A rivalry renewed. Welcome to Dolphins week… a staple from the 80s and 90s is back again! An early season advantage in the race for the 2023 AFC East title will be on line Sunday in Orchard Park. Buffalo Bills fans have been looking forward to this game since about halftime of last week’s game in Washington. There are so many juicy angles to this one, let’s jump right in.
The Last Five
Bills 34 Dolphins 31 (2023 – AFC Wild Card)
Bills 32 Dolphins 29 (2022)
Dolphins 21 Bills 19 (2022)
Bills 26 Dolphins 11 (2021)
Bills 35 Dolphins 0 (2021)
Make no mistake about it, the Dolphins are still the ones with something to prove in this rivalry. Since Sean McDermott arrived, the Bills have dominated the Dolphins, leading the series 11-2. The Dolphins still lead the overall series 62-56-1. If I were a betting man, I would say by the end of McDermott’s tenure, the Bills might finally be on the positive side of that record.
What To Watch For: Buffalo Bills
Which Allen Do We Get? – The vast majority of Josh Allen’s 79 career starts have been nothing short of impressive, if not magical. But we all know the other side of Josh, the Josh that gets himself too amped up for big games and makes reckless decisions that cost his team a victory. Look no further than what happened three weeks ago on Monday Night Football. The version of Allen that we get this Sunday will determine how the Buffalo Bills fare in this game. All of that being said, there will come a moment in this game, as in every big game, when the Bills will need their Madden cover quarterback to have a Supermam moment. As long as he can control himself and the game before that moment, the Bills should be in good shape.
Defense – This game excites me for many reasons, but higher on the list than anything might be the opportunity the defense has in front of them. McDermott’s defense has been nothing short of phenomenal over the past 6 years. They have taken a lot of criticism over the past calendar year, which has quickly been shuttered by their performance through 3 games in 2023. This week, another opportunity presents itself: slow down a prolific offense that might be the best the league has seen in 60 years. Buffalo’s defense has gotten plenty of credit in McDermott’s tenure, but they have never been viewed as the league’s best. If they can successfully shut down Miami’s offense, the Bills might finally be viewed as THE league’s best defense.
Bank On Experience – The Buffalo Bills have played in multiple high-stakes games over the past 6 seasons, and they have been successful in most of them. Everytime the Bills needed a regular season win to “stop the bleeding” (Thanksgiving vs. Saints) or regain control of the division (the 2nd Pats game in 2021), they have always seemed to come up big. While it is pretty wild to consider a Week 4 game on the same level, it is an opportunity for them to flip the script. A chance to control the division early versus chasing the Dolphins until Week 18. Buffalo’s previous experience in these types of games is a benefit; something that they have over Miami.
What To Watch For: Miami Dolphins
Chip On Shoulder – See if you can figure this one out. The Miami Dolphins just scored 70 points and beat their opponent by 50 points, put up over 700 yards of offense, and lead the AFC East. But yet they are underdogs to a team that lost to Zach Wilson three weeks ago. I would be a little salty too if I were Tyreek Hill. In my opinion, the Dolphins deserve to be the favorites in this game. Miami players and fans might be asking themselves what else do they need to do to get some respect? The answer is simple: prove that they can beat the Buffalo Bills, especially in Orchard Park.
Tua for MVP? – Tua Tagovailoa is the envy of many franchises right now. The lefty is running away with the MVP race through 3 weeks. He is completing 71% of his passes, averaging 341 passing yards per game, and has 8 TDs and 2 INTs. Last week, Tua’s Quarterback rating was 155.8, and he came out of the game in the 4th quarter. Coming into 2023, Tua’s health was the biggest question mark for him. Mike McDaniel is doing everything in his power to make sure Tua does not suffer another concussion. He’s scheming up an offense that allows Tua to release the ball faster than any other quarterback in the league.
If there is any negative to Tua’s play this year it is fumbling. Tua fumbled twice in Week 1 against the Chargers and two more times in Week 2 against the Patriots. Muck like opposing teams are aware of Allen’s ball security issues, you can bet the Bills have stressed capitalizing on Tua’s lone area for improvement in this young season.
RB Galore – Apparently the Miami Dolphins have two elite running backs on their roster. That is, if you base it on the number of fantasy football waiver claims for rookie De’Von Achane this week. Achane rushed 18 times for 203 yards and 2 TDs last week. He added 2 TDs and 30 yards through the air, as well. While Achane impressed against Denver, I am not sure that their defensive effort is the best barometer of a player’s success. The Dolphins are aware that Buffalo’s defensive weakness is the run game, so I would expect Miami to try to exploit that early. Unfortunately for the Bills, the Dolphins are not a one-dimensional offense. If the run game is not yielding its usual success, they will turn to their passing game which will give them just as much to chew on, if not more.
Buffalo Bills 37 Miami Dolphins 24. It is clear that the Dolphins have closed the gap on the Bills. They are the team that has arrived to be the Buffalo’s challenger for the AFC East. As good as Miami is, I think that Buffalo ready to deliver a counter-punch and assert themselves as the division and conference threat we know them to be. I believe that Allen will continue to use his failures from the Jets game to his benefit. I would be shocked to see him implode like he did against the Jets. The 13-point margin I predict is bigger than most would expect. I will attribute that to Buffalo’s defense, who will be the story of the day come Sunday night.
Featured Image Credit: Joshua Bessex/AP