Here are my five takes on the Buffalo Bills’ game against the Miami Dolphins on Sunday at Hard Rock Stadium:
1. The Dolphins are a bad team, and the Bills can’t allow them to gain an ounce of false confidence.
The front-running Miami crowd can be easily taken out of this game, especially with a substantial number of Bills fans expected to be in attendance. Well before the fourth quarter, Hard Rock Stadium has a good chance of sounding like New Era Field.
The Bills need to establish their presence immediately with a quick-hitting big play, such as the one they hit through the air that led to a fast touchdown and set the tone for their 41-10 pounding of the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium.
The Dolphins’ 5-6 record is misleading. They’re extremely vulnerable in all phases. As many holes as the Bills have, the Dolphins easily are a less talented club from top to bottom.
2. Josh Allen must pick up where he left off in Sunday’s victory against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
The rookie quarterback had a solid game, largely because he stayed within himself. He didn’t have impressive passing numbers, but showed good efficiency. He generally threw when he was supposed to, rather than forcing too many passes into the tight coverage, a signature of the Jaguars’ defense.
Although Allen set a Bills record with 99 rushing yards, he was not foolish about his running. For the most part, he followed the game plan of Brian Daboll that included designed runs to take advantage of the man-to-man coverage that had several defenders with their backs to Allen much of the time.
The Dolphins play a different defensive style, but often leave themselves open to being exploited for big plays. Look for Allen to use his strong arm and the speed of receivers Robert Foster and Isaiah McKenzie to stretch Miami’s secondary.
3. LeSean McCoy should be more of a factor in the running game.
The Dolphins have their issues defending the run, so this should be an excellent opportunity for the Bills to get McCoy rolling like he did against the Jets on Nov. 11. Rookie Wyatt Teller continues to show that inserting him at left guard was a smart move that enhanced the overall power and toughness of the offensive line.
With right guard John Miller sitting out with an oblique injury, the Bills will look to Jeremiah Sirles or Vlad Ducasse as replacements, possibly alternating them. Either way, the Bills should be able to provide McCoy and Chris Ivory enough daylight to reach the second level with a steady diet of long runs, and keep the chains moving in short-yardage situations.
A strong ground attack also figures to provide Allen additional confidence in his first road start since he suffered an elbow injury at Houston on Oct. 14.
4. Ryan Tannehill doesn’t give the Dolphins as large an upgrade at quarterback as one might think.
The team struggled mightily when Brock Osweiler filled in while Tannehill sat with a shoulder injury. However, Tannehill’s limited skills, which should lead the Dolphins to part ways with him after the season, likely aren't going to bring all that much more success.
He continues to struggle to read coverages, and the Bills’ secondary should be able to consistently confuse him with disguises. Injuries to Miami’s receiving corps also likely will force Tannehill to hold the ball longer than he prefers because targets will struggle to get open.
5. Jordan Phillips, the defensive tackle the Bills acquired after the Dolphins waived him on Oct. 2, had this game circled the moment Buffalo claimed him on Oct. 3.
He remains extremely bitter over the fact the Dolphins didn’t think enough of his skills — or work ethic — to give him more playing time than he received at the end of his time in Miami.
Buffalo has been a fresh start for Phillips, who has played well enough to receive a bit more playing time than rookie tackle Harrison Phillips. As long as Jordan is able to keep his emotions under control well enough to avoid drawing major penalties, his desire to make a statement with his play should rub off on fellow defenders.