By Abraham Gutierrez
In a Thursday night battle with the words “trap” and “upset” written all over it, the AFC North leading Cincinnati Bengals travel to “The Sunshine State” to kickoff Week 9 of the 2013 NFL season against the Miami Dolphins.
Sun Life Stadium in beautiful Miami Gardens, Florida will be the site for this intraconference showdown, scheduled to kickoff at 8:30 p.m. ET.
Living Up/Down to Expectations
With eight weeks in the books, both teams are right where everyone expected them to be in the American Football Conference’s big picture.
For the Bengals, their 6-2 mark is tied for the second best record in the AFC, as Cincy has positioned itself to run away with the third North Division title in franchise history.
For the Dolphins, their sizzling (3-0) start is nothing but a distant memory now, as Miami’s sub-par (3-4) record is good enough for third place in the East Division.
If Playoffs Started Today
If the NFL playoffs started today, the Bengals would march into the postseason as the second hottest team in the AFC behind the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs.
On the other hand, the Dolphins would be content with playing the role of spoiler, as the Fins would finish in a four-way tie for eighth place in the AFC standings.
A Desperate Team is a Dangerous Opponent
Needless to say, Ryan Tannehill and Co. will need to play with a sense of urgency and desperation in order to upset the Bengals Thursday night.
Luckily, there’s still plenty of football to be played in the 2013-14 NFL campaign, but the way this team has to approach things, is that one more loss could be the nail in the coffin.
Jonathan Martin “Joke” Incident
There’s no question that Miami’s biggest flaw this season has been the play of the offensive line, in particular, its inability to protect Tannehill. If reports prove to be accurate, things are about to get worse before they get better for the O-line, as the Jonathan Martin incident is sure to rub many fans the wrong way.
While the Dolphins’ Week 9 injury report has him listed as “doubtful” due to an “illness”, reports reveal an ugly turn of events. Media outlets state that Miami’s starting right tackle abandoned the team after a practical joke turned sour in the team cafeteria and hasn’t been seen since.
It all started earlier this week, when his teammates jokingly refused to sit with him. Thus, Martin “flipped out, smashed a food tray on the ground, took off, and they haven’t seen him since.”
On Friday, Dolphins coach Joe Philbin was asked about Martin’s absence, to which he indicated that he would only answer questions regarding players who were on the practice field on Wednesday.
Miami Dolphins Injury Report (Oct. 30)
Tackle – Jonathan Martin (Illness) – Did Not Practice (Doubtful): It’s going to be interesting to see who Philbin promotes to take Martin’s place this week. Miami’s offensive line is sure to have its hands full against a Bengals defense that ranks: fifth in the NFL in points (18) allowed, eighth in total yards surrendered (322.5), 11th at defending the pass (225.2), and ninth against the rush (97.2).
Cornerback – Brent Grimes (Quadriceps) – Full participation in practice (Probable): Although he has been able to play through pain, Grimes’ first year in Miami hasn’t gotten off to the start everyone envisioned. The seventh-year vet has been slowed by a bevy of injuries, especially as of late. Last week he was able to play despite being listed with back problems. This week, his quadriceps injury is sure to be tested against Cincy’s receivers.
Tight End – Dion Sims (Toe) – Did not participate in practice (Doubtful): After being counted on to try and fill the void left by Dustin Keller, Sims hasn’t been able to avoid the injury bug. Earlier in the season, he battled a lingering groin injury. This week, he did not partake in team practices, and is listed as doubtful. Thus far this season, he has two catches for five yards and a score.
Defensive End – Olivier Vernon (Knee) – Full participation in practice (Probable): After a successful rookie campaign, Vernon has not only been a workhorse in his second season as a pro, but also comes in leading the team in sacks (4.5). Although he’s nursing a knee injury, this former Cane will be ready to get after Andy Dalton and the Bengals Thursday night.
Tackle – Bryant McKinnie (Knee) – Full participation in practice (Probable): After just three practices, the newest addition to the Dolphins roster got to make his debut last week against the New England Patriots. With his performance, the former Pro Bowler gives Miami plenty of hope at the left tackle position. “Big Mac” not only showed good feet in passing situations, but was also instrumental in the Dolphins season-high 156 rushing yards.
“I feel like I did a decent job,” McKinnie said after the game. “To come in here on Tuesday and play on Sunday and had to learn a bunch of stuff in a short couple days, it only gets better from here. I get more time to learn.”
Did Not Practice – Doubtful
- (T) Jonathan Martin (illness) – Doubtful
- (TE) Dion Sims (toe) – Doubtful
Full Practice – Probable
- (CB) Brent Grimes (quadriceps) – Probable
- (DE) Olivier Vernon (knee) – Probable
- (T) Bryant McKinnie (knee) – Probable
- DNP: Did not participate in practice
- LP: Limited Participation in Practice – Less than 100 percent of a player’s normal repetitions
- FP: Full Participation – 100 percent of a player’s normal repetitions
- Out: Player will not play
- Out: Player will not play
- Doubtful: 25 percent chance a player will play
- Questionable: 50 percent chance a player will play
- Probable = 75 percent chance a player will play
For more Dolphins news and updates, visit Dolphins Central.
Abe Gutierrez is a criminal justice admin whose love for sports led him to become a writer and editor. His expertise makes him a valued addition to Examiner.com and its partners. His work can be found on Examiner.com. .