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Friday Preview: Buffalo Bills vs. Miami Dolphins

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While it wasn’t always as smooth and dominant as it should have been, the Bills handled the Jets with ease in Week 1. Up next is another opportunity for a divisional win. Plus, it is never too early to start thinking about potential tiebreakers for the playoffs. Starting off 2-0 in the division (will be the tiebreaker against the Patriots) and 2-0 in the conference (will be the tiebreaker for the rest of the AFC) would be a big deal for the Bills before the schedule gets tougher in the coming weeks.

The Last Five

Bills 37 Dolphins 20
Bills 31 Dolphins 21
Bills 42 Dolphins 17
Dolphins 21 Bills 17
Bills 22 Dolphins 16

Sean McDermott has had tremendous success against the Dolphins during his tenure as Bills coach, winning five of his six games against them. In fact, he was a Charles Clay catch away from a perfect record.

What To Watch For: Bills

Injuries – The Jets game was not kind to the Bills when it came to the injury front. Linebackers Edmunds, Milano, and Dodson all went down with injuries. The lack of preseason could have contributed to some of the injuries, as it was the first time that players were experiencing live hitting, aside from the inner-squad scrimmage last month. Thursday’s injury report was quite lengthy:

At this point, it is pretty safe bet that Milano won’t go this weekend, having not practiced at all this week. McDermott is historically careful with players and hamstring injuries and tends to bring them back slowly. It looks better for Dodson, as he practiced in full today. Holding back Edmunds might be a smart decision, considering the long-term goals that the team has this year. Finally, seeing Isaiah McKenzie creep up on the injury report on Thursday should concern the Bills. As anyone could see in Week 1, McKenzie is a pivotal part of Brian Daboll’s offense when it comes to pre-snap motion.

Run Game – Outside of Josh Allen’s fumbles, the biggest concern for most Bills fans coming out of Week 1 was the running game, or lack thereof. The Jets do have a tough defensive line, and if it weren’t for Josh Allen’s 57 rushing yards, the Bills running game would have been even worse. A game against the 32nd ranked run defense might be just what the doctor ordered, as the Dolphins had the worst performance defending the run in Week 1. You know that Brian Daboll will look to exploit that again this week. Cam Newton picked the Dolphins apart last week with the option, so for the Bills fans hoping to see Josh Allen not run the ball as much, you might want to look away in this one. I think the Bills will go for over 150 rushing yards this week.

Special Teams – Last week, Andre Roberts looked like he was going to break every punt and kickoff return that he had. It was an impressive showing from a player who most fans thought would not make the final 53-man roster. But, of course, the return game is more than just the return man, and Heath Farwell had his unit ready to go. I was very impressed by the entire return unit. I think it is only a matter of time before Roberts gets his first return TD as a Bills player. Also under the Special Teams umbrella would be rookie kicker Tyler Bass who needs to rebound from a rough outing last week in order to gain back some confidence. This is a big year for the Bills, and the last thing they need is a kicker who is lacking confidence.

What to Watch For: Dolphins

Fans! – For the first time this season, the Bills will have the experience of playing in front of fans. The Dolphins are allowing 13,000 fans into the game, of the 65,000 that Hard Rock Stadium holds. When the Bills play in Miami, it is often considered a 9th home game for them. You better bet that Bills fans have purchased the majority of tickets that were for sale on the secondary markets. I can’t wait to hear how loud the limited #BillsMafia can get on Sunday.

The “Fitzpatrick moment” – In every game that Ryan Fitzpatrick plays, there seems to be what I call “The Fitzpatrick Moment.” It usually is a careless interception at a critical point in the game. We saw many of those while he was the QB of the Bills. We saw it a few years ago when he was the Jets starter and needed a Week 17 win to get into the playoffs, and we saw it last year when the Dolphins blew a two-score lead against the Bills in Orchard Park. I love Fitz as a person, and I love his grit and attitude as a player, but look for his Achilles heel to flare up again this week against a top-five defense.

Shaq Lawson – There was nothing but good vibes coming from Shaq when he was asked about the Bills and Josh Allen this week. And the same goes for the Bills when they were asked about Shaq. I don’t have anything against Shaq, but I don’t think he was worth the 10 million that the Dolphins paid to snag him away from the Bills back in March. He struggled with the read-option last week against the Patriots, and it didn’t go unnoticed. As I said, I like Shaq–he brought great energy to the Bills team both on the field and in the locker room. I just think he is more of a situational pass rusher than an every-down DE. He will be hungry to improve upon his performance last week and start to live up to his big contract and the pressure associated with it, especially against his former team.

Prediction

Bills 30 Dolphins 20 I think the Bills take care of business in this one, but it will be closer than some might think. I think the injuries are a bigger deal than some want to admit, and it might show with a bit of a sloppier showing on defense this week. This game also has rout potential, and if it starts to trend that way, we might get the first look of Tua Tagovailoa. After all, the Bills defense did force about four or five QB changes last year.

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