When the Bills run: A week after giving Devin Singletary a career-high 20 carries, the rookie got just eight against the Browns, inviting another week of second-guessing of offensive coordinator Brian Daboll. Until quarterback Josh Allen shows he can consistently beat teams through the air, the Bills should get used to seeing defenses stack the box to stop the run. That should not matter. Daboll and Co. still need to find a way to move the ball on the ground. There should be opportunities Sunday. The Dolphins’ run defense ranks 30th in the league, allowing an average of 146.1 yards per game. Bills fans might want to prepare themselves for more of Frank Gore and less of Singletary than they might like, though. That’s because the Dolphins’ run defense is vulnerable up the gut. On 74 runs toward the middle, according to the NFL’s official statistics, Miami has given up an average of 4.96 yards, a total that ranks 29th. Bills coach Sean McDermott has spoken of the need to establish the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. That will be the challenge for the Bills’ offensive line. EDGE: Bills.
When the Bills throw: Allen’s accuracy on deep balls, or lack thereof, was the dominant topic during the quarterback’s weekly press conference. Allen needs to hit on some of them to back off defenses. Part of that is not being afraid to throw it, which Allen seemed to reference Wednesday when he said the message from the coaching staff was to “play fearless.” “To have that green light and that confidence from him still, that means a lot,” Allen said of McDermott. “Not saying I'm going to go out there and be reckless, they’re two different terms for a reason. Just being very aware of what's going on, but not trying to be gun-shy about anything.” Miami’s makeshift secondary, which is without Pro Bowlers Xavier Howard and Reshad Jones, managed to come up with three interceptions last week in a 16-12 win against the Colts. EDGE: Even.
When the Dolphins run: The Dolphins traded away Kenyan Drake before the deadline, then had Mark Walton get suspended. That leaves them with Kallen Ballage. He’s been, in a word, bad. Ballage is averaging a paltry 2.1 yards per carry, with 55 attempts producing just 113 yards. To be fair, some of that work has come near the goal line – he does have two rushing touchdowns – but it’s impossible to spin those numbers into anything other than a big disappointment. The Bills’ run defense has been a mess lately, but it couldn’t ask for a better way to get back on track than going to Miami. The only real threat on the ground for Miami is quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. He has rushed for a pair of 11-yard touchdowns on the season, the first of which came against the Bills in Week 7 and the second of which came last week against the Colts. EDGE: Bills.
When the Dolphins throw: Fitzpatrick is making believers out of the Dolphins. “He’s done a really good job. The guys, they feed off his energy,” coach Brian Flores said. “He’s been able to move the football. He’s made really tough plays for us – scrambling, getting out of the pocket, making throws, tucking it and taking it to the end zone. He’s been productive.” That’s led to Flores naming Fitzpatrick the starter “for the foreseeable future.” Fitzpatrick’s numbers are pedestrian. He’s completed 61.5% of his passes with an 8-to-8 touchdown-to-interception ratio. DeVante Parker has been Fitz’s favorite target, with 34 passes thrown his way over the past four games. That has produced 20 catches for 240 yards and two touchdowns. EDGE: Bills.
Special teams: The Bills have had a punting problem for most of 2019. Last Sunday, they added a kicking problem. Veteran Stephen Hauschka missed a pair of field goals against the Browns. That, of course, was crucial in a three-point game. On the plus side, punter Corey Bojorquez had his best game of the season, averaging nearly 49 net yards per punt, and placing three of his four attempts inside Cleveland’s 20-yard line. Return man Andre Roberts wasn’t able to get much going on kick returns against Cleveland, but did have a 22-yard punt return in the second half to give the offense good field position. Roberts might have a chance to break one against the Dolphins. Miami ranks 22nd in average punt return against and 31st in kick returns against. EDGE: Bills.
Coaching: A pair of wins has changed the perception of Brian Flores. Miami’s first-year head coach is now being praised for keeping his team’s competitive spirit high even after an 0-7 start. “Guys are starting to buy into Flores' vision, the team-first culture," Miami defensive lineman Christian Wilkins said. Where have we heard those words before? From McDermott, of course. The Bills’ process-oriented coach did not have a great showing in Week 10. McDermott did not look prepared for the end-of-game situation his team faced – which is inexcusable for a coach who stresses the importance of preparation. All of the pressure Sunday is squarely on the Bills. EDGE: Bills.
Prediction: Bills 23, Dolphins 17.