The Miami Dolphins team that many expected to arrive at the beginning of the season has finally shown up. After dropping the first seven games of the year, three of which were by a field goal or less, the Dolphins have pulled off two impressive victories in a row against the Kansas City Chiefs and Washington Redskins. Both the offense and defense have impressed the past two weeks, with the Dolphins holding their opponents to a combined twelve points and QB Matt Moore taking home AFC Offensive Player of the Week honors for Week 9. This week, the Dolphins host division foe Buffalo Bills in a matchup that, two weeks ago, many commentators would have predicted to be a landslide victory for the Bills.
But things have a tendency of changing quickly in the NFL, where the Bills have lost two straight after their hot start. An early season upset of AFC power New England Patriots and thrilling comeback win against the Oakland Raiders had people penciling Buffalo in for a playoff spot. But spotty quarterback play and vulnerable-looking defense have dropped the Bills to a 5-4 record and are currently on the outside looking in on the playoff picture.
Will the Bills get back on track against the Dolphins, or will the Dolphins continue their march back the respectability against a Bills team in turmoil? A look at the matchups will help answer that question.
Dolphins Pass Offense vs. Bills Pass Defense
The Bills pass defense has become awfully generous at a time where the Dolphins are finding a groove in their passing game. S George Wilson (neck) sat out practice on Wednesday and looks to be questionable for Sunday’s game. The Dolphins should be able to capitalize against the Bills if Wilson, who leads the Bills in tackles and interceptions, is either limited or forced to sit.
Dolphins Run Offense vs. Bills Run Defense
RB Reggie Bush is on a roll and will look to continue his impressive running streak against the Bills, who ranked 23rd in the NFL in rushing yards per game with 125.4. The Dolphins are middle-of-the-pack in the NFL, ranking 15th in rushing yards per game with 114.2. I’m going with the numbers on this one.
Bills Pass Offense vs. Dolphins Pass Defense
The Dolphins have been disappointing against the pass this year, ranking 25th in the NFL and allowing 256.3 yards per game. They looked impressive last week against the Washington Redskins, but Ryan Fitzpatrick is no Rex Grossman, even with his recent struggles. WR Steve Johnson may have to sit this one out, but even if he does Buffalo has enough weapons at all positions to give the Dolphins fits.
Bills Run Offense vs. Dolphins Run Defense
LB Karlos Dansby will get the opportunity to prove he is the best in the game against RB Fred Jackson. Jackson has averaged 4.8 yards per carry in his career against the Dolphins, who rank 6th in the NFL allowing only 3.8 yards per carry. But Jackson has performed like an absolute monster this season and will continue to do so.
Bills P Brian Moorman is averaging 49.7 yards per punt this year. I’m not sure I can even see that far in front of me. Dolphins P Brandon Fields is no slouch either, posting an average of 48.6 yards per punt. Bills K Dave Rayner, who replaces an injured Rian Lindell, hasn’t had a full time job in the NFL since 2006 and sports a career field goal percentage of 72.4. Dolphins K Dan Carpenter continues be accurate, making 81.8 percent of his field goal attempts. Bill KR Brad Smith averages 17.9 yards per return and has the ability to make people miss. Dolphins KR Clyde Gates continues to return kickoffs from deep in his own end zone.
Bill coach Chan Gailey and his staff get the most out of their players. Their starting quarterback is a 7th round pick, as is their top receiver. Their second-leading receiver was undrafted. So was their starting running back, who doubles as the team’s third-leading receiver. Dolphins coach Tony Sparano and his staff has not been able to maximize their players’ talents in the same way, as evinced by Reggie Bush being regularly run between the tackles. Also, field goals are not the end-all-be-all of the game.
The Bills have more to lose in this game than the Dolphins. While the Dolphins are busy jockeying for position to draft the next franchise quarterback, the Bills are still in the playoff race. The Bills offense will get back on track after the Dolphins won their obligatory home game last week.
Prediction: Bills 27, Dolphins 20