By Danny Cox
With this week’s games, the 2016 NFL season will be one quarter over. And a lot of the action already has potential playoff implications. It may seem early, but every game counts. A win in September means just as much as a win in December.
Week 4 has its fair share of key AFC matchups, starting with the Miami Dolphins and Cincinnati Bengals on Thursday Night Football. The Dolphins and Bengals both look to get their seasons turned around while they still can. The action continues Sunday as the Rex Ryan-led Buffalo Bills try to topple the Tom Brady-less (and still undefeated) New England Patriots in a feisty AFC East matchup.
Dan Fouts, CBS Sports analyst and Hall of Fame quarterback, took some time to discuss these two important games.
Miami Dolphins vs. Cincinnati Bengals – Sept. 29, 8:25 p.m. ET – NFL Network
CBS Local Sports: Mistakes and penalties hurt the Bengals in a big way against the Broncos; what is the main thing they need to improve upon this week?
Dan Fouts: The Bengals ran the ball extremely well against the Broncos and controlled things. Defensively, they had a lot of penalties that kept drives alive against Denver. They need to have more self-discipline than anything else, and that will help cure the mistakes.
There were a few pass interference calls that kept Broncos drives alive, and you just can’t do that.
CBS Local Sports: Is Ryan Tannehill truly the answer at quarterback for the Dolphins?
Fouts: Look at his history… He has had to deal with coaching changes, offensive coordinator changes. It’s difficult for any quarterback to build any continuity with a new system to learn every year. It’s difficult for him there, and he was never really a quarterback until his last year at [Texas] A&M.
He’s been put behind the eight ball with lack of experience and lack of offensive continuity. Tannehill has the tools, though, and he can develop those intangibles.
CBS Local Sports: With a crop of talented receivers and Andy Dalton leading the Bengals, what more can they do to get their offense in gear against Miami?
Fouts: Well, Andy Dalton isn’t calling the plays. It’s up to the offensive coordinator to get the balance in an offense. The first couple of games, the Bengals were pass-heavy and in the first half against Denver, they were run-heavy. They’re seeking balance.
The success they had running the ball against Denver will help going forward. Dalton is capable of carrying any game plan and getting the ball more to A.J. Green and his other receivers.
Buffalo Bills vs. New England Patriots – Oct. 2, 1:00 p.m. ET – CBS
CBS Local Sports: If Jimmy Garoppolo is ready to go and healthy enough to start, should the Patriots take out rookie Jacoby Brissett after an impressive debut?
Fouts: Yes, and simply because he was the starting quarterback before he got hurt. Garoppolo has the most reps, the most experience… He is more prepared. When he is in there, the offense is more like it is when Tom Brady is in there.
CBS Local Sports: Rex Ryan is building a strong defense in Buffalo and coming off a strong performance against Arizona, but the first two games of the season were almost embarrassing. Have they now found their niche?
Fouts: Whenever you have a new coordinator, it takes time for things to click, and that is what has happened here. The Bills had a really impressive win over the Arizona Cardinals with the fire power they have, and it’s starting to come together.
CBS Local Sports: The Patriots are winning with back-up quarterback after back-up quarterback; how dangerous will they be once Tom Brady returns?
Fouts: They’re contenders, obviously, but it is very early still. The defense has been playing extremely well and that’s what it takes to get to the Super Bowl. So you start on that side of the ball.
Still, you can’t let off of Denver just yet. They are playing very well and it could come down to the two of them.
Danny Cox has been covering the NFL for the past decade and has been watching it for two more. From injury reports to playoff races, he follows every single team and longs for the months of July to February.