The Miami Dolphins (0-1) will face the Buffalo Bills (1-0) at Hard Rock Stadium this Sunday, September 20 at 1 p.m. in a game that will be a second straight AFC East matchup for both teams. While the Fins were pummeled by the New England Patriots (1-0), the Bills beat the New York Jets (0-1) 27-17 last Sunday in a game where they dominated defensively.
It was the Bills’ defense against the run that lifted them over the Jets. The Jets signed Le’Veon Bell to a 4-year, $52.5 million contract with $27 million guaranteed. That is a deal that the Jets can dump at the end of this season. Bell was held to six rushes for 14 yards and was put on the injured reserve with a hamstring issue.
Bell is known as a dominating back, and in his first year under Adam Gase, there was a power struggle in getting him the ball. However, Bell and the ageless Frank Gore were held to a combined 38 yards on 12 rushes by the Bills. That’s a horrific 3.16 yards per carry. This is eye-opening for a Dolphins team that had the inability to rush the football last season — QB Ryan Fitzpatrick was their leading rusher.
Speaking of Fitzpatrick, he needs to be Fitzmagic for the Dolphins to have a chance on Sunday. They at least partially lost 21-11 to the Patriots last week because of his three interceptions and the Dolphins’ inability to move the football. Though the loss wasn’t entirely his fault, he played badly and the team suffered for it.
Before we get to the run, let’s consider the Bills’ defensive backs and why Fitzpatrick’s play is so important. Jets QB Sam Darnold didn’t have a great game against the Bills, but had to do it all since they couldn’t run the ball. He threw 21/35 pass completions for 215 yards, one touchdown and one interception. The most important ingredient was the play of Jamison Crowder, who caught seven balls for 115 yards.
Crowder torched a Bills’ defensive back room that features stars Micah Hyde and Tre’Davious White. If the Dolphins can get separation for their wide receivers, it could be a great day for Fitz. And if Fitz doesn’t have a great day… it could lead to Tua Time against Jacksonville in week three.
The final stop on the journey needed for the Dolphins to come away with their first win of the season against the Bills is stopping the run. The Bills didn’t run particularly well last week, but Josh Allen had 57 yards. He was followed by 41 yards combined from young backs Devin Singletary and Zach Moss, both of whom have promising futures in the NFL if their games can be put together. The big key is stopping Allen’s rushing ability and containing him inside the pocket. Allen won’t get to target Stephon Diggs or John Brown if Byron Jones and Xavien Howard can keep up with their first-week performance, which gave the team the league’s number-one pass defense.
Stopping Allen outside the pocket is the key. He can make plays on the ground with his running ability and, as we know from experience, the Dolphins struggle to keep mobile QBs in the pocket. When they did it last week with Cam Newton, we saw the defense thrive; when he got out of the pocket, we saw them fail.
Stop the run. Don’t turn over the football. Win at the line of scrimmage. Prediction: Dolphins 14 – 24 Bills.
The game will be broadcast on CBS.