Quarterback evaluation on both sides of the field Sunday, at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami. The Bills get another start from Josh Allen; another chance to bring the rookie along in his development. The Dolphins get Ryan Tannehill back for his 2nd straight start; another opportunity to decide whether the 7-year veteran has the answers to their long-term quarterback questions.
But there’s more than just quarterback play to follow. Here’s a look ahead at Sunday’s Bills visit to Miami and some of the top issues to follow in that game, and around the NFL:
1. JOSH ON THE RUN AGAIN?
Josh Allen ran it 11-times for 99-yards last week. He’s run for four touchdowns already this year, a Bills franchise record for a rookie QB. So, does he continue to run in Miami on Sunday? Does it dial it back a little to avoid injury? Do the Dolphins have a plan, a spy linebacker perhaps, to keep Allen in check on the ground?
Allen is ready to keep running with the ball if that’s what the Bills need.
“Whatever helps us get a W,” he said this week on One Bills Live. “Obviously it’s about being smart and protecting myself but whenever my number is called to do anything to help the team, that’s what I’m going to do.”
If the Dolphins decide to assign one of their defenders to keep an eye on Allen, and prevent him from escaping the pocket, the rookie QB says that could work to Buffalo’s advantage.
“If they do that and decide not to really go split safety and keep someone on me, hopefully that's just going to open up someone on the passing game. You really can't guard everything as a defense,” he said. “You’re going to have weak points. Jacksonville decided to match 3 with the mike and leave the field open a little bit and I just found out there’s times to take advantage of it.”.
2. SIDELINE TIME WAS A BENEFIT FOR ALLEN
When Allen got hurt and was forced out of the lineup in mid-October, some observers called it a “blessing in disguise.”
Turns out they may have been right. Allen’s four weeks watching and learning worked to his advantage, according to former NFL quarterback Dan Orlovsky, who’s now an NFL analyst for ESPN.
“He had a couple of weeks to sit and maybe take a breath really after a whirlwind of a year,” Orlovsky told One Bills Live. “When you play and then you sit, and you can learn some things a little bit differently and do some self-reflection and whatnot.”
In the Bills win over Jacksonville, Orlovsky saw signs that Allen is developing a more analytical approach to playing the position.
“I just liked what I saw from him when it comes to getting to the line and going, ‘OK, what's really the problem with this coverage or where’s the opportunity with this coverage.’ And he was decisive with the football.”
3. FIRST SCORE A KEY FOR BUFFALO
The Bills have four wins this season, and they scored first in each one of them. In fact, Buffalo is 4-0 when they score first this season. Three other teams (New England, Washington, and the Rams) are also unbeaten when they score first.
On the other side, when the Bills allow the first score of a game, they are winless this year; 0-7. Pretty simple motivation to put the first points up on the board.
4. TANNEHILL A FAST STARTER ALSO
Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill has been a first half standout so far this season, and a second half dud.
Last Sunday against the Colts, Tannehill threw for 179-yards and two touchdowns in the first half. In the second half, he threw for just 25-yards and no touchdowns.
This season, Tannehill has a 72-percent completion rate in the first half, with 7 touchdowns and no interceptions. Different story in the second half: 59-percent completions, 3 touchdowns and 5 interceptions.
He’s had 9 pass completions of 20-yards or more in the first half of his six starts this season; only 3 in the second half.
Throwback Thursday: Bills vs. Dolphins Through the Years
The Bills are getting set to face AFC East division opponent the Miami Dolphins in Week 13 of the 2018 season. In anticipation of the matchup, we take a look at the teams through the years.
5. TAKEAWAYS=WINS FOR BILLS VS. DOLPHINS
It’s not like going 20-0 over a decade, but the Bills have had the better of the Dolphins in the last five years. Buffalo has won seven and lost three to Miami since 2013 and it’s mostly because of takeaways.
The Bills have 18-takeaways in their last ten games against the ‘Fins, Miami has just two. Buffalo has scored 39-points off those takeaways; the Dolphins have scored 0 points off theirs.
That plus-16 turnover margin for the Bills against Miami is tied for the biggest margin of any team matchup in the league in the last five years. The Bills have gone eight straight games against Miami without a turnover, the longest streak by any team against any opponent in the league since 1950.
6. HAUSCHKA APPROACHING FRANCHISE RECORD
There’s two more weeks of fan voting for the 2019 Pro Bowl and Bills K Stephen Hauschka would seem to be a strong candidate.
He hasn’t missed a field goal since his first attempt; a 52-yarder on Kickoff Sunday in Baltimore. Since then, Hauschka has made 16 in a row. He’s three made field goals away from establishing a new Bills record with 19 consecutive field goals; breaking Rian Lindell’s 11-year old record.
And when you include extra points (33-yard kicks), Hauschka has made 61 consecutive kicks inside 50-yards, the second longest active streak in the NFL.
7. SUPER BOWL MEMORIES FROM A FORMER BILL
Former Bills WR Don Beebe was in the news last week when he was named the new Head Football Coach at Aurora University in Northern Illinois. And Beebe is accustomed to seeing his name in the news after his nine- year playing career in the NFL.
He played in five Super Bowls during that time, three with the Bills and two with Green Bay. Beebe lost the first three with Buffalo, but finally won a Super Bowl in 1997 with the Packers.
Twenty-one years later, in an appearance on One Bills Live, Beebe was asked what was going through his mind on the field, when the Packers won Super Bowl XXXI.
“When that moment happens and I'm standing on the field as a Green Bay Packer, and I’m looking at the clock, it's the last ten seconds clicking off and I know I’m going to be a winner.
I'm walking over to my wife and kids and giving them the ball and I'm thinking to myself, ‘Why me?’”
“I mean, I really had feelings of guilt--why not Steve (Steve Tasker)? Why not Marv? Why not Ralph? Why not the fans? Why me? I wish all you guys could have experienced that with me. What we had in Buffalo was family. And I wish all my family could have been there on that day.”