Oct 18, 2015; Nashville, TN, USA; Miami Dolphins receiver Jarvis Landry (14) celebrates after scoring a touchdown during the first half against the Tennessee Titans at Nissan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
When the Miami Dolphins take the field on Sunday they may as well look at it as a playoff game. With the way the season is going its likely the only playoff type game the team will play all season. If they lose, it will be.
Both the Dolphins and the Bills enter the game at 3-4 but the Bills have the tie-breaker edge on the Dolphins who have lost all three of their divisional games thus far. If fans are hoping for a miracle turnaround to a bad start, the Bills have to be beaten. Miami can not afford to lose on Sunday which makes the game that much more important for a team hoping to do more than enough to retain their interim head coach in 2016.
The Dolphins are not talking about coaching changes or even looking at other coaches right now. Mike Tannenbaum, at an event three weeks ago, said the team is all-in for this season with Dan Campbell. That won’t be the case if the Dolphins lose on Sunday.
Little doubt remains that should Miami lose this game they will be all but mathematically eliminated from the post-season. Fans are getting tired of hearing playoff talk regarding the team considering their start and lack of production a week ago in New England. A turnaround on Sunday is paramount to finding even a small margin of success in 2015.
The Dolphins are coming off a long weekend having played two Thursday’s ago while the Bills are coming off their bye week after losing in London two weekends ago. Both teams have had ample time to implement a game plan to beat the other.
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Looking ahead to this weekend it’s going to be relatively easy to dissect what the Dolphins must do on both sides of the ball to win. Let’s start with offense.
Buffalo has a very talented and now healthy defensive line. In week three the Bills forced Ryan Tannehill into three interceptions. Tannehill passed for 297 yards and two touchdowns but only completed 26 of 49 passes. He was sacked only two times but was under constant pressure. Adding to the Dolphins problems was the lack of a running game.
Jonas Gray lead the team in rushes with nine carries for 49 yards and Miller added seven carries for 38 yards. The Dolphins, as they have most of the year, abandoned the run early in favor of a passing attack that was easily defended. Of course the Dolphins were down 27-0 at halftime.
For Miami to be successful offensively on Sunday they must attack the Bills defense. It starts with the offensive line. Ja’Wuan James is out so the right side will be bookended by Jason Fox. Fox needs to have a near perfect game against a very good pass rushing Bills defense. The loss of James hurts but the Dolphins OC Bill Lazor must game plan to slow down the attack.
The Dolphins need to smack the Bills at their strength, the defensive line, and they need to do it with solid running. Lamar Miller gets better as the game goes on which is a problem on a team who leaves the running game early. If the Dolphins can establish even a usable running game, the passing game will open up.
Last week the Dolphins passing attack was exposed as one-dimensional. The Patriots took away the Dolphins short passing lanes and I suspect the Bills will try to do the same. If the Dolphins can establish a running game the Bills will play a little more off the line and that should give Tannehill time to throw allowing his receivers to run routes. Play action should be the Dolphins best friend on Sunday.
I expect Jarvis Landry to have a big game but that’s only if the Dolphins find a way to get him in the right defensive coverage match-ups. Landry doesn’t need space to work but if Miami is going to move the ball, Landry is going to need a little space to make defenders miss. I also believe that the tight-ends will have a bigger role this week.
Jordan Cameron has been nursing a hamstring injury this week so it’s unclear how much he will play on Sunday. If he doesn’t play a full game, Dion Sims and Jake Stoneburner could play big roles. Stoneburner has to be activated for this game with questions surrounding Cameron’s health.
No matter what the Dolphins do this week they can’t be as predictable as they were against the Patriots. Rex Ryan is a very good defensive coach and will make sure that his DC is ready for this week. The Bills faced a very poor playing offense in week three and while the team struggled last week it can’t be forgotten how well the unit played the two weeks previous. Miami won’t have another Tennessee Houston game against the Bills but they need to play pretty close to that level to beat Buffalo.
Next: Defensive victory wins the game