Date: 14th September 2014
Kickoff: 1pm EST
Venue: Ralph Wilson Stadium
The Bills host the Miami Dolphins on Sunday. The rivalry between the two teams might not be as intense as it used to be on the field, but it still means a lot to the fans. With the news that the team has been sold (pending league approval) and with Andre Reed leading the team out, it’s sure to be another raucous day at the Ralph. Both teams come into the game 1-0 after winning games as the underdog in Week 1.
I’ll run through a few of the key match ups.
Miami OL vs Buffalo DL:
Once again, the Dolphins offense will be led by Ryan Tannehill. Personally, I’ve never really rated the guy but there’s no arguing that his protection has been abysmal for his first 2 seasons. He was sacked an NFL high 58 times in 2013, including 7 against the Bills in Week 16.
That should be less of an issue this year, especially at the tackle positions. Branden Albert has a bit of a bad reputation but he’s a solid left tackle and definitely an upgrade on the likes of Bryant McKinnie. On the right side, I think the Dolphins got themselves an absolute stud in the form of 1st round pick Ja’Wuan James. A lot of people wanted to call the pick a reach but anyone who watched James closely at Tennessee knows that he’s as technically sound as they come.
The interior of the Miami offensive line is still vulnerable and I think it’s where the Bills can get some real purchase. Last week Daryn Colledge, Samson Satele and Shelley Smith acquitted themselves admirably against the Patriots but the Bills interior depth is far superior. We have the luxury of rotating and keeping guys fresh and that should pay dividends late in the game.
Charles Clay vs Somebody, Anybody!:
Covering tight ends is something the Bills don’t usually manage that effectively and Clay is a vastly underrated player. 2013 was his coming out party and it seems a lot of people lost the invite. Clay accounted for 69 catches for 759 yards and 6 touchdowns last year.
He’s a versatile player and can sometimes get forgotten due to his do-it-all nature. Clay participated in 868 snaps for the Dolphins in 2013. Of those snaps, he ran a route 478 times, stayed at home as a blocker 383 times (278 run-blocking, 105 pass-blocking), and ran the ball seven times. While he’s never really had a great game statistically against the Bills, he has the potential to be dangerous if he’s not accounted for both as a blocker and a receiver.
Cameron Wake vs Seantrel Henderson:
Seantrel might’ve played well in preseason but this is going to be his biggest test to date, by a long way. Wake was an absolute force on Sunday, clocking 2 sacks and 2 forced fumbles. The gulf in class between them is similar to the Mario Williams/Jordan Mills matchup I mentioned last week. With Lee Smith back in practice, it would be wise to leave him next to Henderson for the majority of the game.
It’s almost an inevitability that Wake will get in the backfield at some point in the game. It’s up to EJ to manage the pocket better than he has done or it could be a long day for the Bills QB.
The Dolphins will be without all 3 of their starting linebackers. Dannell Ellerbe was put on IR this week, Koa Misi is in a walking boot and Phillip Wheeler will miss his second straight game with a thumb injury. They will also be missing backup linebackers Jordan Tripp and Chris McCann. Essentially, the second level of their defense is a mess.
Additionally, they look likely to be without DT Randy Starks and rookie DE Terrence Fede as well.
How we can win:
- The Dolphins will be desperate to employ their nickel package because of their issues at linebacker. We need to stick to our strength/their weakness and keep them in their base defense and run it right down their throats.
- We must be able to generate pressure on Tannehill. He has a history of folding against the Bills under pressure. As much as anything, his struggles against us might get to him psychologically. It will be tougher than previous years but we definitely have the firepower to get him rattled.
- Bills linebackers need to be disciplined against the Dolphins zone-read. The Patriots played poor assignment football in Week 1 and they paid for it, allowing 5.5 yards per carry.
- Having Nigel Bradham back gives us a lot more range which was exploited in Chicago and should help contain Moreno/Miller as receiving threats.
This won’t be the mismatch that it was last season. Tannehill shouldn’t be pressured on every snap and their run game is much improved. Because of the issues that they have with their linebackers, I expect this to be a game that Buffalo can control with the run game and help neutralize the Dolphins pass rush in doing so. I’ll even make a score prediction and go 27-17 Bills.
As for the Dolphins fans planning to take over Buffalo on Sunday, we’re already well aware of your devious plans!