Top 3 Individual Matchups
1 – Mario Williams vs. Ju'Wuan James – Miami's rookie right tackle did an admirable job in his first NFL start. He didn't allow a sack in the preseason and did not in Week 1. Williams clearly has the Dolphins attention after he put the Bills in position to win the first meeting last season.
2 – Seantrel Henderson vs. Cameron Wake – Buffalo's rookie right tackle has a similar task to his Miami counterpart. Henderson will square off against the AFC Defensive Player of the Week. Wake is coming off a two-sack, two-forced fumble performance against the New England Patriots last week.
3 – Sammy Watkins vs. Cortland Finnegan – The Bills' top draft choice will be working against a wily veteran in Finnegan. The Miami corner is in his ninth season and has a physical edge to his game that can at times spill over into frustration and over aggression.
Bills Top 2 Advantages
Good advantage – Pass rush – Miami has a respectable pass rush in their own right, but the home field advantage gives Buffalo's D-line, which had three players finish last season with 10 sacks or more the edge.
Best advantage – Run game – Buffalo's ground game will be their ticket to a victory Sunday. Now a three-headed monster with Fred Jackson, C.J. Spiller and Boobie Dixon, the Bills need to roll up positive gains to stay in manageable third down and distance on offense.
Bills Number 1 Must
Win first downs – The Bills were effective on offense against Chicago last week because 60 percent of their first downs went for four yards or more. That will have to continue that Sunday so offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett has more of the playbook to work with on second and third down. It'll also keep Miami's pass rush from pinning their ears back with fewer true passing situations.
Miami's new offensive coordinator Bill Lazor came to the Dolphins from Chip Kelly's staff in Philadelphia. He's brought a fair number of Kelly's concepts to Miami including an up tempo pace. Lazor also unveiled a run-heavy attack with packaged plays much like Kelly does with the Eagles. It kept the Dolphins in favorable third down and distance situations. Nine of Miami's 13 third downs were third-and-four or less Sunday and they converted 54 percent of their third downs (7-for-13).
Miami's run game features Lamar Miller and free agent signee Knowshon Moreno. Miller is listed on the depth chart as the starter, but the coaches maintain it is a platoon situation. Both backs got work last week with Miller carrying 11 times and making four receptions while Moreno carried 24 times in the win over New England. The Dolphins used a fair share of spread formations to take defenders out of the box and then ran the ball giving their backs more room to run.
After a subpar performance by their offensive line in 2013 the Dolphins set to make wholesale changes. Miami's big offseason moves included the signing of OT Branden Albert and G Shelley Smith in free agency. That was followed by the selection of Tennessee OT Ju'Wuan James in round one of the draft. The new front five performed pretty well in their debut performance last Sunday controlling the line of scrimmage in the second half of their Week 1 victory.
The only knock by their own coaches was how much pressure and how many hits they allowed on QB Ryan Tannehill. The unit only gave up one sack in their Week 1 game, but their offensive staff did not like seeing their quarterback forced to hurry some of his throws.
Linebackers laid up
Miami has a slew of injuries coming out of their Week 1 win. The position hardest hit is at linebacker. Starting OLB Dannell Ellerbe was placed on injured reserve early in the week. Rookie LB Jordan Tripp is also out this week with a chest injury. MLB Koa Misi had his foot in a cast and unlikely to play as well.
Starting OLB Phillip Wheeler did not play last week with a thumb injury and is working his way back, and his replacement in the lineup LB Chris McCain is dealing with an illness this week and a hip injury.
Miami signed free agent Kelvin Sheppard early in the week to help fill the void and he might start at middle linebacker. Backups Jelani Jenkins and Jason Trusnik may also need to play a significant number of snaps.
The Dolphins are trying some new things on defense as well. Miami altered their fronts through the course of the game and it had nothing to do with the loss of a couple of starting linebackers to injury early in the game.
Miami employed a five-man front at times with just two linebackers behind them. The 50 front was relatively successful with head coach Joe Philbin saying it's an alignment they had been working on. Whether they choose to use it more because they're shorthanded at linebacker remains to be seen on Sunday.
Cutting off short routes
Miami's defense had a great game plan for New England's quick strike underneath passing attack. They routinely shut off the quick slants and underneath crossers by dropping eight players into coverage and only rushing three. Clogging the passing lanes kept Tom Brady from delivering the ball quickly and in rhythm. He was sacked four times and completed fewer than 52 percent of his passes. New England converted just five of their 17 third downs in the game (29%).
It's doubtful that the Dolphins' approach will be the same this week, but in third and medium situations Miami could employ a similar tactic.
Quote of the week
"I want to play today. It's been such a good week news-wise for the Bills, for the Bills alumni with Jim Kelly, the Pegulas and going on the road last week and winning a football game and coming back home to play. I've been asked what's my favorite game to play in and my answer is always the home opener. To play in front of our fans, there's not extra incentive, but there's more emotion involved so I'm excited about it. We need to prepare the way we did all week last week. If we can win on first and second down we can get them in third down behind the eight ball our fans will win the game for us because they might blow the upper deck off this place."
--DT Kyle Williams
Stat of the Week
In his four career games against the Bills, Miami QB Ryan Tannehill has completed 48 percent of his passes (56-117) averaging less than five yards an attempt (4.68) with six touchdowns and four interceptions. He's also been sacked 14 times and a passer rating of 64.3.
Milestones in reach
Scott Chandler needs one receiving touchdown to become the fourth Bills tight end with 15 or more in his career.
C.J. Spiller needs eight catches for 150 in his career.
Mario Williams needs 2.5 sacks to reach 80 in his NFL career.
The Bills have a two-game winning streak against the Dolphins. The last time one of the teams took three straight from the other was in 2008-2009 when Miami won three in row with two of the three played in Miami.