Mike McDaniel is three games into his career as an NFL head coach and already dealing with something new and perhaps unexpected.
All of a sudden, his Miami Dolphins are being hyped up.
That’s what a 3-0 start will do. The Dolphins are the talk of the league after beating the Buffalo Bills. They, not the Cincinnati Bengals, are the buzzy team heading into Thursday night’s game that will be streamed on Amazon Prime Video.
The Bengals can tell you how fleeting all of this can be.
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McDaniel is trying to deflect the best he can.
“The hype, the power rankings, everything you’re talking about; unless I missed in the bylaws somewhere that that gets you a playoff berth, then what are we talking about?” McDaniel said, according to the team’s transcript.
There’s not much else he can say. But ignoring it doesn’t make it magically go away.
Dolphins are on top of NFL world
The Dolphins came into the season as a curiosity. They had a new head coach and a big addition in receiver Tyreek Hill. They were an intriguing team capable of a big step forward, as long as quarterback Tua Tagovailoa improved. Nobody knew if they’d actually be that much better.
The Dolphins have started with three strong wins. They beat the New England Patriots by double digits. They came back from 21 down to shock the Baltimore Ravens. Then they beat the Bills, this season’s Super Bowl favorite.
You couldn’t have asked for a better start to the season. But if the Dolphins lose Thursday night, there will be a new team everyone is gushing about next week. That’s how the NFL works.
“You explain to the guys and they totally get it that hey, if we win there are going to be further crowns,” McDaniel said. “They are going to say all this. None of that relates to what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to get better every week. So what does that have? Nothing. Or we lose the game and they’re going to say, ‘Oh, yeah, see I told you, it’s the Dolphins that won three.’
“To me, I try to cater to any of the guys that are in love with attention and let them know that, ‘Hey, if you still want this attention, keep winning.’”
It wasn’t that long ago everyone was in love with the Bengals. Then they started this season 0-2.
Bengals got off to slow start
The Bengals made the Super Bowl last season and nearly won it. Joe Burrow was hailed as the league’s next star quarterback. He had plenty of talent around him, like Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins.
The Bengals’ defense of their AFC championship began with losses to the Pittsburgh Steelers at home, and the Dallas Cowboys with Cooper Rush starting at quarterback. Not great. By Week 3 they needed a win over anyone, and they drew the New York Jets on the schedule. That helped, and the Bengals won 27-12.
“We just needed to get the first win,” Bengals coach Zac Taylor said, according to the team’s transcript. “I didn’t really care what it looked like. I didn’t care if it was 3-0 or if it was 49-3. We just needed to rip that Band Aid off and get that first win.”
This week, the Bengals face a Dolphins team that has a short turnaround after a huge win over the Bills that was contested for all 60 minutes. It’s a chance for Cincinnati to get a win and feel like it’s back on track at 2-2.
Who knows, with a big win on a prime-time stage, maybe next week we’ll be back to talking about the Bengals. The NFL spotlight moves fast.