By Abraham Gutierrez

Two AFC teams heading in opposite directions meet in the Week 9 edition of Thursday Night Football, as the lowly (3-4) Miami Dolphins welcome the red-hot (6-2) Cincinnati Bengals to Sun Life Stadium.

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CINCINNATI, OH - OCTOBER 27:  Andy Dalton #14 of the Cincinnati Bengals throws a pass during the NFL game against the New York Jets at Paul Brown Stadium on October 27, 2013 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Andy Dalton #14 of the Cincinnati Bengals (Credit, Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

What a Difference Four Weeks Make

After a 3-0 start, the Fins come into Week 9 losers of four straight games and watching their season slip away before their eyes. In contrast, Cincy has shown great resilience following a pedestrian 2-2 start, winning four consecutive decisions and taking sole possession of first place in the AFC North.

Bengals on Offense

Heading into Week 9, Cincinnati’s offense ranks fifth in the league in points (18.0), eighth in total yards (322.5), 11th in passing yards (225.2) and ninth in rushing yards (97.2) per game. The felines’ attack features one of the best young quarterbacks in the league, a lethal wide receiving corpse and a running game that’s ever improving.

Led by former second-round NFL pick, quarterback Andy Dalton, Cincy ranks in the top three in points, total yards, touchdowns and first-down percentage per game in the American Football Conference.

The third-year man out of TCU is sure to test Miami’s young secondary, coming in with 183 completions on 279 attempts (66 percent) for 2,249 yards, 16 touchdowns, seven interceptions and a quarterback-rating of 99.0.

In scoring situations, Dalton’s favorite targets are wide receivers, Marvin Jones (24 receptions, 369 yards, 7 TDs) and of course, A.J. Green (46 catches, 734 yards, 5 TDs). Other than Peyton Manning and the Broncos (29), no other team has scored more passing touchdowns than the Bengals (16) in the AFC through eight weeks.

But Cincinnati is anything but a one-dimensional offense. In fact, this team’s ability to mix in a heavy dose of run/pass is sure to give Miami defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle nightmares.

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Former Patriot, BenJarvus Green-Ellis (110 carries, 352 yards, 3 TDs) and rookie halfback Giovani Bernard (72 rushes for 282 yards, 2 TDs) give head coach Marvin Lewis the capability to pound the rock and control time of possession when needed.

It’s also worth noting that Dalton is very capable of abandoning the pocket and tucking it in to become a playmaker when pressured. At six feet two inches, 220-pounds, the 2011 Pro Bowler is Cincy’s third-leading rusher with 76 yards on 27 attempts for an average of 2.8 rushing-yards-per carry.

Bengals on Defense

As good as they are on the offensive side of the football, defensively is where this team not only shines, but becomes a legitimate Super Bowl contender and a huge problem for the Dolphins Thursday night.

The 2013 Cincy defense 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). With Miami’s offensive line struggling this year, rest assured that Bengals defensive coordinator, Mike Zimmer will be dialing up plenty of blitzes aimed at Ryan Tannehill.

This defense ranks seventh best in sacks per game coming into Week 9 in the AFC, and there are five players in particular the Dolphins must account for at all times: (DTs) Geno Atkins (18 tackles, 5 sacks) and Domata Peko (21 tackles, 2.5 sacks), (DEs) Carlos Dunlap (32 tackles, 4 sacks, 2 forced fumbles) and Wallace Gilberry (13 tackles, 3 sacks, 1 forced fumble), and, of course, five-time Pro Bowler (LB) James Harrison (16 tackles 2 sacks).

Dolphins vs. Bengals Head-to-Head

Miami comes in with a 14-5-0 edge in the overall series versus Cincinnati. The Dolphins have also won two straight games heading into this matchup, both coming on the road. The Fins defeated the Bengals 22-14 in 2010 in Cincinnati, and again last season, 17-13, at Paul Brown Stadium.

For more Dolphins news and updates, visit Dolphins Central.

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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 and its partners. His work can be found on .