Game Preview: Buffalo Bills @ Miami Dolphins
Is it the 2020s or the 1990s? The reigniting of this rivalry is palpable throughout the fanbase. The “Blowout Bills” will be taking their talents to South Beach this weekend for an early-season divisional matchup. Let’s jump right in.
The Last Five
Bills 26 Dolphins 11 (2021)
Bills 35 Dolphins 0 (2021)
Bills 56 Dolphins 26 (2020)
Bills 31 Dolphins 28 (2020)
Bills 37 Dolphins 20 (2019)
The Buffalo Bills have beaten the Miami Dolphins 9 out of the last 10 times. And it bears repeating… if not for a Charles Clay drop in the end zone, Sean McDermott would have a clean sweep. I remember looking at head-to-head records when I was younger and noticing just how much the Dolphins were ahead of the Bills. However, recent performances have closed the gap for the Bills; the Dolphins now only lead this head-to-head series 61-54-1. By the end of Sean McDermott’s tenure, we might see the Bills flip that record. In the 10 games since taking over as Bills head coach, McDermott has beaten the Dolphins 321-176, or an average of 32-17 per game. The Dolphins have never scored more than 28 points on a McDermott defense and have been held under 20 points in 7 of the 10 games.
What To Watch For: Buffalo Bills
Injuries, Injuries, Injuries – How could I start anywhere else? The most talked about aspect of this football game has been the Buffalo Bills’ loaded injury chart. As of now, the players confirmed out are Ed Oliver, Jordan Phillips, Dane Jackson, and Micah Hyde. The players listed as questionable are: Jordan Poyer, Gabe Davis, Dawson Knox, Mitch Morse, and Tim Settle. It is the injuries on the defensive side of the ball that have fans worried this week. With Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle, two of the fastest burners in the game, literally having your entire starting secondary missing could be problematic. We have heard about the Bills’ depth all offseason and it is time to put that to the test.
An added storyline in this game is the Jordan Poyer situation. To me, it is clear that the Bills brass do not want to extend Jordan Poyer at this time. They might even be open to letting him walk at the end of this year. They believe that have suitable replacements on the roster. By the end of this game, they will know if that is true or not.
Father vs. Son – The memes write themselves at this point — Josh Allen feeding the baby dolphin from the bottle, the Dolphins fans calling Josh Allen “daddy.” Everytime these two teams play, we see Josh Allen’s dominating stats against the Dolphins plastered all over the airwaves. His numbers are so good they are worth repeating one more time… In eight games against Miami, Allen has a passer rating of 106.8, 1,980 yards, 21 touchdowns, 8 interceptions and 4 rushing touchdowns. Josh Allen is the great equalizer. I don’t care if the Bills have to field a college-level defense out there, as long as Josh Allen is taking snaps, I would give the Bills a chance to win a football game. The offense is mostly healthy, and Josh Allen leading this team should mitigate any defensive concerns fans have.
Coaching – This is the type of game where I think a team’s coaching staffs could directly impact the outcome. With the Bills shorthanded by injuries on defense, you’d love to bank on the decades of experience between Leslie Frazier and Sean McDermott to craft up a game plan to unsettle an unproven quarterback and a head coach entering his third career game. Mike McDaniel looks good so far. But, even with a depleted defense, McDermott and Frazier should be able to craft something that stymies the inexperienced opposing sideline.
What To Watch For: Miami Dolphins
Double Burners – Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle have garnered a ton of attention this week, and for good reason. The duo rank first and third in receiving yards so far in this young season (Diggs is second) and played a big role in their improbable 21-point fourth quarter comeback against the Baltimore Ravens last week. It is hard to imagine the Dolphins winning this game without these two players going off once again. You cannot ask for a better situation if you are Hill and Waddle. They are certainly licking their chops, knowing that they will line up across from two NFL rookies on Sunday afternoon. Hill has been a major problem for Buffalo in the past and will look to continue that trend alongside Waddle.
Manage The Hype – There are sports outlets in South Beach this week that have been calling this game the biggest regular season Dolphins game in 20 years. While that may say more about the Dolphins over the past two decades than anything, the point remains. The Bills were all but anointed three-time AFC East Champions before a single snap was played this season. The jumpstart 2-0 Dolphins have something to say about that. They are looking to send a message to the league that this division hasn’t been decided quite yet. Regardless of the victor, there will be 14 games remaining after this week and, while a win for either team would be validating, the leg up this early-season victory would give either team is miniscule at this point with so many games left to play.
Has Tua Arrived? – It would be irresponsible for me not to bring up the reigning AFC Offensive Player of the Week. Tua dominated last week, that has to be acknowledged. The quarterback threw for 469 yards, 6 TDs, and 2 INTs. He stayed poised under pressure and lead his team back from 21 down in the 4th quarter against a traditionally good and respected defense. Again, with the injuries Buffalo has in their secondary, Tua has to be looking forward to this game. With his newfound confidence in hand, it will be interesting to see if he can give back-to-back dominate performances.
The Dolphins preached their belief in Tua all offseason, despite being in on acquiring Deshaun Watson and Tom Brady in recent years. So far, Tua is showing that he might be the player Tyreek Hill bragged about for months. He is catching a depelated defense at the right time and the expectation will be for him to look like a franchise quarterback once again.
Buffalo Bills 37 Miami Dolphins 26 I respect what the Dolphins are building in South Beach, but I don’t think this is the week they clear the hurdle of the Buffalo Bills. The Bills improved their pass rush enough that I think the back end will hold up enough to limit Hill and Waddle’s damage. This is the type of game that Von Miller can make his impact felt — a close game where the defensive line has to get home.
On the offensive side of the ball, Josh Allen is still a monster. And, like I wrote above, anytime he takes snaps for this team, they have a chance to win. The Bills embarrassed the Super Bowl champs and last year’s AFC one-seed by a combined score of 72-17. I don’t see a reason why they can’t dispatch of the next team in their path as well.
Featured Image: AP Photos/Adrian Kraus