So far this season the Cincinnati Bengals have defeated Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks Ben Roethlisberger, Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady.
They have survived the freak of nature that is Calvin Johnson.
And they have dissected and dismembered a Rex Ryan defense that was ranked No. 4 in the league.
But what awaits tonight could be the toughest test yet as the Bengals (6-2) take their four-game winning streak 1,100 miles south to play the Miami Dolphins (3-4) in what will be the shortest turnaround in franchise history.
Of the eight previous times Cincinnati played on Thursday night, seven were preceded by 1 p.m. games and one came after a bye week. The Bengals and Jets kicked off at 4:05 p.m. Sunday, shaving an extra three hours off the valuable recovery time for NFL bodies.
“It’s tough, but you just have to adjust,” safety Chris Crocker said. “The motivation is at the end of the week you get extra time to rest. Let’s go out and grind and get this win and then be able to rest this weekend while we watch other people play.”
Adding to the difficulty of playing on a short week is the ever-growing injury list. The Bengals lost another player for the season Wednesday when they placed safety Taylor Mays on injured reserve with a dislocated shoulder.
That comes on the heels of losing cornerback Leon Hall to a season-ending Achilles injury the week before in Detroit, and linebacker Rey Maualuga (head/knee) and defensive tackle Devon Still (elbow) also are out against the Dolphins.
Five others — left tackle Andrew Whitworth, wide receiver Mohamed Sanu, defensive end Wallace Gilberry, linebacker Michael Boley and running back Rex Burkhead — are questionable.
“We’ve got to be the best team Thursday night, plain and simple,” head coach Marvin Lewis said. “There’s no other challenge. We knew the schedule. That’s the way it is. There’s no ifs, ands or buts about it.”
If white-hot quarterback Andy Dalton and the rest of the offense can perform the way they did in recent road games at Buffalo and Detroit and lead the Bengals to a fifth-straight win, they will maintain at least a 2 1/2 –game lead on the Ravens in the AFC North Division heading into their Nov. 10 showdown in Baltimore.
But Miami has dominated the all-time series against Cincinnati, owning a better winning percentage (.750) against the Bengals than any other AFC team. And the Dolphins are desperate for a win after losing four in a row on the heels of a 3-0 start.
“We are in a tough spot, obviously,” Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill said. “It’s a big game for us.”
While the Bengals enter the game in a far better situation, their urgency level is the same as the Dolphins’.
“I think our team understands how valuable each and every game and opportunity is,” Lewis said. “If you don’t take advantage of it, you don’t get it back. We know it’s going to be difficult and tough, and we’re going to play a team that’s lost a lot of close games, so we’ve got to play great football.”
Bengals (6-2) at Dolphins (3-4), 8:25 p.m., Ch. 2, 5, NFL Network, 700-AM, 1530-AM, 102.7-FM, 104.7-FM