1. Bills have had Tannehill’s number. Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill, pictured, has improved in each of his first three NFL seasons. Among teams he’s faced more than once in his career, the Bills have held Tannehill to his lowest completion percentage (56.5), quarterback rating (75.2) and yards per attempt (5.14). They’ve also sacked him 23 times, a big reason why Tannehill is 2-4 in those games. Protecting Tannehill could be a big issue again. Left tackle Branden Albert left Miami’s Week Two loss to Jacksonville with a hamstring injury. He’s listed as doubtful for this game. Additionally, Dolphins guards Dallas Thomas and Jamil Douglas rank 72nd and 74th, respectively, out of 84 graded guards in the NFL, according to the analytics website Pro Football Focus.
2. Miami line problems not limited to offense. The Dolphins’ defensive line, surprisingly, has been a disappointment. Starters Ndamukong Suh, Earl Mitchell, Olivier Vernon and Cameron Wake have combined for just nine tackles and no sacks. Miami is one of only five teams with one or fewer sacks on the season. Both Vernon (ankle) and Wake (hamstring) have seen their playing time limited by an injury. Suh, meanwhile, is already starting to feel the pressure that comes with a $114 million contract, as the Miami Herald reported after last week’s loss that he was “freelancing,” or playing outside the defensive scheme, at times against the Jaguars.
3. Taylor has to make better decisions. Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor was sacked eight times in Week Two against New England. Three of those eight sacks were directly attributed to Taylor, according to PFF. Taylor had an average time of 3.23 seconds to pass, which led the league in Week Two. While it’s true the offensive line has to protect him better, Taylor has to help his guys up front by being more decisive with where he wants to go with the ball and getting rid of it.
4. Control the clock. The best way to keep the defense fresh in the heat and humidity of South Florida is to keep it off the field. The Dolphins have held the ball for an average of just 25:29 in their first two games, which ranks 28th. While Miami has taken good care of the football, with just one turnover, the Dolphins have been faced with long fields (average drive start of the 24.57-yard line, 25th in the NFL according to Football Outsiders). The Bills’ offense, meanwhile, is going three-and-out 29 percent of the time. That percentage needs to go down in order to control the clock.
5. Who can be more disciplined? The Bills lead the NFL with 25 penalties called against them. Coach Rex Ryan correctly said cleaning that up needs to start with his behavior on the sideline. Ryan also needs to show he’s serious about disciplining players who don’t get the message. If that means benching a player or two, particularly if they take a personal foul, he needs to do it. The Dolphins, too, have their own issues with penalties, having taken 13 last week against the Jaguars.
Outlook: Ryan predicted last week was rock bottom for the Bills. We’ll take the coach at his word on that – for now. The Bills have several areas they need to shore up, but their success against Tannehill provides hope they can get things turned around Sunday. If they do, a 2-1 start has to be viewed as a success.
Prediction: Bills 25, Dolphins 17.