When the Miami Dolphins last faced the Buffalo Bills it was expected that the team would rise to the challenge after getting beat by the Jacksonville Jaguars. That wasn’t the case. The Bills owned the Dolphins in their home opener at Sun-Life Stadium setting up a quick season exit a week later for Joe Philbin. Now it’s the teams turn to, well, turn it around.
The Dolphins face the Bills in Orchard Park, NY this weekend in a game that is a must win by both teams. The Dolphins enter the game at 3-4 and the Bills enter the game with the same record. Miami is coming off a long weekend after Thursday nights game and the Bills are coming off their bye week. Both teams had plenty of time to implement a game plan.
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The Bills will start Tyrod Taylor who is coming off a minor injury. The Dolphins have not had success against the Bills myriad of starters the last few years. In 2014 the Dolphins split with the Bills beating Kyle Orton early in the season but losing to E.J. Manuel later. In 2013 the Dolphins lost to Thaddeus Lewis twice as they were swept. The last time the Dolphins swept the Bills was in 2011.
In 2012 the Dolphins lost to Ryan Fitzpatrick and then beat the Bills and Fitzpatrick in December. Miami is trying to get on the right side of winning this week against Taylor.
The Bills are coming into this weeks game far healthier than the Dolphins. LeSean McCoy was limited in his week three visit to Miami but is healthy now. Aside from McCoy and Taylor, Sammy Watkins has returned to practice and so has Karlos Williams and Seantrel Henderson. The Bills look to be however without wide-receiver Percy Harvin and defensive tackle Kyle Williams. Williams would be a blow to a very good defensive line.
The Dolphins will need to play strong in the trenches as the Bills boast a solid defensive front and a very good offensive line. Miami will face a strong offense with the return of Williams, Watkins, and McCoy. Defensively Miami needs to force the young Taylor into making throws he doesn’t want to make. He can be rattled if pressured consistently. That could be a problem for the Dolphins.
Missing from the Dolphins pass rush will be Cameron Wake who is out for the season with a torn Achilles. Wake was non-existent against Buffalo earlier this season missing most of the game with a hamstring injury. The Dolphins were not able to generate a pass rush without him. They will need to rectify that this week or the cornerbacks will face a tough time defending the Bills receivers which include Chris “always open” Hogan. Hogan scored a pivotal touchdown in week three against the Dolphins.
Miami’s defense will also have to account for Charles Clay who burned the team in week three as well. The Dolphins have struggled to contain tight-ends all season. Last week the Dolphins struggled to stop New England Patriots running back Deon Lewis. Not on the ground but in the passing game. LeSean McCoy is a much better back-field receiver.
The Bills don’t pose a serious downfield threat but in week three the Dolphins could not stop the Bills on third down and in third and long situations gave up many first downs. The problem was up front where the team couldn’t generate pressure on Tyrod Taylor.
Offensively the Dolphins need to get back on track. Last week the Patriots took away Jarvis Landry and played tight on the line forcing the Dolphins to beat them deep. Miami couldn’t succeed in opening their offense. Once again the Dolphins abandoned the run as soon as they fell behind. Miami threw the ball 44 times on Thursday night compared to 13 rushes. Against the Bills Miami has to be more balanced.
The Bills defensive line is better than the Patriots front line so the Dolphins are going to have to come up with a way to give Ryan Tannehill time and the receivers time to get into their routes. That task is going to fall on the offensive line where Jason Fox will start at right tackle. Fox is versatile but very inconsistent and will face a tough pass rush. Miami’s biggest weakness however is at both guard positons and teams have found success blitzing between the guard/center gaps. I suspect the Bills will do the same.
While the playoffs are far from decided a loss this week to the Bills will knock Miami out of any real hopes for the post-season. The Bills would take a two game lead over the Dolphins (by tie-breaker) and the Dolphins would fall further down the AFC standings. The Bills can’t afford to lose this game either as both teams margin for error is about one game.
It’s November but this game will have a playoff feel to it with the loser being put into the position of winning out just to have a slim shot at playing in January.