105.5 The Team – It’s Bills, Dolphins round two, this time from New Era Field in a Christmas Eve special. A lot has changed since these two teams first met in Week 7. Back then the Bills were riding a four game win streak and 4-2 on the season. Miami on the other hand was the exact opposite 2-4 and coming off what wound up being the first of six wins in a row, over Pittsburgh.
Now, Miami is 9-5 and very much alive in the wild card race, while Buffalo is 7-7, hanging on by a thread and reportedly set to fire their coach in a few short weeks. The Bills will also have DT Marcell Dareus, WR Sammy Watkins and RB LeSean McCoy all healthy for this second matchup between the division rivals, while the Dolphins are without quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Things are just a little different.
Here’s what the Bills must do to split the season series with Miami…
1) Run the football
The Bills have played each of the bottom three defenses in the league in terms of rushing yards per game allowed. They are San Francisco at 32nd, Cleveland at 31st and Miami at 30th. Against the first two of that trio, Buffalo amassed a grand total of 593 rushing yards. However, against the Dolphins the first time they met, just 67 yards on the ground. That’s it. 67 rushing yards against the third worst rushing defense in the NFL, for an offense that boasts a league best 163.6 yards per game. Now for what it’s worth running back LeSean McCoy was not at 100 percent in that meeting dealing with a hamstring injury, that limited him to all of eight carries for 11 yards. With Shady healthy this time around though, there is simply no excuse. Stopping the run is one of Miami’s most glaring deficiencies, so Buffalo needs to exploit it.
2) Stop the run and force Matt Moore to beat you
Yes, Matt Moore is coming off of a terrific performance against the Jets where he threw for four touchdowns for the first time in his career. But keep in mind it was against the Jets, a bottom third passing defense in terms of yards allowed per game, and isn’t easy to duplicate against Buffalo’s 8th ranked passing defense in the same category. In his 26 career starts, Moore has tossed more touchdowns than interceptions in just 14 of them. He carries a career completion percentage under 60 and has 37 touchdowns to 29 interceptions. That means before last weekend’s matchup with New York, he only had four more touchdowns than interceptions in his career. Moore is solid, but against a relentless Bills pass rush that ranks third overall for sacks this season, he’ll look like what he is, a backup. Buffalo needs to shut down the Dolphins run game and force Moore to be the guy who has to beat them.
Back in Week 7 a 67-yard TD pass from Taylor-to-Marquise Goodwin actually had the Bills out in front of the Dolphins 17-6 with just under six minutes left in the third quarter. Miami would soon close the gap thanks to Ajayi’s four-yard touchdown run, but the Bills still took a 17-14 lead into the game’s final stanza, an advantage they’d maintain until the 3:56 mark of the quarter. Another Dolphins touchdown at that point gave them a 21-17 lead, which Buffalo followed up with a swift three-and-out, then watched a 66-yard Kenny Stills touchdown reception pretty much put the game out of reach one series later. They’d add a touchdown afterward, but it was too little too late. That sequence off 22 unanswered points flipped the game on it’s head. The Bills offense went ice cold and the defense couldn’t stop anyone. The same thing happened in Oakland, Buffalo took their foot off the gas for a second and everything suddenly started to unravel. In order to beat the Dolphins this time around they need to finish. It’s cliché but it really can’t be overstated.
Buffalo gets a second look at this awful Miami run defense, and it’s hard to imagine they’ll struggle as badly as they did back in Week 7, especially considering that LeSean McCoy is perfectly healthy. Also, having Marcell Dareus back on the defensive line this time around should prevent Jay Ajayi from ripping through the Bills defense for 200 plus yards. Rex Ryan wants to prove that his guys haven’t thrown in the towel and has vowed that they’ll play a better game. Meanwhile, the players are still on a mission to save Ryan’s job, something that you’d have to think can only be done by winning out and finishing 9-7. That’s not to say the Dolphins don’t have something to play for. They’re trying to earn a postseason birth for the first time since 2007. Still, even after throwing four TDs against the Jets, Matt Moore doesn’t inspire me, and the Bills health is a huge factor. I like the Bills, and just because we deserve a little drama I’ll say on a late, Dan Carpenter field goal, 27-24.
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