised.

Oh wow, I have to say, that excites me a bit as I feel like those are two areas that we actually could look to exploit. One thing counting against us is that we played Sunday and our defensive players had to deal with 90 offensive snaps against the Bills, so I wonder if fatigue could have a part to play. That said if we combat that, our secondary includes Xavien Howard, Jevon Holland, and Brandon Jones within it, and we often operate with fluid formations and a lot of pre snap activity and movement.

On top of that, Melvin Ingram has started well in his first few Miami appearances, adding to Christian Wilkins, Zach Sieler, Emmanuel Ogbah, and Jaelen Phillips who all have an ability to get penetration to runners and quarterbacks. Coupled with the aggressive blitz packages that we can dial up, then we could capitalize on both those areas you suggested.

How are your new additions contributing? You added several OLine pieces amongst others, are you seeing an impact from those moves?

To be honest, the bulk of last year’s team remains in place but the offensive line underwent full-scale renovation. That has caused problems but it’s unfair to place the blame squarely at their feet.

For the most part, Ted Karras and Alex Cappa have been solid if not spectacular. Right tackle La’el Collins looked rusty but battled through a back problem last week and had a decent outing. Rookie guard Cordell Volson is learning on the hoof but is trending upwards.

The return of Jessie Bates on the franchise tag means first-round selection safety Daxton Hill has had little to no action this season so far. While second-round cornerback Cam Taylor-Britt remains on injured reserve.

So there is hope for that offensive line then, maybe just teething problems in these initial games. There was a lot of noise within the fan base that La’el Collins could or should have ended up in Miami before you eventually made that deal. With our OLine having similar issues to yours last year, there was a lot of energy from the fans to try and get him to South Beath. That said Austin Jackson looks much improved with the new blacking scheme and coaching approach and Terron Armstead is exactly as advertised.

We’re sat 3-0, somewhat unexpectedly after some tough games. What do you guys expect of this Mike McDaniel-led Miami team? What do you expect to see from us and how do you expect us to play? Has our start shocked you guys or were you always expecting improvement from us this year?

You could tell that you guys were at the start of something good over the last few seasons. The building blocks have been in place and McDaniel gives you the offensive sparkle to make you a contender.

I had you tagged as a playoff team, but it still came as a surprise to see you knock off a Bills team that had not been troubled in the opening games. The AFC East isn’t as strong as other years and getting one over on the divisional favorites early doors is a big advantage.

Having added the weapons to your offense the question was always going to be could Tua make the leap? While the answer to that may not be a resounding yes, he certainly appears to have made the strides needed to make the Dolphins a potent offense.

Im not sure what Tua is going to have to do to get that resounding yes you speak of, it seems no matter what he does he will get that criticism. Christ, in the fallout of the Ravens games, he was slated because his WRs were open and therefore he was taking easy options… I genuinely don’t know what more he is meant to do haha!

But away from Tua for a second, who are you guys most concerned about on the Dolphins Roster? Who do you think poses the greatest threat on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball?

The two wide receivers are the most obvious concerns. We have Chidobe Awuzie as a cornerback on one side but that still leaves Eli Apple to cover either Hill or Waddle. Not only that but the Dolphins could use Waddle in the slot and attack Mike Hilton. Garrett Wilson got a couple of grabs vs Hilton last week and it may be something McDaniel wants to key in on.

On defense, Christian Wilkins had four hurries last week for the Dolphins so I am interested to see if rookie Cordell Volson can hold up and prevent him from converting pressure into sacks. On the back-end, Jevon Holland is a chess piece that Burrow must be aware of while Ja’Marr Chase vs Xavien Howard is always an intriguing matchup.

Tyreek gets a LOT of mentions to this question, so it’s good to see Waddle get more credit from opposition fans, the two of them together are quite the tandem. Love the Christian Wilkins love too, this guy seems to be a major piece of what we do, he is always around the action and is an infectious personality within the group and with fanbase contact. It’s great to hear him getting opposition recognition.

