1) Play four quarters
The last two weeks were a tale of two halves for the Miami Dolphins. Play solid football in all three phases for the first 30 minutes, and fail to finish in the second half. Finishing drives against the Jets was what contributed and allowed them to hang around, especially in the second half. The Dolphins struggled when they crossed the 50-yard line, and were forced to kick four field goals. Against the Giants, Miami took a three-point lead to halftime, but just couldn't build on that lead in the third quarter. The defense gave up a touchdown on the Giants first offensive possession and gave up 16 total points in the third quarter. The team never was able to recover and ultimately lost by that same margin. To get a win this Sunday, the Dolphins will need to find a way to start fast, and sustain that execution and momentum throughout the game.
2) Turnover margin
It's not often that you win the turnover margin and lose on the scoreboard. The Dolphins defense was able to force three Eli Manning interceptions last week, winning the turnover battle, and ultimately lost the game. Miami and Cincinnati combine for just four wins on the season, one of the factors you look to first is turnover ratio. Evenly matched rosters and close games usually come down to mental mistakes, penalties and turnovers. The Dolphins have been in the top five this season in penalties against, and must bounce back from last week where they committed 7 for 42 yards. The Dolphins are currently at minus-12 in the turnover category and the Bengals, after turning it over five times last week against the Patriots, are dreadful at minus-16. I would think a priority for both coaching staffs this week would be a concentrated effort in both of these categories.
3) Win LOS battle
An educated assumption would lead me to believe that both the Dolphins and Bengals have lost more times than they have won up front on both sides of the line of scrimmage. Miami has given up 54 sacks through 14 games and doesn't need quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick to build on his team-leading rushing stats again this week. Cincinnati has had much of the same issues protecting the QB, giving up 43 sacks but proved last week that they can rush the football. Against a very talented New England defense, they marched down the field on their opening drive. It consisted of eight consecutive runs on a 9-play scoring drive resulting in a touchdown. The Dolphins defense must slow down RB Joe Mixon, and put the pressure on quarterback Andy Dalton to move the chains. Getting consistent pressure on the opposing quarterback and playing vertically against the run hasn't been where the Dolphins defense would like it to be. The Bengals haven't been much better, only registering 23 sacks on the season, coming in just ahead of Miami at 18. The team that can have a break-through day up front just might have the edge after 60 minutes.