The best possible news happened on Tuesday when it was announced that Terry Pegula has bought the Buffalo Bills. This is great news because Pegula is committed in keeping the Bills in Buffalo and finally the talk of them moving to Los Angeles or Toronto will be done, though I’m sure one person will keep that talk going.
Now on to the upcoming game where the Miami Dolphins, coming off their victory over the New England Patriots and subsequent parade, head up to Buffalo in a key early division game. While still early in the season, this is crucial game for the Bills as it will help build off the momentum from their week 1 win against the Bears.
When the Offense is on the Field
Last week the Bills ran the ball for 193 yards on 33 carries. With the Bills being a run happy team I expect the run game to be the backbone of the offense yet again. The Dolphins run defense is still an unknown as although they gave up 89 yards against the Patriots, they also gave up a whopping 4.45 yards per carry and that number would have gone up if it wasn’t for the Patriots throwing it 56 times. I don’t see the Bills throwing it that much. CJ Spiller looks to be the guy who will get the most carries but I expect Fred Jackson to get his share and make the Dolphins defenders look like Chris Conte. A under the radar player in the run game is Boobie Dixon who looks to be the 3rd running back in the rotation but made his presence felt with a big 47 yard run on his second carry of the game (his first carry went for six yards).
The passing game didn’t light up the world but EJ Manuel was a very efficient 16-22 for 173 yards, averaging 7.9 yards per attempt. His accuracy looked leaps and bounds better than last year and outside of one bad decision (the interception) did not make a horrible throw that should have been a turnover. However the Dolphin defense is better than the Bears defense and Manuel will have to throw the ball more than 22 times to ensure a victory. The good news is he has three very good receivers who all stepped up and made big plays. Robert Woods, Mike Williams and Sammy Watkins are a solid trio that all were able to make big plays. Watkins is the player with the most ability to make a big play. In the Bears game, Watkins was used primarily as a decoy, allowing Mike Williams and Robert Woods to get open. Against the Fins, Watkins needs to be heavily involved in the offense as he will give the Fins fit.
The key matchup on offense will be the offensive line versus the solid Fins pass rush. Seantrell Henderson will have the toughest task of neutralizing Cameron Wake. The oline will be key in determining how well the offense does.
When the Defense is on the Field
The Bills front four will be licking their chops as they face a hastily assembled offensive line. If the Bills get constant pressure, Ryan Tannehill will either be running for his life, or throwing the ball to Kyle Williams. The Dolphins have a better running game with Knoshown Moreno but that is why the Bills signed Brandon Spikes, to stop the run. I expect the Bills to constantly be in Tannehill’s face, and even Nickell Robey will be joining the sack game.
Now onto the concerning part of the Bills defense; the secondary/coverage linebackers. With Kiko Alonso out, the Bills lack that coverage linebacker who can cover tight ends and allow the other guys to either rush the passer or cover the #1 WR. Replacing him is Nigel Bradham who is a decent coverage linebacker but will have troubles covering Big Play Clay. The secondary is a concern as Stephon Gilmore is not 100% from his groin injury and Aaron Williams is still recovering from a concussion he sustained last Sunday. Plus, the Jim Schwartz defense really likes zone coverage, something the Bills cornerbacks are not the best fit for. Hopefully he runs man or else Brian Hartline and Jarvis Landry will rip apart the Bills secondary.
Overall I expect this to be a close division game. The Bills defense will give the Dolphins fits and the rushing attack will truly test how good the Dolphins run defense is. Ryan Tannehill and the Dolphins pass rush keep them in it, but I expect the Bills to eventually squeak by with the win.
Bills 23 Dolphins 21.