How about your team? There are obvious star players within the group that shone during your run last season. But who are we not talking about in those Bengals uniforms? Who are your unsung heroes and secret weapons?

I don’t think Hayden Hurst can be classed as secret but he certainly doesn’t get the attention the rest of the receiving corps gets. Burrow made a conscious effort to take what the defense gave him against the Jets and that meant sacrificing some deep shots for chain moving throws.

Hurst comes into his own in the middle of the field. He is an athletic upgrade on CJ Uzomah and also a red zone threat. The Dolphins linebackers will have to pay attention to him on crossers and slants. That’s easier said than done with the other attacking threats the Bengals possess.

It will also be worth keeping an eye on a familiar name to Dolphins fans.  Samaje Perine came in late in the game last week and closed things out with a physical running display. It was of stark contrast to Joe Mixon who struggled to generate much forward progress. Mixon picked up a minor knock so that could mean Perine gets some of the more important snaps this week.

Yeah I agree you know, the addition of Hayden Hurst has gone somewhat under the radar but yeah, he’s a dramatic upgrade on what you had there and could be a new dimension for Joe Burrow.

And from one QB to another, I have to ask about Tua! I do so every week as the picture of his performance and skills changes week after week. There’s a significant chance he doesn’t play this week, but what is the Bengals fanbase feeling where Tua is concerned? Are they starting to take him more seriously yet?

I think the Tua v Burrow v Herbert conversation has become very tribal with them all being in the same draft class. At times it feels like the fanbases of each team are actively rooting against the other two.

On a personal level, I am a huge Alabama fan so I have always been hoping for Tua to come good. He can be an efficient passer once he is comfortable with the system and the addition of Waddle should really help him develop a long-term relationship similar to that of Burrow and Chase.

Underestimating a player that has achieved so much in his career to date is dangerous and I expect Tua to continue his development under McDaniel. That said, I hope he can suffer a temporary blip on Thursday night!

You’re right where the Tua, Burrow, and Herbert rivalry is concerned, fans are certainly backing their guy and we are no different, I am no different. I think what we are waiting for is that fair recognition around the NFL universe. The tide is starting to turn after this year, but for a guy who has yet to have a losing record, who is 10-1 in his last 11, who is in the top 5 of most QB rankings from the first three games, yet he is still looked on as inferior to the other two names in a lot of cases. Once we get that fairness, I think we will feel a lot better about the situation.

But as I say, he is looking less likely to play now, so let’s get back to the game. What are your predictions? How do you see this one going?

I think it will be a tight one that comes down to a last-minute field goal. I think home advantage means the Bengals just edge it. 31-28.

Yeah I see a lot of points too, with both teams on short weeks, with you guys yet to find full form and with Miami banged up after the tough game against Buffalo, there is certainly scope for the two QBs to score points.

I’m going to be more optimistic this week. If somehow Tua is able to play, and with the Tyreek Hill and Eli Apple feud likely to take some attention, that could let other players thrive from a Miami perspective. If Teddy has to start the game, then I feel less confident but overall I think at 3-0 we have a lot to be optimistic about.

So I’m going with 34-28 to Miami, not dissimilar to your prediction, just flipped for the Dolphins to win.

 So that’s that and the game is just a couple of days away now, love short weeks for how they get the excitement going.

And there is a lot to be nervous about where injuries are concerned. Tua, Armstead, and Howard amongst others, are key players carrying injuries and we may need to brace ourselves for a less than ideal inactive list in just a couple of days.

But as I said, we overcame the odds in game two, to come back against the Ravens. We overcame the odds against Buffalo when everyone, including myself, had predicted a loss. This team is more resilient and together than any Miami team we have seen in a long time.

With a passionate staff, with fantastic football brains, we have a legitimate chance at 4-0 and I don’t see why the ride has to stop here. Let’s do what we do best and upset the odds! Let’s go!!!

Fins Up!