For week two of the NFL season, the Miami Dolphins will face their division rivals, the Buffalo Bills, on Sunday at 1 p.m. at Hard Rock Stadium.
Last week the Fins escaped with a win at Foxborough when they beat the Patriots 17-16. Some fans and national media felt the team didn’t show enough to make them favorites against the 0-1 Bills.
Buffalo is coming off a loss to the Steelers in week one after looking anemic on offense. The Dolphins’ defense had holes but created two takeaways that were the difference in that game.
Sunday is significant for both teams. The Bills aim not to start the year by losing two straight, while the Dolphins look to extend their lead in the AFC East. Below are things to watch for.
How the Dolphins defensive line performs against the Bills:
The Fins D-line took a hit earlier in the week when starting defensive tackle Raekwon Davis was put on the injured reserve list. Brian Flores, the Dolphins head coach, has not said if he is out for the year but has been placed on the IR list, which means a minimum of three weeks out.
Veteran defensive tackle John Jenkins is on pace to start for the injured Davis. Jenkins does not provide the same explosion off the line as Davis, which may be an issue for the rest of the Dolphins’ defense.
Defensive line pressure will be key with an elite quarterback like Buffalo’s Josh Allen coming into town. In Allen’s two games versus the Dolphins last season, his stat line was something out of a video game: 639 yards with 7 TDs.
Allen is also light on his feet, which can be dangerous if no wide receiver is open. If Miami’s D-line can get to Allen, that could help the Dolphins win.
Will Fuller makes his Dolphins debut:
Will Fuller, the free-agent wide receiver the Dolphins, signed on a one-year contract, will make his debut on Sunday.
The Fins offense looked more vertical, meaning receivers ran deeper routes in the first game of the season than in any game last year. With Fuller joining the receiving unit, it is reasonable to expect even more downfield throws. The Fins Tua Tagovailoa looked more comfortable in this new rendition of the offensive system and receiver Jaylen Waddle looked as advertised — a player with playmaking ability.
Tagovailoa almost completed a long touchdown throw to speedster Albert Wilson, disrupted by great defensive play from Patriots cornerback Jalen Mills. While the play failed, it showed something this receiving corps did not have before. With Waddle, Wilson, and now Fuller, the top of the defense can be taken off for big plays.
Miami Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard celebrates an interception. Photo courtesy of Miami Dolphins.Dolphins secondary vs. Bills wide receivers:
Against New England, Miami showed the secondary remains very good this season.
Buffalo’s week-one offense seemed stagnant for most of the game. This is a one-week sample size, but there’s a possibility the Bills are not as explosive as last year.
After Stefon Diggs, the talent of Buffalo’s wide receivers has a drop-off. Cole Beasley, their second-best receiver, does not have elite speed or size. Fins defensive backs Byron Jones and Xavien Howard are still locking down receivers and should win the overall battle.
Howard and Jones allowed six catches during the Patriots game. Howard also managed to create the game-winning turnover by causing a fumble in the Pats’ red zone.
The x-factor in this equation is Allen’s legs. Even the best defensive backs cannot hold a receiver down forever. If Allen can find a way to extend plays, the Buffalo receivers are expected to get open.
The Miami Dolphins have an opportunity to put the league on notice with a win against the Buffalo Bills come Sunday. For them to accomplish this, many aspects of the game must go their way.
Buffalo is a well-coached all-around team and Allen has exceptional talent. Buffalo wins in Miami 30-17.
Miami has a young core of players and will improve. Winning games will come once they finish with growing pains.