The Miami Dolphins, coming off a tough victory on the road in Foxborough, are set to make their home debut against the Buffalo Bills in week two. Miami will face the Bills in week two for the second straight season and are hoping for a different result. The Dolphins eked out a 17-16 victory over the New England Patriots, becoming the only team in the AFC East to win their season opener. The 17 points the Dolphins produced were the most by any team in the division as well. The Jets scored 14 against the Carolina Panthers, and the Bills scored 16 in their loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Miami Dolphins, who are in sole possession of first place in the AFC East for the first time in 1,075 days, have an enormous opportunity this weekend. Not only is this week’s game another divisional game, but a win could also pay huge dividends down the road for this Dolphins team. The Buffalo Bills are coming off their first regular-season loss since the “Hail Murray” in week 10 of last season and their first home loss since week 6. It is safe to say that Josh Allen and the rest of the Bills team will be determined and focused entering Hard Rock Stadium. Another obstacle in Miami’s way is history. The Dolphins have severely struggled against the Bills in recent memory. In 2016, Jay Ajayi rushed for 214 yards and 206 yards in two Dolphins victories over Buffalo. Since then, Miami is 1-7 vs. the Bills and losers of five straight by an average of 17 points per game.
The Dolphins’ roster, especially offensively, looks completely different from the last time these two teams met. In week 17 last year, the active wide receivers were Lynn Bowden Jr., Devante Parker, Isaiah Ford, and Malcolm Perry. Fast forward to this season, and only Devante Parker remains on the active roster. Parker will join Jaylen Waddle, Albert Wilson, and Will Fuller (who is back after serving a one-game suspension) on Miami’s revamped wide receiver core. The return of Will Fuller could take the offense to new heights. Fuller is known for his speed and explosive plays, but what doesn’t appear on the stat sheet could make his presence felt even more. Defenders have no choice but to focus their attention to where ever Will Fuller is on the field. Leaving Fuller one-on-one with a cornerback on the outside could lead to trouble for opposing defenses. Couple that with Jaylen Waddle lined up on the other side and Albert Wilson inside, the Dolphins have speed everywhere you look. Fuller’s ability to occupy two defenders opens up running lanes and the middle of the field for players like Waddle, Wilson, and Gesicki to feast. In both matchups with the Bills last season, Mike Gesicki had 10 or more targets in each of those games. Gesicki had 0 catches in week one and was only on the field for 21 of the Dolphins 52 plays. Furthermore, only two Dolphins wide receivers caught passes in week one: Jaylen Waddle and Devante Parker. I expect Gesicki and the Dolphins to succeed in the passing game against Buffalo in week two. Miami’s offense seems to be at its best when it goes up-tempo. The RPO slant completions to Devante Parker were unstoppable against New England and is one of Tua’s strongest traits. More RPO’s, more up-tempo, and incorporating Myles Gaskin more in the offense will benefit Miami moving forward.
Transitioning to the defensive side of the ball, the Dolphins defense continued to do what they do best: produce turnovers. The Miami Dolphins have now forced a turnover in 23 consecutive games after forcing two fumbles against the Patriots. The next closest are the Cowboys, Titans, and Washington Football Team with 8. Miami will be tested on Sunday when Josh Allen comes to town. Allen, who broke out in 2020 as one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, only threw 10 interceptions last season to go along with 37 touchdown passes. The Dolphins have had no answer for Allen in the 6 games he has played against the team. Buffalo’s QB is 5-1, has a passer rating of 114.3, and has thrown for 1,552 yards with 17 touchdowns and only 4 interceptions. He is completing 64% of his passes and has only been sacked 7 times in 6 games. If the Dolphins defense has an Achilles heel, it is pressuring the quarterback. Although the Patriots elected to run the ball in week one and Mac Jones was getting the ball out of his hands quickly, the Dolphins did not produce a single sack. This has to change if Miami wants to start the season 2-0. Josh Allen was sacked 3 times against the Pittsburgh Steelers, and his offensive line did not hold up as well as many expected, even when the Steelers only blitzed Allen on 2 of his 54 dropbacks (3.7%). The main difference between Mac Jones and Josh Allen is their running ability. Allen is truly a dual-threat quarterback and can make defenses pay with his legs. In 2020, Allen carried the ball 102 times for 421 yards and 8 rushing touchdowns. He is slippery in the pocket and can avoid sacks while keeping his eyes downfield. Miami’s “bend but don’t break” defense must hold up again against the Bills. The New England Patriots possessed the ball for 36 minutes (Miami only 23 mins), had three drives of 14 plays, converted 11 of 14 third downs, had 134 more yards than Miami, and was only able to score 13 points on four red-zone trips. Forcing Buffalo into field goal attempts will allow Miami more opportunities to win.
Throughout the week, the Dolphins’ players have been asked if last season’s finale to Buffalo (56-26 loss to miss playoffs) still haunts them. Most have replied that they are focused on the upcoming matchup but do remember the feeling after the loss. The Dolphins could avenge that feeling and take control of the division on Sunday. With a win, Miami would be 2-0 overall, 2-0 in both the division and the conference, and more importantly, it would drop Buffalo to 0-2. It would still be early in the season, but a full two-game lead in the AFC East would give this Miami team confidence moving forward. Brian Flores and his coaching staff need to put together one of their best game plans and prepare the players. Flores preaches preparation every day, and it is up to the players to produce at a high level. Tua and the offense must play complementary football and score when given a chance, and the defense must keep Josh Allen at bay and force field goals in the red zone like they did last week. The stakes are high for week two, and Sunday will really show what Brian Flores and his team are made of.