Thursday Night Football: Tyreek Hill vs. Eli Apple headlines Dolphins, Bengals AFC matchup

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Week 4 of the season starts off with the battle of surprise teams. Last year the Cincinnati Bengals shocked the league and took that momentum all the way to the Super Bowl. Through three weeks in 2022, the Miami Dolphins take that crown as they’re 3-0 with a massive victory over this year’s Super Bowl favorites, the Buffalo Bills. This showdown in Cincy should be another thriller for many reasons.

Typically, in a matchup where both teams feature quarterbacks that were both taken in the same draft, that’s where all the attention is directed. However, people are talking about the wide receiver vs. cornerback matchups this time. Most notably Tyreek Hill against Eli Apple. These two have been talking smack since last season when the Bengals beat the Kansas City Chiefs twice within a few weeks.

Apple is known for running his mouth, but after Cincinnati’s win over Hill and the Chiefs in the AFC championship game, it’s been taken to another level. It doesn’t matter where Hill plays; he owes Apple after last year. Hill said as much to the media as he cut a pro wrestling style promo sporting his “Macho Man” Randy Savage sunglasses.

Of course, the semi-main event is the QB matchup between Joe Burrow and Tua Tagovailoa. Burrow was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 draft, with Tua going four picks later at No. 5. Because of that, they’ll forever be compared to one another. Over the first two years of their careers, Burrow’s productivity gave him the edge, mainly based on the Bengals’ Super Bowl run last season. Although Burrow was sacked more than any other QB last year, Cincy figured out a winning formula and nearly took home a Lombardi trophy.

So far this season, it’s been a different story as Tagovailoa has been on fire for the undefeated Dolphins. The gap between the two is getting smaller. Aside from Week 1, Burrow hasn’t been bad and even threw three touchdowns in the Bengals’ first win of the year last week over the lowly Jets. Burrow is back on track, although he’s constantly taking too many sacks; he’s already tied for the lead again this year.

For Tua, it’s like he stepped into a whole new world this season. He has a new head coach specializing in offense and multiple weapons featuring an All-Pro wideout in Hill. Tua finished his first two seasons with a QBR under 50, which is considered average. Through his first three games in ‘22, Tua has posted a QBR of 82.8. While it is a small sample size, that’s clearly phenomenal. You’d love to see Tagovailoa keep this going all year but so far, so good. The head-to-head matchup between these young QBs will be talked about endlessly during the telecast of this game. Don’t forget, you’ll need Amazon Prime to catch it.

Something else to watch for in this game will be the Bengals’ defense and how they defend the deep ball. When Hill was traded to Miami in the offseason, there was concern about Tua having a strong enough arm to get the ball to him downfield. Welp, the Dolphins, have erased any worry that any of us had about that. They’re tied for the league lead in 40+ yard receptions with five. This Dolphins offense also has 11 receptions of 20 yards or more which is just two off the league lead. The team/Tua is second in passing yards with 925 and tied for third in TD receptions.

With Cincy, it will be the same things it’s always been. Protect Joe Burrow. Getting the ground game going is also important, but the more time Burrow can have without defenders around him, the better. That sounds obvious, but Cincy hasn’t done a great job of executing this so far. Last week Burrow was sacked only two times, and they won the game. In the first two games against the Steelers and Cowboys, Burrow was sacked 13 times — seven times against Pittsburgh and six against Dallas.

This game should be entertaining, with two of the best QB-WR duos in the NFL facing off in Tua-Hill vs. Burrow-Ja’Marr Chase. There should be plenty of scoring for those who enjoy that type of excitement. Miami should win a close game and get to Burrow enough times to negate him and Chase.