Welcome back to football BillsMafia! The 2014 NFL season is already upon us, and for the first time in recent memory, the Bills are playing in a critical division game in September. There is more meaning, emotion, and stake in the line in this game than any previous game since the Music City Miracle. No, a win today does not send Buffalo to the playoffs, but it certainly is a statement-making contest for the lead in the AFC East. With that in mind, here is what you should expect in today’s game against the Miami Dolphins.
Emotions will ride high in Orchard Park. Not since the 2004 Week 17 game against the Pittsburgh Steelers has a home game mattered this much to Western New York. Coming off the news that the Bills will stay in Buffalo following the sale to the Pegulas, as well as the face of the team, Jim Kelly, is cancer free, and the opportunity to take control of the AFC East will make this game electric. This will probably be the most hyped up Bills-Dolphins game since a guy named Marino would come to town…and leave unhappy. Look for people on their feet for 180 minutes screaming at the top of their lungs all but halftime.
The winner of the game will be the one who controls the line of scrimmage. Yes, both the Bills and Dolphins have new weapons at offensive skill positions, but the victor here will be the one that controls the trenches. Miami’s front 7 looked very intimidating last week against the supposedly-Super Bowl Patriots, and should give the Bills new guard it’s first huge challenge. If the team can rise up and give EJ Manuel the time he needs to make his throws and go through his progressions, it should be enough to do damage to the Dolphin secondary. Manuel also must be able to perceive the blitz, find the quick open receiver, and get the ball out of his hands early. This is one thing that Ryan Fitzpatrick was actually very good at, and will help beat the rush. Buffalo will also need strong games from Fred Jackson, CJ Spiller, and Bryce Brown to wear down the Miami D and keep the Bills’ D fresh.
Jim Schwartz will need to get more creative than he ever has. Schwartz-led defenses are not known for exotic or creative looks, just hard-hitting, smash-mouth play by containing the run and getting after the QB. Today will be no different, but he will need to do something to throw the Dolphins off. Look for safety blitzes, more nickle, dime packages, and rotating players more frequently than last week. In order to create mismatches from a Defensive perspective, he will need to show Miami formations and players they did gameplan for, and disrupt the passing lanes.
Look for a great game that will probably (again) come down to the wire. If the O-Line can do its job and play strong, I think the Bills Defense can help carry the team to victory here. Bills 24 – Dolphins 17