Weekend Look Ahead

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6 things to watch for in Bills vs. Dolphins | Week 8

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1. Home is where the wins are

With the bye week and back-to-back road games in Weeks 5 and 6 of the NFL season, the Bills have not played a home game in almost a month. Returning home to face the Miami Dolphins on Halloween will mark the first game at Highmark Stadium since Oct. 3rd.

Buffalo has won their last two at home and nine of their past 11 in Orchard Park.

Meanwhile their opponent this week, the Dolphins, have struggled mightily on the road. They've lost each of their last three road games and are 9-24 in their past 33 away games.

"It's a big game being back home," said Bills RB Zack Moss in an appearance on 'One Bills Live' this week. "Everything that we want goes through our stadium. Being a big division game and being able to come back home in front of our fans will be a big advantage for us. We haven't heard the fans in almost a month so it'll be a fun game on Sunday."

Buffalo was 7-1 at home last season.

2. Heavy throwers

Last season the Bills led the league in first down passing percentage. This season heading into Week 8 it's the Miami Dolphins. Almost 62 percent of the time the Dolphins are throwing on first down (61.7%). The Bills rank fourth in the league in first down pass percentage at just a shade over 59 percent (59.3%).

The two division rivals however, are doing it for two very different reasons. Miami is throwing on first down more than any other team in football because they're having a tough time running the football this season. Ranked 23rd in average yards per carry (3.9) and 31st in rushing yards per game (80.1), the Dolphins are using a short passing game to keep the offense on schedule in terms of down and distance.

"I think Tua is feeling a little bit more comfortable within that offense and within that scheme," said Jordan Poyer. "He's getting through his reads, getting the ball out quick. So it's going to be a lot of ball out quick and we've got to be good with our open field tackling, getting hands up, and I said they've got some talented players on their football team. So we're going to have some challenges that we have to face."

Even though Dolphins RB Myles Gaskin is averaging a very solid 4.5 yards per carry, a lot of those yards have been hard earned after initial contact. That combined with the fact that Miami has had to play catch up in a good number of their games explains why the Dolphins have thrown the ball more often than any other team in the league.

Miami is passing more than 67 percent of the time overall.

Buffalo has drifted back more to the mean this season as they're throwing just over 57 percent of the time through their first seven games (57.3%).

3. Tua's go-to guys

Coming back from the rib injury he suffered in Week 2 against the Bills, Tua Tagovailoa has performed better than he did earlier in the season. In his two starts since returning from injury Tagovailoa has completed almost 75 percent of his passes with a passer rating over 100 (102.7).

The two main targets he has relied upon in the passing game have been rookie slot receiver and former college teammate Jaylen Waddle and TE Mike Gesicki.

Waddle leads the team with 44 receptions and is tied for the team lead in receiving touchdowns with three. In the two games since Tagovailoa returned to the lineup Waddle has 17 catches for 153 yards and two touchdowns.

"They're going to get the ball in his hands so he can make some stuff happen," said Micah Hyde of Waddle. "So we have to gang tackle. He's definitely been lighting it up the last couple of weeks and definitely since we played them. So we have to be ready for him."

Gesicki stands second on the team in receptions with 37 and has threatened opponents down the seam a lot through the Dolphins first seven games and is a player that Tagovailoa trusts.

"He reminds me of Jimmy Graham," said ESPN NFL analyst Field Yates in an appearance on 'One Bills Live.' "An exceptional athlete. What Mike Gesicki does really well is run and he has an enormous catch radius. He's actually a former high-level former volleyball player. He's a good player after the catch. If the Bills are keying in on one guy I really believe it's Mike Gesicki."

4. Dolphins 'D' down in the dumps

It was supposed to be the unit that Miami rested its playoff hopes on this season. A solid defense was supposed to support a second-year quarterback finding his way on offense and keep the Dolphins in games with a chance to win at the end.

"Their struggles have a lot to do with the defense being a gigantic disappointment," said Outkick.com senior NFL columnist Armando Salguero, who appeared on 'One Bills Live' this week. "You have to understand that last year Miami had a defense that was fifth in the league in points allowed. They felt they had something to build on with that. The only problem is this year they're 29th in points allowed. Plus the last couple of weeks the team has carried leads into the final two minutes in the game and it's been on the defense to close it out. Against Jacksonville they gave up a game-winning field goal drive and did the same against Atlanta with 2:27 left to play. So when the anchor of your team has collapsed under itself it's one of those things they haven't been able to recover from."

