If the cliché phrase “the third time is the charm” proves to be true, it could spell trouble for the Miami Dolphins. The No. 7 seed Dolphins face the No. 2 seed Buffalo Bills in the first round of the playoffs, which means the Dolphin defense will have to face a high-powered Bills offense. The two times the Dolphins faced the Buffalo Bills this season, the defense did an adequate job of keeping Bills star receiver Stefon Diggs in check. With round three between these two AFC East rivals lined up for Sunday afternoon, Miami’s pass defense will be tasked with limiting Diggs for a third time.
Diggs is coming off another elite season, recording 108 catches for 1,429 yards and 11 touchdowns while averaging 13.2 yards per catch. It’s Diggs’ third-straight 100-catch season and his fifth-straight 1,000-yard season. He ranks fourth in the league in touchdowns and in receptions and ranks fifth in receiving yards. Despite his eye-popping numbers this year, the Dolphins have done an effective job of defending Diggs. In the two previous meetings, the Dolphins held Diggs to 12 catches for 134 yards and zero touchdowns.
It will be a team effort to keep Diggs in check, but much of the responsibility will fall on the shoulders of Dolphins corner Xavien Howard. In two games, the Pro Bowl corner gave up a combined five catches for 66 yards to Diggs. Not lockdown material, but good enough. In the most recent matchup, a Week 15 showdown in Buffalo, Howard was able to hold Diggs to three targets for two catches, 19 yards, and two first downs.
Despite coming off one of his best performances of the season — seven catches, 104 yards, and a touchdown versus the New England Patriots — Diggs ended the season on a bit of a cold streak. After a 12-catch, 128-yard showing versus the Minnesota Vikings, Diggs went six weeks without a 100-yard game and hauled in just three touchdowns. Is this a trend that will continue Sunday or is Diggs primed for a breakout performance to start a deep Bills playoff run?