HEY! Where the hell is the Redskins and Patriots Highly Non-Biased Game Preview??!?! Well, after starting to work on that game, it was decided that the AFC East had a much more intriguing matchup this week that our blog community would have a much more spirited debate over.
Stretching all the way back to their meager beginnings in the AFL, this will be the 104th meeting, including playoffs, between the Miami Dolphins and the Buffalo Bills. While the Dolphins hold the all-time series lead 58-44-1, in more recent times Buffalo has dominated this matchup winning 5 of the last 7 games. This includes the Week 3 matchup where the Bills demolished the Dolphins, in Miami, to the tune of 41-14.
Both teams entered the 2015 Season with high hopes of ending the Patriots’ division domination mainly at their expenses. However, for a myriad of reasons, both teams have fell flat on their faces at the half way point of the season and now seemed more poised for the annual “Who’s Number 2 in the AFC East” award than a trip to the playoffs.
There is some hope though…With both teams bunking up in the cellar of the AFC East, this game could be the spring board to help keep their slim playoff hopes alive. With a win on Sunday, the Bills would be 2-1 in the division with three division games left on their schedule. The Dolphins have made their road much harder by already being 0-3 in the division. A loss to the Buffalo Bills on Sunday would all but end the season for them weeks before anyone digs into their Thanksgiving feast.
So in yet another futile attempt to be non-bias and analytical, both teams were broken down in key areas to see how they will match up against each other and which one may have the key to a victory.
Quarterback – Push: While many members of Dolphins nation feel like Ryan Tannehill will be the next elite NFL passer, right now he is a below average quarterback with a QB Rating sandwiched between Ryan Fitzpatrick and Jay Cutler. The Bills are not really in a better situation with Tyrod Taylor looking to return from injury. Taylor has played efficiently this year and has been an effective running threat. However it will be interesting to see how Taylor performs coming back from a knee injury that sidelined him for the last two games.
Running Back – Miami: In a perfect world without injuries, the Bills have a more talented group of Running Backs led by LeSean McCoy. However at Week 9, the injury bug has hit Buffalo which gives the Dolphins the edge with Lamar “Boom Boom” Miller as their featured back.
Wide Receivers – Push: By the measurables, both teams have a talented group of receivers with perhaps a small edge going to Buffalo. On the field, their receptions, yards, and touchdown catch totals are almost identical.
Tight Ends – Buffalo: Buffalo’s Charles Clay has quietly been putting up a decent year for the Bills with 34 receptions for 350 yards. Add in Chris Gragg and the Bills have a much better tight end duo than the Dolphins.
Offensive Line – Buffalo: Neither line has established themselves as a dominant force this year but the Bills’ line is healthier and has already proved they can handle the Dolphins defense front.
Defensive Front Seven – Buffalo: Unofficially, this game could be featuring the two most overpaid defensive lines in the NFL. Neither teams’ front seven has shown the ability to get to the opposing quarterback consistently and rank near the bottom of the league in sacks. The loss of Cameron Wake for the Dolphins may be the most devastating blow to their defense because he was the only one really providing any pass rush. The Bills may not have defensive linemen that skilled enough to run Rex Ryan’s defense but they have shown they are able to slow down opponents’ running games much better than their Dolphin counterparts.
Secondary – Push: The Dolphins and Bills each have a few decent players in their secondaries but both teams are in the bottom half of the league in pass defense. This could be either an issue with personnel, scheme, or the inability of the front seven to rush opposing quarterbacks consistently.
Special Teams – Miami: The kickers and punters for both teams have very similar stat but the Dolphins seem to have a slight edge in the kick return game mainly because of how much they have been scored on this year.
Coaching – Push: By now everyone knows what Rex Ryan is: Good Motivator, Below Average Coach, Poor Talent Evaluator, and offensively clueless. This has not changed since his days as the Jets Head Coach and neither has his teams’ ability to handle success of any kind. The grumblings about Rex have already started in the Bills’ locker room so it may seem that Rex’s act has worn thin in Buffalo at the mid-point of the season. For the Dolphins, Dan Campbell provided some false hope with big victories over two teams that will, in all likelihood, be picking in the top 5 in the next Draft. However Campbell’s Dolphins came crashing down to Earth last week when he was easily out-coached by Bill Belichick and the Division leading Patriots. Dan Campbell has yet to prove if he is a legitimate NFL Head Coach or less brash version of Rex Ryan with a little more offensive knowledge.
If we assign 2 points for every category (1 point per team for draws) this is how it lines up:
Keys to Victory – Buffalo Bills
1) Stop the Dolphins running game to set up the pass rush
2) Avoid stupid penalties
3) Limit Tyrod Taylor’s running – Taking a sack beats getting injured again
Keys to Victory – Miami Dolphins
1) Protect the Quarterback (good luck Ryan Tannehill….)
2) Commit to the running game and the quick passing game to slow down the pass rush
3) Make Tyrod Taylor beat you from the pocket
Summary: Both Miami and Buffalo enter Sunday’s game coming off of terrible losses. With the unexpected play of the Jets, Raiders, and Pittsburgh, the wildcard playoff race may be the most competitive that the NFL has seen in years. This makes this Week 9 matchup for the Bills and Dolphins a must win for both of these teams. How these coaches and players handle this added pressure may very well determine who comes out ahead in this game.
The Knuckles Prediction: Buffalo Bills 22 – Miami Dolphins 16
Bonus: For the Patriots Fans that were looking forward to the Redskins/Patriots breakdown, here it is:
The Knuckles Prediction: Patriots 28 – Redskins 20