Through seven games Miami's defense is the worst in the league. Last in total defense, 30th against the pass, 31st in third down defense and 31st in points allowed.

One of the main reasons is their aggressive defensive philosophy has led to them giving up 57 explosive plays this season according to Sharp Football Analysis. That leads the league with 37 explosives coming on pass plays and another 22 on the ground.

The Dolphins insist on playing man coverage defensively, but might not have the punch needed in their pass rush to support it. Through their first seven games, Miami ranks 30th in sack percentage.

And while Miami ranks in the middle of the pack in red zone defense (14th) they've allowed the most red zone possessions to their opponents in the league, tied with Washington with a total of 29. Not surprisingly, all those chances have resulted in them surrendering the second-most red zone touchdowns thus far this season (17).

Nevertheless the Bills have a lot of respect for a defense that isn't afraid to get in their opponents' face.

"They've got some good corners," said Emmanuel Sanders. "I like the fact that they get up in your face and they press and that's what they do and that's what they stick to. So we've definitely got to match it you know? I was watching film and I was like, 'Alright, let me get my body right to battle.' Because every time somebody is in your face for four quarters of football, that's when you know fatigue can happen that's when you can get mentally drained. So I already started the process of kind of locking in during the week in terms of what I'm going to have to do in order to win my matchup."

5. What Josh Allen's 50th start could bring

Josh Allen has proven to be a thorn in the Miami Dolphins side since he entered the league with wins in each of his last six meetings with the division rival. As he makes his 50th career start, Allen is the first player in NFL history to reach 80 touchdown passes and 25 rushing touchdowns in his first 50 games.

This season Allen has 17 touchdowns (15 passing, two rushing) against only three interceptions through his first six games of the season. He had at least four total touchdowns in two of those games.

With four total touchdowns against Miami on Sunday, Allen, who will make his 50th career start (51st appearance), would have the third-most total touchdowns (passing and rushing combined) by a quarterback in his first 50 career starts in NFL history.

He currently has 109 passing and rushing touchdowns. So four on Sunday would move him past Daryle Lamonica (111), Deshaun Watson (112) and Johnny Unitas (112).

Almost 25 percent of Allen's career touchdown passes (19) have come at the hands of the Dolphins. Nine of those touchdown passes against the Dolphins have come in the last three games alone. His 19 touchdown passes against Miami are the most passing TDs by any QB vs. a single opponent since 2018. With two or more passing touchdowns in Week 8, Allen will become the first QB in NFL history with multiple TD passes in each of his first 8 starts against a single opponent.

But Allen doesn't just assume his success against Miami will automatically continue.

"I don't think it really boils down to one thing," said Allen of their success against Miami. "Sometimes you just find ways to move the ball against a team. I really think that's it. I don't think there's a secret formula or a special drink that we're drinking before the game. It's just we're going out there and executing and we understand that it's a division game.

"Coach McDermott preaches you've got to win your division games. I don't know if we approach a little differently or not, but again, this week's different though. Every week is different and it doesn't matter how many times we've played them before, how many times we've won, going into this game we're in the mindset of 0-0 and playing against a good team. They're only a few plays away from being 4-3 and being in contention for the division as well."

6. Half the story

Back in Week 2, the Bills carried a 14-0 lead into halftime against the Dolphins down in Miami and cruised in the second half to a 35-0 victory. It was part of Buffalo's current streak of 15 consecutive games in which they have gone into the locker room with the lead at halftime, an NFL record.

That streak also includes another previous victory over the Dolphins, the 2020 season finale won in Buffalo by a score of 56-26. In that game the Bills led by a score of 28-6 at halftime.

The Bills are 34-4 under coach McDermott when leading a game at the break.

Through the first seven weeks of the season, the Bills rank second in the league in first half point differential with a plus-67 figure. Only Arizona ranks higher (plus-68).

Miami meanwhile ranks 27th at minus-33.

Scroll to see photos of the Bills as they prepare for their Week 8 game against the Miami Dolphins. This photo gallery is presented by St. Bonaventure University.

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