The Miami Dolphins will have to deal with some elements on Sunday. 40 degree weather with rain won’t be appealing. Sometimes it’s better to just let it snow. While Mother Nature may stick her finger into Ralph Wilson Stadium, the biggest element facing the Miami Dolphins is the Buffalo Bills defensive line. Specifically Mario Williams.
Williams has 12 sacks on the year and one forced fumble. Against Tannehill and the Dolphins. His presence on the edge anchors a stout defensive front that has impressed despite the Buffalo record this season. Against the pass the Bills are ranked 6th in the league and have 20 interceptions on the season but have allowed 27 touchdown passes as well. They are not much worse in the running game.
Ranked 7th overall in the NFL the Bills have given up eight rushing TD’s on the season allowing 127 yards per game on average. While the yards per game is not staggering and they have given up 16 runs of 20 yards or more, the Bills have a tough front line that can get pressure up the middle and as stated off the edge. Miami’s pass protection will be important this weekend.
The Dolphins gave up six sacks to the Patriots last week and their defensive front is not comparable to the Bills. Miami must do a better job along the line in order to give Ryan Tannehill time to throw. Conversely, time to throw will or should open the running game more. If I were calling the plays on Sunday, my approach would be run first.
The Dolphins are averaging around 97 yards per game on the ground with a 4.6 yards per carry average. Despite the fact that the Bills are tough against the run, I go against conventional wisdom and attach their strength. The Dolphins need ball control to win the game but with the weather a possible issue, it’s imperative to pound the ball. By coming at Buffalo with a physical running game the Dolphins will have a few three and outs but the leg of Brandon Fields should keep the field position in Miami’s favor.
With a heavy dose of run the Dolphins can wear down the front seven of the Bills and that will open play action and the read option as well. The Bills will eventually get aggressive to stop the run up front and that will open up the screen pass to Lamar Miller or a TE screen to Charles Clay. A few of those plays and the deeper Mike Wallace passes will be open downfield. Leodis McKelvin is the top Buffalo corner and over the top Jarius Byrd calls the shots from the safety position. Both players are hard hitting and the Bills will likely use disguise blitzes from Byrn and McKelvin all game long.
The Bills best chance to win is pressure on Tannehill. He has been sacked a staggering 51 times. The fact that the Miami Dolphins are even talking about the playoffs right now is astonishing given the number of times Tannehill has gone down. While the Bills will try and take over the game with pressure, Miami has to match them and exploit the vacated coverage. While the key rests on the Dolphins offensive line, Lamar Miller, Charles Clay, and Daniel Thomas will need to be stellar in pass blocking when they are asked to stay in. If the blitz comes off the edge Tannehill will need to recognize that and get the ball into that spot. Something he hasn’t done well with this season.
The Dolphins playoff hopes rest with this game and while they can clinch this weekend they could also be eliminated. It will start up front and hopefully a unit that has been embarrassed most of the season and embarrassed back in October by the team they face on Sunday, will be playing for pride as much as playoffs. It just might go hand in hand.