The streaking Miami Dolphins are seeking their first 4-0 start since 1995 when they visit the Cincinnati Bengals on Thursday night.
Miami is fresh off a 21-19 victory over the powerful Buffalo Bills and now looks to tame the defending AFC champion Bengals.
Cincinnati (1-2) dropped its first two games before bidding farewell to their Super Bowl hangover with a solid 27-12 victory over the New York Jets on Sunday.
Bengals head coach Zac Taylor is impressed with the Dolphins, who are one of two remaining unbeaten teams along with the Philadelphia Eagles.
“They’ve beaten three really good opponents — New England, Baltimore and Buffalo,” Taylor said. “They are three teams with a lot of talent, good coaches. They’re doing a lot of good things right now in all three phases. I know that our guys are really excited for the challenge.”
What’s unknown is if Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa will be available. He was limited in practice Tuesday, with the team saying he has both back and ankle injuries.
Tagovailoa said Tuesday that he will play but the Dolphins haven’t yet reached that conclusion.
“I’ve been up here, getting treatment, doing everything I can to get as close to 100 percent as possible,” Tagovailoa said. “That means, after all of this, staying as long as I have to until these (training staffers) have to go home.”
Tagovailoa said he doesn’t have a head injury. During Sunday’s game against the Bills, he was examined for a head injury and passed the concussion protocol. The swiftness in which he passed resulted in the NFL Players Association asking the NFL to investigate the situation.
Complicating matters is the short week. Miami head coach Mike McDaniel said Tuesday that Tagovailoa would be listed as questionable in a normal week.
Instead, backup Teddy Bridgewater is being prepared to play, with McDaniel saying he’d like to make a decision on Tagovailoa’s availability on Wednesday or possibly Thursday morning.
“I can tell in his voice, he’s literally going to do everything he can and in his power, so I know that he’s going to do everything you can to play,” McDaniel said. “So I’ll know that if he doesn’t play that it literally was not possible and we’re just taking measures accordingly for Teddy beyond that. But I’m happy with the way he’s so far progressed and feel very optimistic because of how he’s going about it.”
Tagovailoa has passed for 925 yards, eight touchdowns and two interceptions during the 3-0 start. The passing game was pumped up with the offseason acquisition of receiver Tyreek Hill from the Kansas City Chiefs and results have followed: Jaylen Waddle (342) ranks second in the NFL in receiving yards and Hill (317) is third.
The Bengals are shooting to get to .500 after a slow start that included losses to the Pittsburgh Steelers and Dallas Cowboys.
Joe Burrow passed for 275 yards and three touchdowns against the Jets. He was only sacked twice after being dropped 13 total times in the two setbacks.
Burrow didn’t have a completion over 24 yards in the first two games. But against the Jets, he tossed a short pass that Tyler Boyd turned into a 56-yard touchdown and completed a 45-yard pass to Tee Higgins.
“I just think we’ve got to get those guys opportunities, no matter the coverage,” Burrow said. “They are just so good that we’ve got to find ways to get them the ball down the field, whether they’re open or not because they are going to make plays for us.”
Cincinnati running back Joe Mixon (ankle) is fit to play, according to Taylor. Defensive tackle D.J. Reader (knee) will miss at least a month. Tight end Drew Sample (knee) and offensive tackle La’el Collins (back) did not participate in Tuesday’s practice.
Waddle (groin) is among the other Dolphins dealing with injuries. Cornerback Xavien Howard (groin, glute) also is ailing.
The Dolphins hold a 17-7 series lead in the regular season.