Being a Miami Dolphins fan isn't easy. You're heading into the offseason feeling hopeful, a feeling dodging Dolphins fans since their Wild Card playoff berth back in 2016. Sure, they lost that game, but it was the first time they'd seen postseason action since another Wild Card chance way back in 2008. You get the picture. You're a Dolphins fan who isn't familiar with consecutive winning records. You're pleased.
But this year is different.
The Miami Dolphins are the real deal, at least through the first three games in 2022. After serving up a wild finish to take down Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens in dramatic fashion, the Dolphins stunned the NFL and beat the Buffalo Bills.
Not sure if you were aware of this, but the Bills are good. We're talking historically good.
And now, the Dolphins are the final AFC team left standing without holding onto an L. The only thing standing in the way of your team securing another win, are the current AFC Champions, the Cincinnati Bengals -- and maybe the fact that your QB Tua Tagovailoa might not be 100% healthy after getting beat up and concussed in Week 3.
But, there are ways that Miami can come out of Week 4 with their prefect record in tact, but they need to solidify some things first.
Is Tua 100% After Week 3?
Week 3 looked scary for the Dolphins quarterback. The injury report mentions both an ankle issue and back injury, the latter causing Tua the most pain. Fans couldn't believe the quarterback was cleared by concussion protocol last Sunday after a terrifying meeting with the turf and then struggling to walk back to the line. Tua coming back on the field to finish the game didn't originally look safe or feasible. Many former players and fans felt Tua shouldn't have been allowed to finish playing after visibly being concussed.
Regarding Tua: for those saying, ?well he passed the concussion test.?
I passed a concussion test once, finished playing in the game, flew home, drove to my neighborhood and had no idea which house was mine. Test or not, the man couldn?t walk straight. Play it safe!#FinsUp
— Emmanuel Acho (@EmmanuelAcho) September 25, 2022
The NFL Players Association began an investigation into the handling of the Dolphins quarterbacks' concussion. Tua Tagovailoa claims it was his back locking up that caused him to struggle after Bills linebacker Matt Milano roughing the passer call.
He explained to reporters, "Kind of got my legs caught under someone, they were trying to push back and it felt like I hyper-extended my back or something," Tagovailoa said. "It kind of hurt. I got up, and that's kind of why I stumbled. My back kind of locked up on me. But for the most part, I'm good. Passed whatever concussion protocol they had."
The QB, despite being listed as "limited" earlier this week and "questionable" on the final injury report going into TNF, has every intention of leading the team against the Bengals. "I've been up here, getting treatment, doing everything I can to get as close to 100% as possible," he said. "That means, after all of this, staying as long as I have to until these guys have to go home."
Should Tua's back remain an issue, the Dolphins are prepared to lean on backup Teddy Bridgewater. Their leading quarterback has full faith in Bridgewater. He told reporters, "I have a lot of confidence in Teddy, that if he had to step up right now, he'd go out there and play extremely well. I mean you look at Teddy, Teddy's a vet in the league. He's played on multiple teams and he's found success on the teams he's played on."
Miami's Offense Baits Bengals D
How do you stop Miami's offense? This seems to be a question all of the teams who've faced the Dolphins have yet to solve. Tua has thrown for an impressive eight TDs so far this season, finding himself in elite company tied with Kansas City's Patrick Mahomes and falling just behind the Bills QB Josh Allen (nine TDs) - who Miami just beat last week - and the season's standing TD leader so far, Raven's Lamar Jackson (10 TDs).
When you're throwing to weapons like Hill and Waddle, it doesn't look like the touchdowns will be stopping anytime soon. It will take a monster D to slow the Dolphins offensive arsenal and Hill knows it. The league's highest-paid WR loves to smack talk. Just ask Kansas City fans.
Immediately following the Dolphins' win against the Bills, Hill turned his focus towards the Bengals defense, specifically Eli Apple. "I can't wait to go against Eli Apple, man," Hill said after being informed by reporters that the next opponent was the Bengals. "I owe you, boy. I owe you. I'm here. The Cheetah is here. That's it."
Eli Apple lives rent free in Hill's mind, after tackling the former Chief during the AFC championship game -- and as a Chiefs fan, I can't say I blame him. Yes, Apple was just doing his job, but that job helped cost Hill and the Kansas City Chiefs another trip to the Super Bowl.
Hill could live to regret firing up the Bengals D, and boy is the defense indeed fired up. Many of the Cincy defensive players spoke to ESPN and had quite a lot to say, "It must have still been in his head a little bit, obviously, if he brought it up," Bengals cornerback Mike Hilton said. "We're not with all the talking. We're just going to go out there and handle our business on Thursday."
Bengals safety Jessie Bates III added: "(If) somebody comes after Eli, he comes after all of us. We're all up for the challenge. I don't know if Eli got him tickets to the Super Bowl last year or not. I think that's probably why he's a little upset."
Get your popcorn ready, ladies and gents. This matchup is going to be drama-filled. It will take a locked-in Bengals defense to stop Miami's core receivers Thursday, and Tua is looking forward to the matchups, even if he's less inclined to the trash talking.
He knows Hill loves baiting defensive players, as he told the media at the Sept. 27 presser, "It's fuel to the fire for Tyreek. He's a competitor and he loves those kinds of things." He went on to say, "if Tyreek is matched up with him and we call the play for Tyreek and it's one on one, I'm giving Tyreek a shot. Just know that, he is getting the ball."
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