Week 2 is here and the Buffalo Bills vs Miami Dolphins is on tap! The Bills travel to Sunny Florida and look to get back on track with a W at Hardrock Stadium in Miami.
Can Josh Allen and the Bills right the ship and head home with an even record? Or will the ‘Fins continue their success and go 2-0 vs the AFC East this week?
Before we dig into what I expect to see this week let’s revisit what happened last week with each team.
Buffalo Bills Offence
The Bills took the field last week excited to open the season against Pittsburgh at home in front of a packed house at HighMark in Buffalo. Unfortunately, it appeared that the pressure to maintain his MVP caliber play from a year ago was too much to handle for Josh Allen this week.
After starting the game with a 75-yard kick-off return from Isaiah McKenzie, the Bills looked poised to take an early 7-0 lead on the visitors right away, but the Steelers held the Bills to a chip shot field goal from 2nd-year kicker Tyler Bass. After that, things started to go south for Buffalo.
Allen was bad, really bad…. The overthrows to Manny Sanders and Stefon Diggs, along with bad decision-making under pressure were reminiscent of 2019 Josh Allen. The offensive line did not protect him very well this week. However, aside from a couple of nice touch passes including the end zone strike to Gabe Davis, Josh was inaccurate (58.8 completion rate) and not up to the challenge the Steelers defence presented.
Overall, the Bills offence was anemic and had no real flow throughout the game. A lot of the stifled plays can be attributed to a very good Pittsburgh defence led by TJ Watt and Cam Heyward, but this loss falls squarely on Josh Allen and the offensive line for Buffalo.
- Passing: 30-51/270/1
- Rushing: 9/44/0
- Interceptions: 0
- Fumble: 2
- Receiving: 9/69/0
- Receiving: 2/40/1
- Receiving: 4/52/0
- Rushing: 11/72/0
Miami Dolphins Offence
To be quite honest, this was not a very good outing for Tua and the offensive weapons surrounding him. The young signal-caller was ok in this game and did enough to march his team downfield, but it was very uninspiring.
It was evident from the start of the game that the Dolphins wanted to ease Tua into the game and give him a bit of confidence with high percentage throws over the middle and quick outs to his running backs.
The Dolphins marched the ball down the field effectively and capped off the drive with a three-yard scamper into the endzone from Tua Tagovailoa.
Overall, the 2nd year QB showed flashes of accurate passing with nice touch passes to Parker and rookie Wide Receiver Jaylen Waddle, but he also made a few mistakes in the game that could have cost them dearly if not for the defence holding down the fort.
Two bad decisions made by Tua were particularly gruesome. The first came on a 3rd and 5 with 6:20 left in the 2nd quarter. NE got pressure on the QB and forced him to scramble to his right. Tua threw a very ill-advised pass to Waddle down the right side of the field past Waddle into the hands of Devin McCourty. Luckily for Tua, he couldn’t hold onto the ball and it fell harmlessly to the ground.
The second and more costly came with 8:17 left in the 4th quarter. Tagovailoa was once again under pressure from Matt Judon and uncorked a pass that should have been thrown out of bounds. Instead, he threw it downfield inbounds right into the hands of a salivating Jonathan Jones for the interception.
- Passing: 16-27/202/1
- Rushing: 4/1/1
- Interceptions: 1
- Rushing: 9/49/0
- Receiving: 5/27/0
- Receiving: 4/81/0
- Receiving: 4/61/1
Buffalo Bills Defence
The Bills’ defence looked good this game and held the Steelers’ offence largely in check for the majority of the game. Going into halftime the Bills held Pittsburgh off the scoreboard with a 10-0 lead.
The major takeaway from this game was the run stopping from the Bills’ defensive line play; something they sorely lacked last season. Rookie RB Najee Harris, was featured early and often this game but was held to a very respectable 45 yards on the ground.
The second half was not so much a case of “the wheels falling off” for Buffalos’ D, but more so the complete lack of offence and sustained drives from the other side of the ball. In the 3rd quarter the Bills would turn the ball over on downs twice, but the Buffalo defence held the Steelers to two field goals.
The killer for Buffalo last week was penalties, Levi Wallace had a couple of key penalties on the defensive side of the ball which allowed the Steelers to continue their drive.
- Passing yards allowed: 188
- Rushing yards allowed: 75
- Sacks: 2
- Interceptions: 0
- Forced Fumbles: 1
- Touchdowns allowed: 1
- Field Goals allowed: 3
Miami Dolphins Defence
There is no doubt that the Dolphins’ defence is the reason Miami is 1-0 entering week 2. They played primarily zone defence mixing in blitzes trying to pressure and confuse the Patriots rookie QB Mac Jones. (If I am being completely honest, I was more impressed with Mac Jones play this game than I was with anything Miami did on either side of the ball.)
