Top 3 Individual Matchups
1 – Terrence McGee vs. Brandon Marshall –It's anticipated that McGee will be assigned to follow Marshall all over the field on Sunday, which the Bills have done in the past with receivers of similar caliber. In his last two games against the Bills (with Denver) Marshall had a combined 15 catches for 181 yards and a touchdown, but McGee has had success when given such assignments in the past.
2 – Aaron Maybin vs. Jake Long –Maybin may not be a starter on the depth chart, but he's going to see a lot of the field in the team's nickel package and in other passing situations. He'll put his speed rush up against the two-time Pro Bowl left tackle and see if he can deliver in putting heat on Chad Henne to throw off the rhythm of the Dolphins passing game.
3 – Demetrius Bell vs. Cameron Wake –The left tackle, following a long but successful offseason knee rehabilitation, will take on the two-time CFL Defensive Player of the Year (2007-08) in Cameron Wake. The expectations are high on Wake as he is expected to be the linchpin of the team's pass rush after the offseason departures of Joey Porter and Jason Taylor. Wake will be on the move a lot as he'll line up on whichever side of Buffalo's formation is the weak side.
Top 2 Bills Advantages
Good Advantage –Rushing attack – The Bills three-pronged rushing attack with C.J. Spiller, Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch offers Buffalo with versatile game-breaking options. Facing a defensive front that no longer has veteran anchor Jason Ferguson at nose tackle and a pair of rookies in the front seven, Buffalo should have some measure of success on the ground.
Best Advantage –Pass defense – Buffalo returns their entire secondary from a season ago, which was responsible for 22 of the team's 28 interceptions a season ago. Despite the scheme change defensively and Miami's addition of Marshall, Buffalo's 2nd ranked pass defense of a year ago is expected to lock things down and prevent the big play.
Bills Number 1 Must
Run game –The Bills' three backs are expected to be the engine of the Buffalo's offense. As long as their ground game can keep the Bills' offense in manageable down and distance situations come third down, Buffalo should be able to hold onto the football long enough to finish drives with points, and in turn keep Miami's own productive rushing attack off the field.
After a relatively successful first season as a starter in 2009, observers in Miami are asking if Chad Henne is really ready to build on last year after a less than productive preseason. Henne completed just over 55 percent of his passes and averaged less than six yards an attempt and a passer rating of 77.2. He's also yet to develop clear chemistry with top wideout Brandon Marshall by most accounts.
Compare it to Trent Edwards' figures in which he averaged over nine yards per attempt and completed better than 68 percent of his passes and had a 102.7 rating and you understand the concern in south Florida.
Shuffling the deckLast season it was the Bills that were starting five players in new positions on their offensive line. While the Dolphins line shuffling isn't quite as drastic, there are three new players on the interior. At left guard will be Richie Incognito, who finished the 2009 campaign with the Bills. In the pivot is Joe Berger, a six-year vet, who won a competition with former starter Jake Grove. Grove was subsequently cut on Thursday by the club. And at right guard is rookie third-round pick John Jerry.
Getting a good surge off the line has been somewhat of an issue for the Dolphins in the preseason, which is a concern knowing the running game is the bread and butter of Miami's offense. Starter Ronnie Brown averaged just 2.2 yards per carry in the preseason and as a team they managed just 3.3 yards per carry.
Add in the fact that LT Jake Long is hobbled by a knee injury and the Dolphins front five could be looking at some inconsistent early season play quickly.
Converted defensive endsThere has been a lot of talk about the challenge Buffalo's former defensive ends have faced this offseason in their transition to outside linebacker in the Bills' new 3-4 system. The players Miami is counting on at outside linebacker are still in the process of making that move as well.
Former defensive ends Cameron Wake, Ikaika Alama-Francis and rookie Koa Misi are all still adjusting to not playing with their hand on the ground. Wake, much like fellow Penn State alum Aaron Maybin is trying to improve his consistency against the run while also adding pass rush moves to counter his speed rush.
Setting the edge in the run game has been their biggest issue and with C.J. Spiller on the other side of the line of scrimmage they'll be vulnerable if he's used as a receiver out of the backfield.
Secondary issuesPerhaps the area of greatest concern for the Dolphins is their secondary. Second-year man Sean Smith was benched with veteran Jason Allen replacing him in the lineup at right cornerback. The team also put veteran Will Allen on injured reserve with multiple reports indicating that Allen could be healthy in less than a month.
Miami also traded away reliable possession receiver Greg Camarillo to Minnesota in exchange for a very capable slot cornerback Bennie Sapp, but who is also new to the defensive scheme.
Add in the fact that their starting free safety is unproven second-year man Chris Clemons and the eight plays surrendered in the pass game of 25 yards or more and you begin to wonder if the Dolphins will be able to tighten up in time for the opener.
Dolphins add a returnerAfter working out former Pro Bowl returner Clifton Smith Tuesday, the Dolphins signed him on Wednesday. Smith went to the Pro Bowl in 2008 when he averaged 29.1 yards a kick return. He's expected to play on Sunday.
The Bills held Smith in check last season when they faced him in a Week 2 win over Tampa Bay. Smith had four kick returns for 108 yards with a long of 30, and he had one punt return for five yards.
Quote of the Week"I just try to go out and just play. I try to bring excitement to the game and play the way it's supposed to be played. That'll never change. I just try to go out and help my team win. That just comes through preparation. I think if you're prepared and know what you're doing you can go out there and play full speed. That's the type of mindset I try to take into the game."
--RB C.J. Spiller
Stat of the WeekLee Evans in 12 career games against the Dolphins has 39 receptions for 793 yards (20.3 avg) and eight touchdowns helping the Bills to an 8-4 mark over that span.
Milestones in reachLee Evans needs one 100-plus yard receiving game to tie Frank Lewis for the fourth-most in team history (14).
Fred Jacksonis 122 receiving yards away from 1,000 in his career.
Roscoe Parrishneeds one punt return for a touchdown for the fourth of his career and sole possession of first place in franchise history.
Final noteChan Gailey is 2-0 as an NFL head coach on Kickoff Weekend.