1. Bills have had Ryan Tannehill’s number.
Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill has gotten better in each of his first three NFL seasons. Buffalo Bills fans who have only watched Tannehill against their team, however, might be skeptical of that. 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 in just six games, a big reason why Tannehill is 2-4 in those games. Protecting Tannehill could be a big issue again Sunday. Left tackle Branden Albert, arguably the Dolphins’ best offensive linemen, left Miami’s Week Two loss to Jacksonville with a hamstring injury. His status is uncertain for the 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. Line problems not limited to the offense for Miami.
The Dolphins’ defensive line, surprisingly, has been a disappointment during their 1-1 start. Starters Ndamukong Suh, Earl Mitchell, Olivier Vernon and Cam Wake have combined for just nine tackles and no sacks in two games. 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 the first two weeks. 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. Miami coaches quickly refuted that report. True or not, thus far Suh hasn’t met the lofty expectations attached to his contract.
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 advanced statistics website Pro Football Focus, which grades every play of every NFL game. Taylor had an average time of 3.23 seconds to pass, according to PFF, 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 them off the field. The Dolphins have held the ball for an average of just 25:29 in their first two games, which ranks 28th in the league. While Miami has taken good care of the football, with just one turnover so far, the Dolphins have been faced with long fields (their average drive start of the 24.57-yard line is 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 Sunday.
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. Neither team is good enough to overcome that many mental mistakes.
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 – offensive line, special teams and pass defense chief among them. But their recent 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.
Bills 25, Dolphins 17