The Bills offense may have some people hoping for more this season with the addition of C.J. Spiller, and with Chan Gailey a big upgrade in play-calling and scheming experience over Alex Van Pelt, who was installed as coordinator a week before the season. The Dolphins made noise this offseason by acquiring Brandon Marshall and Karlos Dansby this offseason, as they hope to get more out of their passing attack and have revamped their defense. The key to Sunday’s matchup, however, will be the Bills’ defensive front seven and their ability to slow down the Dolphin ground game.
Last season, the Bills split their two games against Miami. They lost 38-10 at Miami in week four, and won 31-14 in Buffalo in week 12. In the first matchup, the Dolphins ran the ball 45 times for a whopping 250 yards (5.6 yards per carry) and 3 tds. Chad Henne threw just 22 passes. In the Bills’ win, Miami ran 37 times for 157 yards (4.2 yards per carry) and 1 td, while Henne threw 32 passes.
While Miami ran the ball effectively in both matchups, you can see that when Buffalo was able to contain Miami’s ground game, it forced Henne into making more, and tougher, throws, which also led to him making mistakes (4 ints in the second matchup). The difference was painfully obvious.
The good news for the Bills: They’re a better team this year with Gailey at the helm, a seemingly improved offensive direction, and should have the ability to make a big play or two on offense with Spiller and Trent Edwards’ apparent renewed confidence in throwing downfield from time to time. Also, Brandon Marshall is on the Dolphins this year, and with his addition and the continued decline of the element of surprise from the wildcat offense, the Dolphins will probably be encouraged to throw more (though Marshall has had success in his last two outings against the Bills, 15 rec. 181 yards and 1td, that was with Jay Cutler at QB).
The bad news for the Bills: The Dolphins did not have Ronnie Brown in the week 12 matchup, and his return makes the Miami rushing attack a much more daunting force to deal with.
This all means that the most important matchup Sunday will likely be nose tackle Kyle Williams against the revamped interior of the Dolphins’ offensive line.
Williams is transitioning from being a very good defensive tackle in a 4-3 (pro bowl alternate a season ago) to an undersized nose tackle (6’1″ 306 lbs.) in the 3-4. While an undersized nose can be effective, Dallas’ Jay Ratliff (6’4″ 303 lbs.) for one, not to mention the Dolphins’ nose tackle Randy Starks (6’3″ 305 lbs.) is playing the nose at similar dimensions to Williams, Kyle has his work cut out for him on Sunday, as the Bills will need him to occupy blockers.
Miami parted ways with center Jake Grove recently and handed the position to Joe Berger. Bills’ fans remember what can happen when you attempt to revamp an offensive line a week or two before the season starts. Miami will need Berger to give an effective push in the middle if they are to have success on Sunday. In the Bills’ win a season ago, Grove was injured and did not play. We’ll see if Grove’s absence has a similar outcome Sunday.