Top 3 Individual Matchups
Top 2 Bills Advantages
Good Advantage – Pass defense – Buffalo’s secondary has been getting more help up front in terms of a pass rush and it has led to a steadily improving pass defense. The Bills rank fourth in the league against the pass, and facing Miami’s anemic passing attack, Buffalo can concentrate more on slowing down the Dolphins ground game.
Best Advantage - Takeaway trend – The Bills are on a hot streak when it comes to taking the ball away forcing seven turnovers in their last two games and 11 in their last four. Chad Henne has thrown five interceptions in his last four games. Buffalo has been particularly good at forcing fumbles of late with seven in the last four games.
Bills Number 1 Must
Pass protection – Miami pass defense ranks sixth in the league because although their young corners are improving, their pass rush is fierce, led by Cameron Wake. Buffalo’s pre-snap protection calls have to be dead on and execution has to be just as good if the Bills offense is to put enough points on the board to post a road win.
Banged up O-line
Miami’s problems on offense this season can be clearly traced to their offensive line. Left tackle Jake Long has been playing with a bum shoulder and a leg injury for the better part of the last month. Right tackle Vernon Carey was just placed on injured reserve with a knee injury and the right guard spot has been a position in flux with rookie John Jerry winning and then losing the starting job to journeyman Pat McQuistan only to gain it back again.
As a result Miami’s normally productive run game has slipped to 20th in the league averaging just over 105 yards per game, and the Dolphins pass protection has not been what it used to be.
With their passing game struggling, one might think that Miami would make greater use of their Wildcat plays, but opposing defenses are wise to the Dolphins’ scheme. Prior to last week’s game against the Jets, Miami was averaging just three yards per play and 12 yards per game in the Wildcat.
In their last two outings they ran the Wildcat nine times for 19 yards in the loss to Cleveland and six times for 15 yards in the win over the Jets. With Ronnie Brown the primary ball handler opposing defenses are gearing up for the run, and though Brown threw once out of the formation last week it fell harmlessly incomplete.
Top 10 ‘D’
Miami’s defensive rankings are nothing short of impressive. Ranking fifth overall in total defense, the Dolphins are one of only three NFL clubs that rank in the top 10 in total defense, run defense (7th), pass defense (6th) and points allowed (8th). The others are the Jets, San Diego and the Giants.
The anchor of their run defense has been fourth-year nose tackle Paul Soliai. The former fourth-round pick has come into his own and effectively clogs up lanes to allow linebackers to make plays.
The Dolphins defense is also number one in red zone touchdown percentage allowed, permitting touchdowns once opponents reach their red zone just 35 percent of the time.
The Dolphins have seen steady improvement from young cornerbacks Sean Smith and Vontae Davis, but as a secondary there have been several missed takeaway opportunities. Miami’s staff currently has their defensive unit marked for 11 dropped interceptions, led by Smith who has four on the year.
It’s one of the main reasons why the Dolphins have the league’s third-lowest takeaway total in football with just 17 in 13 games. Only Denver (13) and Houston (14) have fewer takeaways this season than Miami.
With number two wideout Brian Hartline going on injured reserve after sustaining a finger injury that required surgery, Miami signed veteran receiver Kevin Curtis. An eight-year NFL veteran, Curtis was out of football last year as he battled testicular cancer. A former third-round pick of the St. Louis Rams (2003), Curtis has appeared in 79 career games with 36 starts. Curtis set career highs with the Eagles during the 2007 season with 77 receptions for 1,110 yards and eight touchdowns.
Quote of the Week
“Obviously we’re at the bottom right now, but in order to get out of that basement you’ve got to beat the teams in your division. We’ll see, starting with Miami, how we do. We think we’re a better team than we were at the beginning of the year and hopefully it’ll show up on Sunday.”
Stat of the Week
The Bills are 6-1 when
Milestones in reach
Ryan Fitzpatrick needs one touchdown pass for his 15th straight game with a scoring toss.
Fred Jackson needs 34 yards from scrimmage for his second straight season with 1,000 total yards.
Over the last four seasons Buffalo is 3-1 in their second meeting with Miami.