CINCINNATI — Sunday is another opportunity for Bengals head coach Zac Taylor to show his team is heading in the right direction.
The second-year head coach has remained confident in his approach, despite three straight losses.
"If you believe in the way that you're approaching things and what your mission is it shouldn't change based on wins and losses," Taylor said earlier this week. "I sure as heck am not going to be any different than I was the day I showed up on the job. I believe in what this staff has asked these players to do. I believe that the players have bought in and that they know this is the right way to do it, and we're not going to change our personalities or the way we go about our business just because of the trials that we've faced."
Cincinnati has lost six of their last seven games. They're 2-8-1 on the season. The Dolphins are 7-4 on the season entering Sunday's matchup. They've won six of their last seven games.
Here are three keys and a prediction for the Sunday's game in Miami.
The Bengals only handed the ball off to a running back nine times last week against the Giants. That's unacceptable.
Taylor has to adjust his pass heavy offense with Brandon Allen at quarterback. Giovani Bernard, Trayveon Williams and Semaje Perine are a competent trio. It's time to put them to work.
The Bengals have passed the ball on nearly 66% of their offensive plays this season. Joe Burrow isn't walking through that door.
Allen is going to have to make a few throws, but controlling the line of scrimmage and establishing the run game is the number one thing the Bengals have to do on Sunday.
The Dolphins are allowing 4.8 yards-per-carry this season, which is tied with the Bengals and Chargers for the second-most in the NFL.
Cincinnati's ground game has to get going if they're going to pull off the upset.
Ryan Fitzpatrick will likely start at quarterback for the Dolphins, but there's an outside chance that rookie Tua Tagovailoa will get the nod. He missed last week with a thumb injury and is officially questionable for Sunday's game.
Regardless of who plays quarterback, the Bengals have to find a way to pressure the Dolphins. Cincinnati is ranked 30th in the NFL with just 13 sacks.
The Bengals need to make Fitzpatrick or Tagovailoa uncomfortable. That pressure could lead to a turnover or two, which makes like much easier for an offense that could struggle to score.
The defense rose to the challenge last week against the Giants. A similar performance would give the Bengals a chance of beating the Dolphins on the road.
Taylor has to get creative on offense. He should coach like he has nothing to lose.
From being aggressive on fourth down to dialing up a trick play or two, Taylor should pull out all the stops.
Calling an end around to Tyler Boyd with a pass option on the back end would make some sense. He's called a few fake punts recently, which is a good sign.
Brandon Wilson didn't practice until Friday, but creating an offensive package for him could be interesting. He was a running back in college and is explosive with the ball in his hands.
This team lost multiple games that they should've won at the beginning of the season. Now Taylor's in a tough spot. He could be coaching for his job and he's doing it with a shorthanded team.
He can't play it safe.
The Bengals are 11.5 point underdogs. No one is expecting them to win. If Taylor can press the right buttons and pick up his first road win, it would go a long way in solidifying his future in Cincinnati.
The Dolphins lead the all-time series 17-7, which includes one postseason win over the Bengals. Cincinnati has won two of the last three meetings and are 4-4 against Miami since 2004.
The Dolphins won nine straight in this series from 1978-2000. They're 8-2 at home against the Bengals.
Prediction: This was always going to be a tough game for the Bengals, even with Burrow. The Dolphins are a well-coached team in the thick of the AFC playoff race.
Miami has the better quarterback, the better coach and more talent. They're also playing at home.
The Bengals are going to cover the 11.5 point spread, but the Dolphins are going to win the game.
Final Score: Dolphins 24, Bengals 13
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