I learned a lot about the Miami Dolphins this year. I learned Tua Tagovailoa could be a good NFL quarterback when healthy. The Dolphins have two of the most explosive receivers in the game. We know Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle were that, but I hadn’t seen it on the field together; it’s the best combination since the Mark’s brothers. I also learned the offensive coaching staff could coach the offensive lineup and make them a respectable unit. However, the biggest thing I learned this year was the Dolphins have closed the gap on the Buffalo Bills. 

I know people will say the Bills won 4 games more than the Dolphins, and that’s a true statement. However, going into the season, the Bills had beaten the Dolphins 7 straight times, and the results weren’t pretty at times. The Dolphins beat the Bills in week 3 to get the monkey off their back. Living up here in Central New York, I heard many Bills fans tell me, ” Oh, the Dolphins beat the Bills because we didn’t have Micah Hyde, Jordan Poyer, and others on defense. Oh, the Dolphins got lucky, and Tua shouldn’t have been playing in the 2nd half. That’s the Bills fans up here in Central New York. They make excuses when their team loses, whine like crazy, and crawl into the fetal position. It doesn’t matter who was on the field. You either win or you lose, period. 

Then the Dolphins went to Buffalo in December with cold temperatures and snow. People thought the Dolphins were going to get blown away because of the elements, right? Wrong. The Dolphins not only played a good competitive game but were leading in the 4th quarter, and the Bills needed a last-second field goal to beat us.  

The Dolphins then returned to Buffalo last Sunday with a rookie quarterback and a beat-up offensive line with three different starters or guys playing different positions. The Dolphins fell behind 17-0 and looked like they were going to get blown out, but the Dolphins crawled back into the game and took the lead in the 3rd quarter, 24-20. The Bills fans in their stadium were quiet and probably crapping their pants, wondering how the Dolphins could come into their stadium and have a chance to beat us. The Bills came back to win the game, but the Dolphins had the ball and a chance to send the game to overtime or win the game at the end.  

How can you not come away from this season saying the Dolphins have closed the gap on the Bills? All three games were decided by 3 points or less, and I can make the argument the Dolphins should have won all three games. That’s not something I could say the last three years because the games haven’t even been close. The games this year were the best I’ve seen from this rivalry ever, and that includes the Kelly and Marino days. Those games weren’t that close because the Bills were head and shoulders better. Now, they aren’t head and shoulders better. They still are the better team, but the Dolphins have closed the gap. 

Some will say, Ryan, it’s a rivalry, and it’s tough in the playoffs. Well, I’ve seen the Dolphins and Bills play in the playoffs four times prior to last Sunday, and when the Bills beat the Dolphins, they beat them badly and showed why they are the better team. Last year, the Bills played the New England Patriots in the wild card round and embarrassed them 56-10. The Bills aren’t feared as much by this team as people think they should. 

There are reasons why the Dolphins have closed the gap. The Dolphins have better players on offense and a structure to go with it. The Dolphins had no direction on offense or talent in the Brian Flores years. I blame the lack of direction on offense for the most part. The Dolphins also have talent on defense that can give Josh Allen problems. The problem with that is they haven’t shown it, and on Sunday, they pressured him and forced turnovers, which is something they haven’t shown against him. Allen tends to do too much and is reckless with the football. In all three games this year, the Dolphins forced a timely turnover against him. Having a good defensive front can give Allen problems, and the Dolphins have that. 

The Dolphins have more work to do this offseason to close the gap further, but this year was a starting point. Now they must figure out what else they need to do to get over the hump. If you didn’t see the Dolphins closed the gap on the Bills this year, then you are in denial, dilutional like all Bills fans, or not paying any attention. I think the Bills know this, and if the Dolphins can upgrade a few areas and be fortunate with their health, there could be a different outcome next time they meet in a playoff game like Sunday.