The starting quarterbacks in Sunday's game at Hard Rock Stadium (1 p.m.-Cincinnati's Local 12) have started 75 percent of the Bengals' games during the last dozen seasons. Cincinnati's Andy Dalton and Miami's Ryan Fitzpatrick look to produce another win even as they find themselves working for teams in the NFL netherworld mulling their next franchise quarterback.
The 37-year-old Fitzpatrick, who started 12 games for injured Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer in 2008, makes his 138th start for his eighth team, an NFL record he may or may not choose to extend next season. With a win in his 132nd start for the Bengals, Dalton can stay nine percentage points (.538-.529) ahead of Ken Anderson as the Bengals' winningest quarterback in history.
The Dolphins were supposedly tanking this season for the No. 1 draft pick, but if they beat the Bengals Sunday Cincinnati goes No. 1 for the first time since taking Heisman Trophy winner Carson Palmer as their franchise quarterback in 2003. With LSU Heisman winner Joe Burrow on deck, the Bengals.com Media Roundtable proves it never tanks and gets to the heart of Sunday's game.
Paul Dehner, Jr., who covers the Bengals for The Athletic and is the first scribe ever to hope for rain on a trip to Miami, conjures up images of A.J. Green and AJ McCarron in a ghostly rain of not that long ago. Richard Skinner, the digital sports columnist for Cincinnati's Local 12, believes Bengals running back Joe Mixon becomes a 1,000-yard rusher again in a win that keeps Bengaldom on a holiday edge heading into next week's finale against the Browns at Paul Brown Stadium.
Armando Salguero, who started catching The Fish in 1990 for The Miami Herald, is still well versed in the Dolphins even though he's now a general sports columnist for the paper. Like John Clayton, "The Professor," who writes on the NFL for The Washington Post, he doesn't see Miami's undermanned roster surviving a game against Dalton's experience, Mixon's explosiveness and the Bengals' recent defensive success.
Let's go around The Table. As usual, visitors and the alphabet first.
As former Miami Herald editor Edwin Pope would say, this is not a battle of titans. Or something like that. The Dolphins have three wins, which is probably one or two more than expected. So that is the reason owner Steve Ross has told me he really likes his coach, Brian Flores, and he thinks he's found his coach.
To quote Ross, Flores established the culture and has done it with a bunch of quote, unquote, no names. The problem is the Dolphins have a history of having no names that won a Super Bowl. A lot of these no names will probably be gone by the start of next season.
They absolutely want a quarterback. That's the point of the whole exercise. There's more than one quarterback. They will not get Joe Burrow. I assume the Bengals or whoever picks No. 1 will do that. But there are others and the Dolphins badly need a guy. Their starter is 37-year-old Ryan Fitzpatrick and we love, Fitzy, too, but he's 37 and not a franchise quarterback by his own admission, right? The problem is, neither is Josh Rosen, apparently.
Fitzpatrick hasn't had the six-touchdown game and he also hasn't had the six-interception game. Both of which he noted this week he's had in his career. But he's been a lot more careful with the ball and he's the leader unquestioned of that entire team and just a great guy. He's also their leading rusher. You stop Fitz or Fitz has a bad day, the Dolphins lose.
The Bengals played New England last week. Whatever you saw the Patriots do and try, the Dolphins will do and try this week with inferior personnel because the Dolphins coaching staff has that New England tie with the defensive coordinator a former Patriots coach and the head coach a former Patriots defensive play-caller.
THE EDGE: A field-goal fest, which the Dolphins have had this year. With these two teams, it's a moot exercise almost. Give the Dolphins the home-field advantage. DOLPHINS, 12-9.
The Dolphins have 37 new players on a 53-man roster. That means they have 16 carryovers from last year. That's a completely new team. And lately they've been adding three to five players a week to look at them and try them out. Sixteen players isn't even a starting lineup.
To make things worse, there's not a Pro Bowl player healthy on that roster. The only two they had were cornerback Xavien Howard and safety Reshad Jones. Both are on injured reserve. And they didn't get a guy to the Pro Bowl or even an alternate. So it's a team totally bereft of any star players or talent.
They don't have a Geno Atkins. And the way the Miami defense is, the Red Rifle could go ahead and do some things. Obviously Dalton is auditioning for a trade. The Bengals have a chance to win. They've got Joe Mixon and the Dolphins don't have a Joe Mixon. The Bengals defensive line can give the Dolphins' offensive line problems because Miami has major issues there.
