DOLPHINS // BENGALS OVERVIEW
The Bengals’ defense has been a disappointment to begin the year, ranking 23rd in total DVOA, while ranking 29th in yards allowed per game and 23rd in points allowed per game. This is unlikely to yield big “individual” fantasy production from the low-volume, spread-it-around Dolphins, but Miami’s underrated offense should be able to score points in this game — forcing the Bengals’ offense to respond in turn.
The Bengals’ offense, of course, has been elite to begin the year — ranking only 16th in yards per game, but ranking fourth in points per game. The Bengals’ yardage totals have been a victim of efficiency and limited plays, as Cincy ranks sixth in yards per drive, fourth in points per drive, and third in Drive Success Rate — behind only the Rams and Chiefs. Miami has been strong in the red zone — ranking ninth in touchdown rate on defense — but they have otherwise had a difficult time slowing down opponents, allowing the eighth-most yards per drive.
The interesting wrinkle in this game is that each of these teams does a poor job piling up plays — with Miami ranking 31st in plays per game, and with Cincy ranking 24th. On Miami’s side, this is partly the result of them slowing down the game (32nd in pace of play), and is partly the result of them having a hard time getting opponents off the field (only four teams are allowing more opponent plays per game than Miami). On Cincinnati’s side: they are playing at an above-average pace on offense, but only the Bucs and Chiefs are allowing more yards per drive than the Bengals, which is allowing opponents to bleed time off the clock and limit the plays the Bengals run.
With two teams that allow above-average plays to opponents while running below-average plays themselves, we should see a spike in total plays on at least one side — with the likeliest scenario in this spot being each team rising five to eight plays above their season average.
DOLPHINS PASS OFFENSE
Ryan Tannehill has topped 23 pass attempts only once this year (28 attempts against Tennessee), and he has topped 230 passing yards only once as well (289 yards vs Oakland). Miami does rank fourth in yards per pass attempt, as Tannehill has been pushing the ball downfield more than we would typically expect — ranking 10th in average intended air yards.
The Bengals’ pass defense has been below-average in every metric except YAC allowed per reception — where they have been elite this year, ranking behind only the Jags, Panthers, and Ravens.
We are still waiting for a Dolphins pass catcher to exceed six targets in a game — a mark that Danny Amendola, Albert Wilson, and Kenny Stills have each hit once. Amendola has returned very little upside on his underneath role, while Albert Wilson is primarily being schemed the ball in the short areas of the field, in the hopes he can do something big with the ball in his hands.
The main downfield weapon for Miami is Stills, who quietly ranks third in the NFL — behind only John Brown and DeSean Jackson — in average depth of target, at 17.0 yards downfield. Stills is getting there with one to three high-efficiency targets each week in the short area of the field, and with the rest of his targets coming on shots downfield. He’s a low-floor, high-upside piece in this matchup — with potential for a spike to seven or eight targets if the Dolphins manage to run a few more plays than normal.
Behind these three, the tight ends have been absolute afterthoughts on this team, with A.J. Derby and Mike Gesicki combining for 10 targets through four games. With Derby out of action last week, Gesicki turned two targets into one catch for nine yards.
DOLPHINS RUN OFFENSE
The matchup for the Dolphins’ rushing attack is non-threatening, with the Bengals ranking 21st in fewest rushing yards allowed per game and 19th in fewest yards allowed per carry — but the obstacle for us, from a DFS perspective, is the split nature of this backfield.
Through four games, Kenyan Drake has seen touch counts of 17, 15, seven, and four, while Frank Gore has touched the ball nine, 10, six, and 13 times. It’s getting old to say it, but Drake has some of the highest per-touch upside in the league. Obviously, he will need to actually see some touches before he can be considered usable. With Miami ranking 29th in passing play percentage and likely able to keep drives alive vs Cincy this week, we could see Drake in the 15-touch range again, giving him tourney upside — though obviously, his floor remains about as low as can be at this point.
BENGALS PASS OFFENSE
Miami has the pieces to be really strong against the pass, but with only six sacks on the season, they are giving quarterbacks time to get comfortable in the pocket and to allow receivers to peel open. The Bengals have had one of the best pass-blocking units in the league to begin the year (fourth in Football Outsiders’ adjusted sack rate), which should create opportunities this week for splash plays from a Bengals attack that has been one of the most consistent units in the league.
The closest comp to Miami’s pass defense right now is the Browns — as Miami (similar to Cleveland) allows a below-average aDOT and a below-average catch rate, while allowing big YAC per reception. Only the Browns have allowed more yards after the catch on a per-reception basis than Miami has allowed. The way to attack this unit is with short passes (particularly short passes over the middle) that open opportunities for yards after the catch.
