Three things on my mind as the Bills get ready to host the Dolphins and, potentially, a giant snowstorm…
The NFL has to be super excited. Their Saturday night primetime game seems very likely to feature a sizable serving of snow. The accumulation forecast all week has been creeping upward and reached 18-24 inches as of Friday afternoon.
While some Bills fans might want to thump their chest about their team enjoying the snow, there’s really no one who’s going to be happy to be outside Saturday night. The Bills that I talked to this week didn’t want to make much of an issue of it. The weather is gonna be the weather. Both teams have to play in it together.
I do think any sort of accumulating snow will favor the Bills. The Dolphins strength is their offense and that offense is based on speed. Getting passes out quick and getting their quick receivers in space to make big plays. A few inches of snow on the ground will literally slow that down. There’s no doubt the Bills passing game would be affected as well, but Josh Allen’s cannon won’t be hampered by a few flakes in the air as much as Tyreek Hill’s legs will be in a pile of slush on the ground.
I do also think the weather is firmly entrenched in the Dolphins’ heads. Whether it’s Tua Tagovailoa’s comment about the existence of snow in Alabama or the “I wish it was colder” T-shirt that head coach Mike McDaniels wore this week, the Dolphins have gone to great lengths to mentally and physically prepare for the Orchard Park environment. Which is kind of hilarious because there’s no way that can adequately happen. Regardless, that preparation is something else the Dolphins have to do this week. And the Bills don’t.
No Win Situation
In the NBA, the term “scheduled losses” is something that gets thrown around from time to time. With so many games in the season, teams will sometimes have to play back-to-back days or three games in four nights. You might have a situation where a team is playing a second consecutive day on the road and their opponent has been at home resting two or three days. It’s the type of situation where the road team has almost no chance to win just based on the way the schedule fell. Hence… “scheduled losses”.
That really isn’t a thing in the NFL with everybody playing only one game a week, but this Dolphins situation will come close. Miami is playing their third straight road game and all three were on the other side of the country from Southern Florida. The Dolphins stayed out in California between their last two road games against the Niners and Chargers, but the total air miles for all three trips would be a bit over 6,000. That’s about 400 miles less than what the Steelers will travel all season.
Not only that, the Dolphins are playing the third of those three road game on a short week–going from a Sunday night road game to a Saturday game. These guys are human. It’s going to take a toll. Miami having to play arguably their most difficult and most important game of the year at the back end of this stretch is a really rough break. It could be a really good one for the Bills.
The Bease Knees
One of the big questions for Saturday is how much new Bills receiver Cole Beasley will play. John Brown was elevated to the active roster and saw 18 snaps just days after his reunion with the Bills. There’s every reason to expect Beasley will be on the field Saturday night.
I’ve seen some fans talk about how Beasley’s greatest help will be moving the chains on third down, especially third and short. While he is pretty good at that, it’s not really a priority need for the Bills. Buffalo is currently ranked 7th in the NFL in conversions when passing on the 3rd and four or less.
Where Buffalo needs Beasley is earlier in a series. Over the last 6 games, the Bills have faced the tenth-most 3rd and long situations (3rd and 7 or more). Beasley’s value needs to come by creating easy money completions on 1st and 2nd down. Those 5-7 yard plays that get Buffalo ahead of the sticks. A few more layups on 1st down and a few less 3rd and longs will do wonders for Allen’s stress level the rest of the year.
A 2-2 split last week gets me to 19-21 for the year. I’m square on the units won/lost. Let’s get back in the black.
- Dawson Knox -11.5 yards against Mike Gesicki. A prop you likely will only find on DraftKings. Gesicki has not caught a pass in his last three games and the Bills have been notably tough on tight ends this year. Knox has topped 40 yards in three of his last five. This is a fun one to play and seems pretty likely to happen as long as the weather doesn’t totally ruin passing games.
- Isaiah McKenzie under 15.5 yards as his longest reception. There are so many ways to win this. If Beasley gets extended snaps, McKenzie may not play much. The Dolphins pass defense is not very good, but they don’t give up a ton of big plays. They get nickel and dimed to death, meaning any catches are likely to be short. There’s also the chance the snow smothers most any offense. And this bet would have hit in 9 of 13 games already this year. I like my chances.
- Bills -9.5 points. I think the Bills are in a prime spot to control this game start to finish. The line is actually 7, so I’ll be happy to give another field goal and end up with a plus money bet. I’m also going to sprinkle a little on an even bigger line like -13.5.
- Also like: Stefon Diggs over 6.5 receptions. Again, the Dolphins give up completions, but not big plays. The way the weather looks, it’s really hard to know how either offense will respond. It’s tough to play a ton of props in this game. I am gonna put a little money on a really low alternate under.
I think the Dolphins are a good team and I still think they’re going to be in the playoffs, but I just don’t see a way the Dolphins win this game or maybe even stay competitive (barring the normal injury, crazy bounce garbage). The travel schedule is against them. The homefield advantage is against them. The weather is against them. The recent direction of both teams is against them.
It certainly seems from the last two weeks the league has figured out a way to slow down Miami’s passing attack that was tearing everyone up through early November. I think Miami is too talented not to come up with a counter at some point, but I don’t think they come up with it or succeed with it in a lake effect snow warning against a defense as good as Buffalo.
There has to be some concern that Buffalo’s second corner (whoever they land on to start this week) could struggle a ton. Whether it’s Jaylen Waddle or Hill against the guy not named Tre White, the Dolphins could easily feast. Beyond that, Miami is unlikely to run the ball with much success. Especially if Jeff Wilson doesn’t play (he is questionable with a hip injury). Tua has looked a bit of a mess the last couple weeks. The Orchard Park crowd and that difficult Sean McDermott defense are probably the worst environment for a young quarterback that needs to get right.
The Dolphins just don’t have a lot of strengths beyond that elite passing game. They are way below average on both sides of the ball on 3rd down. Their red zone defense is in the bottom quarter. The Dolphins have the worst special teams in the NFL: 29th in punt returns, 30th in kick returns, 27th in punt coverage, dead last in kick coverage. If they can’t win with Tua/Waddle/Hill, they don’t have any sort of reliable plan B.
The weather could easily be an equalizer. As could one lightning strike touchdown from either Hill or Waddle. At the end of the day, I just don’t see this as a situation where the Dolphins have much of a chance to succeed. Bills fans should enjoy the shoe being on the other foot with the road team in this rivalry melting down in a brutal environment. Give me the Bills relatively easily 28-13.