One of the worst things to happen to the Miami Dolphins in their loss to the Los Angeles Chargers was for the news of their use of bench heaters on the sidelines to come out. It was a perfect storm of ironic comedy for two reasons: the Chargers game last Sunday night was in the mid-50s and the Dolphins’ next game is in Buffalo.
It is an “out of the frying pan, into the fire” moment, but for the cold instead of the heat. “Out of the cooler, into the cold” maybe? Either way, the Dolphins, a finesse team that thrives at throwing the ball around like a 7-on-7 team, has to travel to Western New York and play in a city that was buried in something called “thundersnow” a few weeks ago and is forecasted to experience snow storms during Saturday night’s matchup.
Not only does the snow take away the Dolphins’ strengths, but it also emphasizes their weaknesses. Warts that have been evident during the course of the season could be fully exposed against the Bills.
Miami can’t run the ball well enough
Games in the snow tend to favor teams that are physical and run the football effectively while also being able to stop the run. Miami is, well, not one of those teams. The Dolphins are 28th in the league in rushing yards and 22nd in yards per carry. A lot of that is the Dolphins choosing to build their offense around the passing attack, but it’s also because they aren’t good at it when they try.
According to Pro Football Focus, of the Dolphins’ 13 games this season, they’ve only recorded a run-blocking grade of 70 or higher three times, against Detroit, Cleveland, and Houston, three of the bottom 11 rushing defenses in the league. On the flip side, the Bills rank ninth in rushing yards, fourth in yards per carry, fourth in rushing yards allowed, and seventh in opponents’ yards per carry.
Miami has two capable running backs in Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson Jr., but head coach and play caller Mike McDaniel hasn’t made it a point of emphasis to use them. The two backs combined for just eight carries against San Francisco and 14 against L.A., even though the passing game was ineffective in both those games. With the expected weather conditions’ effect on the passing game, it’s likely going to be the team that runs the ball the best that comes out with a win.
Miami struggles to stop mobile quarterbacks
In a non-ideal weather game, sometimes the winning team wins just because of a “what the **** was that?” play, and no one leads the league in “what the **** was that” plays quite like Josh Allen. The Bills quarterback is just as impressive running the ball as he is throwing it, rushing for 628 yards and six touchdowns while averaging 6.3 yards per carry.
The Allen matchup is tough for the Dolphins because they have a hard time stopping mobile quarterbacks. The Dolphins have allowed 6.3 yards per carry to quarterbacks this season, and the three most glaring examples were the games against Allen in week three, Chicago’s Justin Fields in week nine, and Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson in week two.
Fields ran racked up 178 yards and a touchdown and averaged 11.9 yards per carry, Jackson ran for 119 yards and a touchdown on 13.2 yards per carry, and Allen ran for 47 yards on 5.9 yards per carry. Allen’s numbers weren’t as gargantuan as Fields’ or Jackson’s, but Allen can break big runs when everything else breaks down. Add the unpredictability of a snow game and anything is possible.
Tua is bad in the cold
It’s not a stretch of the imagination to believe a quarterback born and raised in Hawaii that played college football in the SEC would struggle in the cold, and the numbers support that assertion. According to CBS Sports’ Doug Clawson, Miami quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is 0-4 in his four coldest starts of his Miami career. He lost at Denver and Buffalo in 2020 and lost at Tennessee and Buffalo in 2021 with a combined passer rating of 61.4 and just three total touchdowns.
Miami (8-5) @ Buffalo (10-3)
When: Saturday, 8:15 P.M.
Where: Orchard Park, New York – Highmark Stadium
How to watch: NFL Network
Odds: Miami is currently +7 and +260 on the money line, with the over/under at 44.