The Dolphins are in Buffalo and are ready to make another statement to the rest of the world that they are in fact for real and will be a force to be reckoned with in the playoffs. Over this past week, the Dolphins have caught several breaks with the news that Bills quarterback EJ Manuel and receiver Stevie Johnson will be out for the game. The Dolphins need to take advantage of this. Everything is set in their favor and there is no reason why they should lose this game!
When the Dolphins are on offense
The Bills love to bring an extra man or two on almost every play so the Dolphins offensive line will certainly have their hands full on Sunday. The good news is that the line has gotten much better since the Dolphins last faced the Bills.
Teams have had a lot of success running the ball on the Bills this season and I expect the Dolphins to run the ball a lot as that is one way to neutralize the blitz. When they aren’t running, I expect a lot of short passes with quite a few screens thrown in. It would be great to see Marcus Thigpen get more involved and see him in space.
The Bills have big, physical corners that aren’t afraid to jam at the line. Jamming at the line of scrimmage helps the pass rush because it gives the quarterback even less time to get throw off. The downside for the Bills is that if any of the receivers can get off the jam quickly, it can result in a large gain down the field. Another route that works well with jams are quick slants. A receiver can simply shift inwards and get a good jump. If Tannehill can lead his receivers, they can have a big day in the yards after catch category.
With all that said, I’m predicting a monster game for Charles Clay. With the Bills blitzing on the majority of their plays, it’s going to leave Clay open in the middle of the field or at worst, in one-on-one coverage. Tannehill will need to find a way to get the ball in his hands as I believe he is going to be the X factor in this game.
When the Dolphins are on defense
The Bills are a team that likes to establish the run first. It will be extremely important not only for the Dolphins to stuff the run, but to also be able to wrap up and tackle Spiller and Jackson. Both are extremely shifty and can cause headaches throughout the entire game if the Dolphins don’t focus and concentrate on tackling the right way. Unfortunately, the Dolphins linebackers haven’t had the most success tackling the opposition this year. Ellerbe and Wheeler both struggle in this area. It was interesting to see Jelani Jenkins on the field quite a bit though on Sunday. Jenkins is a much better tackler than Wheeler is and is also much better in coverage. I am anxious to see how much playing time he gets on Sunday.
The Dolphins will also have their hands full with quarterback Thad Lewis but only when he’s on the run. Lewis is a quarterback that isn’t afraid to pull the ball down and run. In fact, there are several plays per game that are designed QB runs. The Dolphins will need to keep an eye on this and will probably use the same scheme they used with Cam Newton. When Lewis isn’t running, the Dolphins should bring the pressure for the majority of the game. Lewis isn’t very accurate and it’s easy to see that he gets flustered when things start breaking down around him. Cam Wake and Olivier Vernon should have a great game disrupting the pocket and forcing Lewis to make poor decisions. This will be important because Lewis loves to throw the ball downfield. The less time Lewis has to sit in the pocket, the better it obviously is for the Dolphins.
The Bills do not have anyone who is extraordinary on special teams. Moorman is a solid punter and after a hot start, Carpenter has come back to earth and the weather should have a negative effect on his kicking. The Dolphins certainly hold the edge in this one but we will again need to hold our breath every time Sturgis is on the field. I do think Sturgis will become a great kicker but he is clearly going through growing pains as a rookie. Let’s just hope he is over most of them and doesn’t have a negative impact on the game.
The matchups favor the Dolphins in almost every category with the exception of the Bills defensive line against Miami’s offensive line. However, if the Dolphins continue to employ their short passing attack, they shouldn’t have much of a problem. The only thing the Bills really have going for them is that they will be at home and it will be cold. Tannehill and the rest of the team got off to a slow start in Pittsburgh but were finally able to bring everything together. Let’s hope that they don’t get off to another slow start in the cold weather. With all that said, I expect the Dolphins to win this game by a score of 27 – 14.
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