With that being the case, this once again profiles as a Tyler Boyd game, with his 68% slot rate giving him a perfect opportunity to take advantage in this spot. Boyd has an aDOT of 9.1 (compared to 12.9 for A.J. Green), and last week he saw 15 targets, with 11 of these coming within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage, and with only one of these targets coming more than 15 yards downfield. A.J. Green, meanwhile, saw eight targets — with all of these looks coming outside the hash marks, and with five of these eight looks coming more than 15 yards downfield. Green will see his seven to 10 looks once again, and — as we saw against Baltimore — he has the talent-driven upside to smash in any matchup; but price-considered floor is thinned out in this spot, given what Miami aims to do on defense.
These two are the clear keys to this passing attack, with Alex Erickson eating up space on 36 snaps last week (compared to 62 for Boyd and 69 for Green) — good for third on the team among receivers, but good for only two targets (his first two on the year). Erickson will see his snaps recede if John Ross is able to play this week. Ross played just under half of the Bengals’ snaps in Week 3 (before ducking in and out of last week’s game with a groin injury and playing only 18 snaps). He’ll have a few plays designed to go to him if he is on the field, with three to five targets his likeliest range. He’ll have a tough time hitting downfield against this defense — though he obviously has the speed to make something special happen, as a thin tourney play.
Targets are further concentrated on this offense with the loss of Tyler Eifert. Last week, Tyler Kroft picked up 20 snaps, while C.J. Uzomah picked up 51. Uzomah ran 33 pass routes to only six for Kroft. Uzomah has lined up in the slot or out wide 42 times this year, compared to only 10 times for Kroft, giving him the best bet at pass game involvement. As expected, Miami has improved against the tight end this year, but they are still a middling matchup — giving Uzomah opportunity for around four to six targets.
BENGALS RUN OFFENSE
Health is the big question here, as Joe Mixon “practiced in full pads” on Wednesday, but was limited and has still not been fully cleared, while Giovani Bernard missed Wednesday’s practice with a knee ailment. Before the Gio news, it appeared that Mixon was still one more week away — though if Gio misses, the Bengals may be forced to rush Mixon back for what would likely turn into a sizable workload.
The matchup is not great. Miami ranks sixth in yards allowed per carry to begin the year, and they rank 12th in DVOA against the run — and Gio has played well enough that we will have a lot of question marks regarding workload if each guy is active.
If only one guy is active, however, we should once again see a snap rate north of 85%, with heavy involvement on the ground and through the air. In Weeks 1 and 2, Mixon touched the ball 22 times per game, while Gio has seen touch counts of 17 and 19 with Mixon on the sidelines. The Bengals should see a few more plays than normal this week, and the loss of Tyler Eifert should further involve the backfield in the pass game, giving either guy a clear path to 20+ touches if the other is inactive. Each guy is priced fairly for his role and the matchup on DraftKings and FantasyDraft, and each guy is underpriced on FanDuel.
There is a strong chance that we see points and yards pile up gradually throughout this game, with a pair of creative offenses that can piece together long drives against these defenses.
We still have plenty of DFS uncertainty on the Dolphins, simply given their style of play — and the closest I imagine I’ll get on this team is a tourney shot on Stills or Drake, with neither creeping toward my main roster. But on the other side, we have yet another strong spot for Boyd after he has seen target counts of nine, seven, and 15 over the last three weeks, and we should have workload security in this backfield (with plenty of room for upside through yardage, goal line work, and pass game involvement) if only one of Mixon/Gio is healthy.
Andy Dalton is a fine tourney play, though there are better spots this week. A.J. Green has week-winning talent-driven upside, as always, but the matchup is tough for him on the outside. I also like C.J. Uzomah as a somewhat guesswork-driven tight end play — but he should see the field plenty, and should run plenty of pass routes. If Miami does a good job slowing down Green on the outside, targets will flow to the running back, to Boyd, and — thirdly — to Uzomah and Kroft, with Uzomah the much likelier bet to hit.
SATURDAY AFTERNOON UPDATE // Full “Updates” List
It sounds like Joe Mixon is not quite a hundred percent just yet. There are whispers that the Bengals are not going to ride him in this game the way they did the first two weeks (and the way they did with Gio the last couple weeks). Mixon’s floor drops a few notches with that news, making him less overwhelmingly appealing. His ceiling remains mostly intact.