NFL Thursday Night Football predictions: Dolphins vs Bengals picks and best bets from expert analyst Clevta – Fade the Dolphins' defense

Cincinnati Bengals running back Joe Mixon (28) carries the ball as Pittsburgh Steelers safety Terrell Edmunds (34) defends in the third quarter during a Week 12 NFL football game, Sunday.

Clevta’s Dolphins vs Bengals best bet: Bengals team total over 26.5 points (-105)

Over 26.5 (-105) available at BetMGM Sportsbook at time of publishing.

Thursday Night Football brings us the undefeated 3-0 Miami Dolphins visiting the 1-2 Cincinnati Bengals and this is an absolutely brutal turnaround for the Dolphins and especially their defense. The Dolphins came away with a hard-fought 21-19 victory over the Buffalo Bills but they may pay for it on Thursday night.

Their defense was on the field for a ridiculous 90 plays against Buffalo as the Bills held the ball for nearly 43 out of 60 minutes. That’s an incredible figure and the Dolphins defense was playing stifling Miami heat as well. It was so bad that multiple players on both teams were cramping and complaining of dehydration during and after the game. Historically, just being on the field for that many plays has spelled problems for the defense the next week.

Looking back since 2000, defenses that were on the field for at least 90 plays allowed their next opponents to exceed their offensive team totals in 15 of 24 games, a rate of 63%. Last year, we saw that occur only once, with the Jets on the field for 93 plays in Week 4 against the Titans, and then allowing Atlanta to exceed their team total the next week. The Falcons scored 27 points, exceeding their 23.5-point total.

If you filter for 90+ plays on defense and you also include time of possession for the opponent to exceed 40 minutes, their opponents have exceeded their team total in all 4 instances. Those opponents averaged 30 points per game, none scored fewer than 23 points and they exceeded their team total by over 7 points per game. Those are clearly some small samples but when logic helps explain a trend then we have to take it seriously.

Then we must also consider that in only one other instance since 2000, a defense was on the field for at least 90 plays and then had to play on a Thursday night the next week. This occurred in 2016 when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were coming off an exhausting OT game against the Raiders and had to face the Falcons that next Thursday. The Bucs allowed the Falcons to score 43 points in that contest en route to a blowout loss. There was a second instance of a really short week, with the Saints playing the Vikings on a Christmas Friday afternoon game coming off a 92-play game. The Vikings scored 33 points in that game, far exceeding their 22-point team total.

Outside of all the trends above, this Miami defense has not played well so far this season. They are 23rd in EPA per play allowed and 29th in success rate allowed. They are 28th in EPA allowed per QB drop back as well. The Bengals were able to get some things going against the Jets last week and with perfect weather on tap for Thursday night, should be able to do damage against Miami.

The Dolphins are pretty thin at CB behind #1 CB Xavien Howard. #2 CB Byron Jones has been out this season and #3 CB Nik Needham has not played well at most any time in his career. He has allowed the 10th-highest QB rating when targeted among NFL CBs. We have a rookie in the slot in UFA Kader Kohou, who allowed 8 of 9 targets to be completed last week. It’s a secondary that the Bengals can attack.

Joe Burrow has struggled this season when he has been under pressure but the Dolphins defense currently ranks 4th to last in pressure rate at under 15% of drop backs. Cincinnati’s offense has been fine as long as they don’t commit turnovers. Excluding drives that have ended in a turnover, the Bengals offense ranks 10th-best in the NFL in drive success (2 first downs or a TD).

Miami’s defense has essentially been the polar opposite in that regard. Their defense has been poor on a play-by-play basis and ranks 30th in non turnover drives but have created the 9th-most EPA from turnovers on defense. As long as the Bengals don’t commit those sloppy turnovers, I expect this to be a big game for Burrow and his WRs.

Be sure to check out our full Miami Dolphins vs Cincinnati Bengals predictions as well our other NFL Week 4 Predictions articles below.

Clevta’s Dolphins vs Bengals best over/under total bet: Over 47.5 (-105)

The Miami defense was on the field for 90 plays against Buffalo in Week 3 as the Bills held the ball for nearly 43 of the 60 minutes. When a defense is coming off a 90+ play game and the opposing team total does go over, the game total also goes over 64% of the time. So this bet is highly correlated with my 3-star team prop play for this game. Obviously wait until Tua Tagovailoa’s status is officially known before taking this over otherwise I’d advise against it.

The Miami offense is fresh and full of playmakers, so there is no reason to believe that they can’t explode in this game as well. The Bengals are 21st in explosive pass plays allowed and haven’t exactly faced a murderers’ row of opposing offenses so far in the Steelers, Jets and Cowboys.

Don’t miss our Dolphins vs Bengals same game parlay (+981 odds!)

Clevta has been a successful NFL handicapper for more than a decade. His approach is a combination of bottoms-up fundamental team and matchup analytics along with a deep knowledge of the betting market to help drive success.

He has been a regular contestant in the Westgate NFL Supercontest and Circa Millions, in which he has posted an aggregate 56% winning percentage, including 4 separate seasons with a win percentage of at least 60%. Now he brings his expert NFL handicapping skills to Pickswise.

You can find more of Clevta’s weekly NFL game analysis at

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