Game Preview: Bills at Dolphins


On Thursday night the Buffalo Bills will travel to Miami to face the rival Dolphins in a game between 5-4 teams that could very well decide which team continues their pursuit of the playoffs and which team finds themselves in a world of trouble 10 games into the 2014-15 NFL season. The Bills dominated the Dolphins back in week 2 when they beat them 29-10 in Buffalo.

Both the Bills and the Dolphins are coming off tough loses last Sunday. The Bills blew a 13-3 lead to the Chiefs, and the Dolphins lost in the final seconds in Detroit to the Lions. Both teams now find themselves in a must win situation if they do indeed have any playoff aspirations this season. For the Bills it will be Kyle Orton’s first start of his career against the Dolphins, and Ryan Tannehill’s fifth game against the Bills. Tannehill is 1-4 in five games against the Bills, and has lost his last 3 against Buffalo.

The key to the game could very well be which team protects their quarterback more. The Bills offensive line looked much better last week than it has all season long. The Bills were able to establish the running game and protect Kyle Orton very well. That will be key going forward. The Dolphins, however, lost their starting left tackle for the season with an injury, and have had trouble protecting Ryan Tannehill, who has been sacked 10 times in his last 3 games. That news does not bode well for the Dolphins, who could be in for a long day when they face the Bills defensive line which sacked Alex Smith 8 times last week.

This game could very well have a “playoff like” atmosphere in that it is a prime time game, and both teams are fighting to stay in the playoff race. The loser could find themselves in trouble while the winner will find themselves right back in the thick of it. Additionally, the Patriots are traveling on the road to face a very tough Indianapolis team and the winner of this game could find themselves a game behind them in second place, with one more head to head game with the Patriots remaining for both the  Bills and Dolphins. It’s the middle of November, it’s a divisional game, and playoff positioning is beginning to take place. The stakes couldn’t possibly be higher for the Bills and the Dolphins. Which Bills team will we see and will they rise to the occasion? Let’s take a look at few keys to victory for the Bills.

1) Don’t turn the ball over. It’s simple and it sounds so cliche’, but it’s 100% accurate. Last week the two fumbles cost the Bills the game, it’s as simple as that. If Bryce Brown holds onto the Ball it’s a touchdown. If Leodis McKelvin holds onto the punt, the Bills possibly drive down the field and score and put the game away. The Bills cannot afford to have such foolish turnovers on Thursday night because they are killers. The Bills need to win the turnover battle, and they will win the game.

2) Pressure Ryan Tannehill. The Bills have beaten Ryan Tannehill in 3 consecutive games mostly due in part to the Bills pressuring him. The Bills defensive line has made a living out of beating Ryan Tannehill into submission. The Bills have sacked Tannehill 13 times in the last 3 games they have played. When you read that statistic it’s not hard to figure out why Tannehill is 0-3 in his last 3 starts against Buffalo.

3) Get Sammy Watkins involved early. I know he was a bit hampered by a groin injury last week, but he was mostly silent last week, particularly in the first half of the game. The Bills and Kyle Orton need to get Sammy involved early and often on Thursday night. If Sammy has a big game than the Bills will win. We’ve seen it multiple times already this season. In week 2 Sammy Watkins had a huge game against the Dolphins. A similar performance would likely lead to another Bills win.

4) Get the running game going. The running game showed signs of life last week against the Chiefs. Anthony Dixon, Bryce Brown, and Fred Jackson combined to go for over 100 yards on the ground. Fred Jackson will likely not be at 100% again, so look for Brown and Dixon to get quite a bit of work. Last week Brown was able to do some damage in the screen game with Orton due in part to the success of the run game. Hopefully we see more of the same on Thursday. Bryce Brown (as long as he holds onto the football) can do some damage if given the opportunity and the offensive line can block for him.

5) Score first. If the Bills can score early they can put the heat on the Dolphins right away and take the crowd out of it. The crowd will be pumped up early on and if the Bills can score early they will take the crowd out of it a bit. Then Jim Schwartz can let the defense pin their ears back and chase Ryan Tannehill all over the field.

This is a huge game for the Bills. It would have been even bigger if they had won last week because with the Jets on tap they could have had the opportunity to improve to 8-3 next week. Regardless, if the Bills can manage to win tomorrow and win next week, they will be at 7-4 and right back in the playoff hunt. The games and the path to the playoffs is laid out for the Bills but they need to take advantage of the schedule and win the games they are supposed to win. Divisional games go a long way in determining if you make the playoffs or not. The Bills MUST win this game on Thursday.

With that being said, I fully expect the Bills to come out and play well. They dominated the Chiefs last Sunday but due to their own foolish mistakes and poor coaching they literally allowed the Chiefs to walk away with the win. The Bills, according to everything I have read, are quite angry about that and are looking to take out that frustration on the Dolphins. Good, they should be mad because they should have won that game.

Tomorrow I would look for the Bills to show the Dolphins that they are the better team, and once again let the league and media know that they are not going away and are going to be in the playoff hunt until the very end. I expect a big game from Sammy Watkins and I expect the Bills defense to once again create hell on earth for Ryan Tannehill.

My prediction:

Buffalo Bills 24 Miami Dolphins 10.