If we give Denver the unofficial yet fun title of "Best team in the AFC," who's second? The Bengals appear to be as good a candidate as any. Some other contenders for the title include the Patriots, Colts and Chiefs. Who would you pick if any of those teams played Cincinnati this week on a neutral field?
The Bengals, winners of four straight, appear to have the AFC North firmly under control, sitting 2.5 games up on second-place Baltimore. If nothing else, they appear likely to avoid their annual first-round playoff exit at Houston in the Saturday afternoon postseason opener when Marvin Lewis makes head-scratching decisions from the outset to the final whistle.
If this game was played three weeks ago, the line would likely be reversed. Instead of the Bengals laying a field goal, Miami would be giving a few points. But the Dolphins' season has been in complete disarray over the past month, as they have lost four straight after a 3-0 start.
If you want to consider the approach that the more desperate team is often the better bet, Miami would be the choice Thursday night. But the Dolphins' receiving corps is so banged up that as of Wednesday, they had only three active receivers. At least it makes it unlikely that Mike Wallace won't complain about not being targeted enough, something he's done in the past, even in wins.
According to ESPN PickCenter, a whopping 87 percent of the public backs the Bengals in this one. The astute public is always in touch with streaks, so no surprise to see overwhelming support for Cincinnati.
Let's hear bookmaker Jay Kornegay's thoughts and ATS picks on Thursday night's game from our panel of wiseguys.
Spread: Opened Bengals minus-2; now Bengals minus-3
Total: Opened at 42; now 43