It’s December. I swear it is. Look at the all the X-mas lights. O.k. I know that some people (myself) leave them up all year out of laziness…which I really need to take down the “Santa Land Here” landing strip in my front yard after the big man comes this year….after 3 years my neighbors are getting a little pissed I think. Seriously though, it’s December and the Miami Dolphins are not only in the thick of the playoff hunt, they can actually win the division.
Getting ahead of myself there by just a bit though. If the Dolphins want any chance, and I mean ANY CHANCE, they must return to South Florida on Sunday night with a victory over the Buffalo Bills. The game is out of the country in Toronto which allows the Phins to play in a dome stadium and not outside in the northern elements. With 4 weeks left in the regular season, every game becomes a must win. No exceptions. It starts with 5 keys.
Key 5: J.P. Losman. The Bills will be playing without starting QB Trent Edwards after Trent hurt his groin last week vs. the 49’ers. Losman hasn’t started a game in the NFL since losing his starting job last season to Edwards. Make no mistake however as this is not some dumb rookie QB. Losman has a tight spiral and big arm but struggles with his footwork and consistency which last year got out of hand. He has beaten Miami in the past and the Dolphins will have to go all the way back to last year to find real game film on him. The few quarters he worked last weekend will not be enough to really prep for him. The Dolphins need to keep him in the pocket, keep him pressured, and force him to make throws off his back foot when he doesn’t want to.
Key 4: Marshawn Lynch. Lynch is a good RB but has yet to become a great one. Still, over the last few weeks the Dolphins have had a few issues with giving up big chunks of yards to mediocre RB’s and Lynch is better than them. The Dolphins can not allow the Bills to take control of the game by taking away the time of possession that Miami craves so much. If Lynch gets going and the Dolphins defense can’t stop him, look for the Bills to open up and allow Losman to air it downfield.
Key 3: Chad Pennington. The Bills look to get their ball hawking starting safety Donte’ Witner back this week and that means that he will be able to free float towards Ted Ginn if the Phins try and put the ball downfield, something they tried in their first meeting. The Dolphins will need to establish a power running game which is something that they have had little success with this season, opting instead for a more finesse style. Don’t get me wrong, Ronnie and Ricky are hard-nose RB’s but the play calls tend to be more outside or WC in nature and not the simple 3 yard up the gut in your face off center runs that wear down a defense. Pennington must be sharp and continue his check-downs but must find a way to get his TE’s involved more.
Key 2: Ricky Williams. If last week was any indication, it will be Ronnie Brown getting the bulk this week as Ricky Williams appeared to handle the rock more on crucial downs. It appeared that Ronnie was almost being rested. The Dolphins are protecting to him to make sure he stays healthy all season, something he has yet to do in an NFL season. While Ronnie may be the show, Ricky will be the blow…so to speak. Williams returns to Toronto where he played with the Argonauts two seasons ago before being injured. Ricky says it rejuvenated his desire to play football. Toronto fans absolutely love Ricky Williams and the feeling is mutual. If Ricky can get rolling early…should they use him…Ricky alone could get the fans on their feet in favor of the Dolphins….well, not all of them, but it definitely wouldn’t be like Rich Stadium in Orchard Park, NY.
Key 1: Patience. The Dolphins need to use some restraint and patience against the Bills. They can not allow themselves to get wrapped up into the “Must Win” game atmosphere that they faced two weeks ago against the Patriots or they will be staring at a back and forth game that could spiral out of control. For Miami, they need to be methodical and poised and let the game come to them. Once that occurs, then they can try and put the Bills away. For all intent and purposes, this is a playoff game and the Dolphins need to start finding how to win them because I think…they are going to start seeing the games in January again…sooner than later. For now, fans and the Dolphins have to be patient with a playoff game in early December.