THE EDGE: It's not exactly a game on the radar. There is probably more talent on the Bengals. The oddsmakers may go with the Dolphins because they've won more games than the Bengals, but it's very bizarre. BENGALS, 20-17.
I'm intrigued by the weather potentially turning this into a South Florida slop fest. That would make it particularly interesting. Two teams that have played hard despite not being overly talented. I kind of like the way Miami is playing. They've been gritty enough that I have them winning it.
The Bengals' red zone stuff, I don't see any answers. That continues to be a problem and they don't have any fixes. They're not going to be able to punch it in. The one thing the Bengals have going for them, they have actually found something to at least hang their hat on every week. Every week they go out there and they run Joe Mixon and they play better defense and try to win games that way if they can.
Fitzpatrick has won a lot of game in this league. He's lost a lot, too, but he's won a lot. He can beat them, of course. Fitzy can throw you the ball sometimes, but this team is terrible at getting turnovers. For three straight years. It's one thing if a guy is going to throw you picks, but if you're not going to come up with them or force a fumble … The Dolphins have a defense that's not great, but they're scrappy.
THE EDGE: Arguably the biggest game for this franchise since it was 18-16 the last time. In the Wild Card loss to the Steelers, which was Jan. 9, 2016. Got to lose. Clinch the first pick and win next week. DOLPHINS, 18-16.
As goofy as last week was, right? I mean, you're minus five in turnovers, so you're not going to win against New England. But when you cut to the numbers, the defense played a winning game, the offense did some really good things, Joe ran the ball great again and I think all of those are sustainable and now you're playing a team you're probably not going to be minus-five in turnover margin. They keep running the ball the way Mixon is running the ball, I think you've got a real good chance to go down there and win the game. You're not playing the New England Patriots for goodness sakes.
They're playing the defense allowing the most points. Look, the offense is not going to be dynamic. It's never been dynamic this year. But I think, at least of late, they've been consistent enough minus the turnovers that they're going to move the ball. Since the Baltimore game, this defense arguably has put together five winning performances in a row. Last Sunday wasn't their fault. All the points basically came off turnovers. Miami has a pretty good offense, but I think this could be the Bengals best offensive game of the season. At least the best since Arizona on Oct. 6.
Fitzpatrick is dangerous both ways. He can throw three touchdowns and three picks in the same half. That potential exists, but he can still do some things. This just feels like a Bengal win to make fans hold their breath next week when it comes to whether or not they clinch that first overall draft pick.
THE EDGE: I think it will be their best offensive game. I think Joe rolls. Honestly, Joe is going to get near close to 1,000 yards when this one is over. I think he has a big, big day. BENGALS, 27-23.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Mixon keeps banging on the red-zone door for his team and the numbers say he should be able to knock it down against a Miami defense allowing the most points per game in the NFL this season. But with an Green-less vertical passing game and a re-tooled line starting its seventh different combination Sunday, the Bengals offense has defied logic much of this season.
In 40 red-zone trips, they've whiffed 25 times for touchdowns. Given they've lost seven games by eight points or less, it makes you wonder. There has been no second-half touchdown since Dalton scored on a one-yarder with 23 seconds left against Jacksonville on Oct. 20. They haven't scored more than 23 points all season (the last time they did that was with Fitzy in '08) and the last time they hit that number was 77 days ago against Arizona.
So here's their shot. Miami doesn't have a Pro Bowler on defense and is giving up 31 points per game. Dalton has gone 11 quarters looking for his 200th touchdown pass to become the 45th NFL player to hit that mark.
Fitzy is supposed to give you chances on the other side, but he hasn't lately (five in the last seven games) and he's a guy whose 160 picks seem to get more play than his 205 TD passes because they come in bunches. But the Bengals' seven picks is the second fewest in the league and their 12 turnovers is the NFL's fewest and right above them is Miami's 13.
Dalton has gone 11 quarters looking for his 200th touchdown pass to become the 45th NFL player to hit that mark. Fitzpatrick leads the Dolphins rushing.
If you think this is a weird game, you're right. The quarterback that plays the best wins the game for a team that is thought to be looking for a quarterback in the draft.