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Dolphins @ Bengals Game Preview With Bengals Gab

To preview the must-win game for the Dolphins this week when they travel to Cincinnati to face the struggling Bengals, we here at Dolphins Gab decided to again continue our Q&A segment with opponents with Eric McMackin of Bengals Gab.

Brant Houghton: What has been the main reason for the Bengals struggles so far this year?

Eric McMackin: There have been many issues the team has struggled with so far, but the main thing has been simply a lack of heart.  I really believe the Bengals, coming off a division championship in 2009 and adding even more firepower to the roster, got complacent and forgot what got them the success they enjoyed last year.  With the arrival of T.O., and the circus that followed, there was a lot of hype surrounding this team and I tend to think they started believing their own press clippings a bit too much.  Last year they were struggling for respect with an “us versus the world” mentality.  This year they were media darlings all spring, and they aren’t mature enough to handle it.  Additionally, there has been much debate around what their identity as a team is.  Last year, they were clearly a running football team, playing tough defense and grinding out low-scoring wins.  This year, they’ve been in 15-10 tractor pulls (Ravens) and 39-32 shootouts (Falcons), and everything in between.  They went out and got T.O., Jordan Shipley, and Jermaine Gresham, but didn’t really use them all effectively until last week. I think Marvin Lewis wants the team to be one thing, and their roster dictates that they be another. 

BH: What have been the Bengals strengths and weaknesses during the season thus far?

EM: Not too many strengths to be honest here, frankly.  On offense, the passing game has been coming on strong as of late.  Carson Palmer is coming off an impressive 412 yard, 3 touchdown effort last week, T.O., is on pace for 1500 yards, Chad Ochocinco’s on pace for over 1000, and Jordan Shipley is about to break Cris Collinsworth’s franchise rookie receiving mark. On defense, they’ve been very opportunistic in getting turnovers, which has been vital to the 2 wins they’ve gotten so far.  They got four turnovers in their two victories, and it was their ability to get turnovers that got them back into the game against Atlanta last week. On special teams, Mike Nugent (kicker) and Kevin Huber (punter) are both playing very well. Nugent has 2 field goals from 50+ yards out and his kick-offs are deep.  Huber is an accurate punter who can pin teams back.

As for weaknesses, clearly they are penalties, pass rush, and third downs.  They continually shoot themselves in the foot on both sides of the ball with stupid penalties. It can be argued that both the Cleveland and Tampa Bay losses were the direct result of penalties and inopportune times in the game. They seem to be getting better in this area, but they are still one of the league leaders in this category.  Despite adding several pass rush specialists over the last few years, the Bengals cannot generate any serious pressure on opposing quarterbacks without blitzing. The front four has generated very little pressure, and even when they blitz it is often picked up.  Lastly, they have been absolutely atrocious on third down on both sides of the ball.  They haven’t been able to convert on offense, where penalties are often to blame for putting them into 3rd-and-long situations.  On defense, they’ve allowed opponents to continue drives due to offsides, defensive holding, and pass interference calls. Even when they don’t commit penalties, they have trouble with manageable third down situations on both sides of the ball.  This must improve if they are to turn the season around. 

BH: Are there any key injuries that your team has suffered this season that may impact the game this week?

EM: The Bengal secondary is beat up right now.  Adam “Pacman” Jones was lost for the year with a herniated disk in his neck last week, and the other top three corners, Leon Hall, Johnathan Joseph, and Morgan Trent are all nursing various dings. Safeties Roy Williams and Chinedum Ndukwe are also questionable with different ailments.  When Cincy’s secondary is healthy, they can really shut down opponent’s passing games, but with so many key players hurting, it has to concern Marvin Lewis.

BH: Who have been the main playmakers for this Cincinnati team this season, and who do you expect to be the go to guy for the Bengals this week?

EM: As much as this may sound crazy to some non-Bengal fans out there, Terrell Owens has been the biggest playmaker for the Bengals this year.  Despite being 36 years old, the guy has taken over a few games for them, including a 212 yard effort against Cleveland . Look for him to be the “go-to” guy. Chad Ochocinco and Jordan Shipley have also been big contributors on offense.  Carson Palmer’s been hot and cold.  Cedric Benson hasn’t had a breakout game yet.  On defense, Leon Hall has been the best player with four interceptions.  Jones was an impact player with an interception and two fumble recoveries before going down last week. No one else has really shined on defense. Mike Nugent has been the MVP of special teams with clutch field goal kicking.

BH: Whats your score and game prediction for the game this week?

EM: This is an absolutely impossible game to predict, particularly with how schizophrenic the Bengals are.  The Dolphins will certainly be ornery after getting a hose job at home against the hated Steelers, and will be looking for redemption. However, Cincy has their backs against the wall, and with those same Steelers coming to town next week, they must establish something now or watch the season go down the tubes. They started to show some real offensive firepower last week and I expect that to carry over.  I also expect Mike Zimmer to have the defense ready to redeem themselves after an uncharacteristically poor performance last week.  I’m going to call it 24-23 for the Bengals by the skin of their teeth.

We would like to thank Eric for participating in our questionaire with us. The game will be a tough one, as every game is on the road, but with Miami’s success on the road so far this year, it should make the game that much closer. Even though the Dolphins face a must-win situation, the Bengals are in a desperate place themselves, sitting at 2-4. The cagefight in Cincy will be no holds barred tomorrow as both teams are looking to get back into the playoff picture with a win. Both of the Gab Networks experts have picked their own teams in this game preview, so who will prove to be right, Eric with the Bengals, or myself with the Fins? We will have to see tomorrow. Dolphins. Bengals. Be there.

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