Three things on my mind for what’s going to be an absolute fantastic matchup between the Bills and the Dolphins.
One of the real privileges of covering the Bills last few years is getting treated to these high level games maybe once or twice a season. Normally, it’s the Chiefs game. The Bengals were going to be one of those games last January before Damar Hamlin happened. I think, at least through three weeks this year, the Dolphins have proven they belong in that category.
Ready Or Not?
Christian Benford is yet to be tested so far this year. No offense to Allen Lazard, Jahan Dotson, whoever the Raiders had in for Jacoby Myers, but that’s not exactly high level receiver talent.
This week will be different.
Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle are among the best 1-2 receiver combos in the game and might be the most dangerous with the ball in their hands. Benford will have to face one of them almost every throw.
Benford has been solid through three games. He has gotten run by a couple times, but has been plenty competent in his first season as the regular starter. There will probably be a few issues against Miami. He’s still a young guy learning his way in the league and he’s not Tre White. They don’t make many models like #27.
This game might be less hoping Benford can reach a certain level and more finding out how he handles some brighter NFL lights. I think the Bills will be fine as long as Tua Tagovailoa doesn’t start looking at Benford thinking, “there’s my huckleberry”.
Ed Oliver and DaQuan Jones have been just fantastic through three weeks. Absolutely dominating. Oliver gets a lot of the headlines (and the most recent big contract), but for me, Jones has been right there with them. It’s like having Sasquatch right next to Yeti on the defensive line.
Oliver and Jones will be the two guys who start every play closest to the ball. That often gives them the best chance to impact a game. Against an offense that gets the ball moving as quick as the Dolphins, they might be the only ones who can impact it some plays.
It’s not just as pass rushers. Miami stretches defenses horizontally and vertically. With running backs like Raheem Mostert and De’von Achance who are so electric, the Dolphins love to attack the edges with pitches and sweeps. It forces the defensive ends to be diligent in setting the edge, preventing the outside runs. The end result is defensive tackles a bit more on an island for inside run stuff.
I expect any Bills win to include a good game from Oliver and Jones. The nice thing is “good” games from those two have been a given and not a hope so far this season.
Touchdown Or Die
The matchup when the Bills have the ball doesn’t get talked about much this week. It might also be the more fascinating chess game.
Under new defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, the Dolphins are almost a 180 from what they were last year. The old Dolphins D was an all out, hair on fire blitzing team. The Fangio way is much more sitting back and allowing offenses short stuff in favor of preventing the big play.
As an example, the Dolphins in 2022 played the least Cover-2 shell coverages in the NFL. The last time Fangio ran a defense as head coach of the Broncos in 2021, he ran the most Cover-2.
How does that suit the Bills? Just fine, thank you very much.
Buffalo has been pretty successful putting together the 11/13/15 play drives this year. Josh Allen is focusing more on taking the shorter plays and ample receivers have been available to make them happen. I think you will see both teams get to, more or less, do what they want for long stretches Sunday.
The key for the Bills is the red zone. They need to finish drives.
The Washington win looked easy in the end, but that was only a 16-0 game into the 4th quarter thanks to three field goals. Lack of touchdowns cost Buffalo against the Jets. Even in the demolition of the Raiders, the Bills only scored on four of 14 goal to go plays.
Quite obviously, this is a game where getting six instead of three is demanded. Fangio’s defenses are well known for being at their best in the red zone. While Allen might find things soft between the 20’s, inside the red zone might easily be where the Bills win or lose this game.
I remain hot. A perfect 3-0 on prop bets to start the season. I’m in the black 3.4 units so far.
This is a simple one. I like the under on Hill receiving yards. The Bills tend to lean their coverages towards removing him from the opponent gameplan first and it’s largely worked. In five regular season games against Buffalo, Hill is yet to go for even 70 yards receiving. The line for Hill is 89.5 yards in this contest, so I’m happy to hammer the under.
Please pay no attention to the pair of 150-plus games Hill dropped on Buffalo in the playoffs. This Sunday is not a playoff game. Therefore, my bet will be a winner.
The Bills are gonna be without Jordan Poyer in this game and it will hurt. However, it might not hurt the same as it would have a year or two ago.
This season, Poyer has been a liability when it comes to making open field tackles. He missed one during the return of the Red and Blue practice against James Cook in the stadium. He whiffed on Jaylen Warren in the preseason. He was the last empty grab on the long Breece Hall run during the season opener.
I’ve thought most of this week that Sean McDermott might be having some restless nights thinking about Poyer as the only thing between Mostert or Achane and a long TD run. That now will no longer be the case. Taylor Rapp, who is very likely to replace Poyer, had the second best missed tackle rate (per Pro Football Focus) among all safeties the last two seasons.
All that said, Poyer knows this defense better than anyone not named Micah Hyde. His instincts and his experience are incredible. There are plays he will see and kill while most other players are still thinking. It’s hard to quantify what that will cost, but I have to believe that’s more than what’s gained by simply having a better tackler in the game.
The Dolphins fastball might be the receivers, but their running backs have the potential to open an entirely new headache up for the Bills this week and the NFL all season. Their skill guys might qualify for a 4×100 relay team at the Olympic trials. Putting that many home run hitters on the field at the same time makes it impossible for a defense to lean any direction and take them away.
If you’re Terrel Bernard and Matt Milano, get ready for a lot of running Sunday.
In a lot of ways, for me, this game becomes a battle between speed and power.
While the Dolphins have electricity everywhere, Buffalo really doesn’t come at teams with oodles of speed. The linebackers have good wheels. Deonte Harty can go, but doesn’t get used a ton in the offense. Cook has juice, but is a plodder compared to the Dolphins guys.
What the Bills have is raw power. Impose their will strength. It starts with the quarterback. Giant arm. Moose of a runner. The backs behind Cook are happy to bulldoze between tackles. Ken Dorsey likes two tight ends as a base formation. The Bills D-line is quickly developing a knack for bull rushing pockets into a phone booth, featuring a pair skyscraper rushers in Leonard Floyd and Greg Rousseau. Sam Howell is going to have nightmares for weeks.
Either way could win.
It’s too early in the season to get a good read on who’s good and who’s not, but the Dolphins played one good offense (Chargers) and gave up 34 points. They faced one good defense (Patriots) and scored 24. If the Bills are both–and they might be–could figuring the path of this game be just that easy?
I may regret it, but I say no. I’ve thought for a while this league is built for speed, so in the battle between speed and power, I’m going with the speed team.
I like the under in this game too. I think both teams will employ a feeling out process early, especially with Miami’s defense being a lot different. There will be points, but I don’t foresee the track meet many (me, included) would enjoy.
I could analyze this game into the ground, and it will likely be decided by something stupid… like which team catches both deflected interceptions. Since I have to make a pick, give me Miami 27-20.