The ‘Fins defence made the most important play of the ball game when it counted. With 3:35 left in the 4th quarter, Xavien Howard stripped the ball out of the hands of Damien Harris inside the Miami 10 yard line and smothered it to give the Dolphins the ball back and end the game.
Miami deserved to win this game, and the Dolphins’ defence is for real, and came up with the big play when they needed it most.
- Passing yards allowed: 268
- Rushing yards allowed: 125
- Sacks: 1
- Forced Fumbles: 3
- Touchdowns allowed: 1
- Field Goals allowed: 3
Buffalo Bills vs Miami Dolphins This Week
Buffalo Bills Key to Victory
- Josh Allen needs to return to form and look like the 2020 MVP candidate. It was clearly evident that the pressure got to him last week, but when you have done something consistently well over the course of a season, there is no reason to think he has forgotten how to be great. Look for Josh to bump up his completion percentage and get back on track this week against a talented but beatable Miami Secondary.
- The rushing attack needs to get on track and force Miami to respect something other than the passing game. Zack Moss was a surprise healthy scratch last week and in his absence, Devin Singletary led the rushing attack. He did most of his work in the second half. Against a very good Pittsburgh defensive front, Singletary looked better than he did last season. He must build on that momentum.
- Look for Stefon Diggs and Cole Beasley to get open early on the first drive and give Josh Allen the confidence back that he showed all last season. A few early and easy completions should allow the Bills to feel good about their offence once again and put last week’s debacle to bed.
- In order for any of the offensive schemes to work, the O-line must be better at protecting their QB. There were way too many Black and Gold defenders in Allen’s face last week, but the Dolphins are not the Steelers. Look for a solid outing from the Bills front line.
- Something to keep an eye on is Gabe Davis injured ankle. If he doesn’t play look for an uptick in Manny Sanders target share.
- Keep the ball in the centre of the field. The Dolphins are going to try to keep the Bills honest with a decent but not great rushing attack, but will mostly try to get the ball to the perimeter to the likes of Parker, Waddle, and company. Buffalo has the secondary to shut down big plays and will have to focus on the shifty and speedy rookie WR Jaylen Waddle to keep him from burning them deep.
- Pass rush, pass rush, pass rush! The Patriots’ defensive line broke through the Dolphins line last week and put lots of pressure on Tua, which forced bad decisions and incomplete passes. Look for Matt Milano to really pressure Miami’s QB and get in his face early and often this week.
- Contain the QB and make him beat you with his arm. Tua Tagovailoa may not be Lamar Jackson or Kyler Murray, but he is very quick and mobile when scrambling out of the pocket. If the Bills’ defensive core is going to do one thing well this week, it must be to keep Tua in the pocket and allow the pass rushers a chance to pressure him right away.
Miami Dolphins Key to Victory
- Tua must be better. Last week was very uninspiring on the part of Tua Tagovailoa. He had moments where he showed off the accuracy and touch that the Dolphins saw in his college days, but he must be better this week. He needs to make better decisions when under pressure and find ways to prolong plays for his receivers to get open.
- WR’s need to help out their Quarterback. DeVante Parker and Jaylen Waddle will have to find openings in the Bills’ defensive secondary and give Tua a chance to get the ball out of his hands before the pass rush disrupts the play.
- Gesicki cannot be ignored. Last week we barely noticed TE Mike Gesicki at all. At 6’6, almost 250 pounds, the Dolphins must scheme more passes to him over the middle and in the red zone. He is a monster that can beat most defenders in a one-on-one fight for the ball. He is good enough to be a first down monster and playmaker, Miami just needs to realize that and make him a feature, not a spectator.
- The running game needs to kick into gear. The mish-mash of running backs occupying Miami’s backfield will have to find a way to perform better and secure first downs, Miami only had 6 runs over 3 yards on 1st down last week. This team is not a high-powered offence with tons of weapons capable of overcoming repeated 2nd and long situations.
- Contain Diggs, stuff Beasley. The strength of the Dolphins ball club is clearly the defensive core. Howard, Jones, and McCourty will have to continue to be a dominant presence in the secondary and find ways to contain Stefon Diggs, one of the best wide receivers in the NFL. If they can do that, then the second task will be containing Cole Beasley and keep him from converting passes into first downs.
- Pass rush needs to get in Allen’s face. Josh Allen has all the arm ever needed to get the ball to his receivers anywhere on the field. If he is allowed to sit back in the pocket for three or four seconds like last season, the Dolphins are going to be in serious trouble. Last week Pittsburgh got past the Bills front line and pressured Josh into throwing the ball before he was ready. Ogbah and company have the ability to make any QB in the NFL uncomfortable and feel pressured. Can they do it to Josh Allen?
- Contain Josh Allen to the pocket. Last year, Allen was one of the best QBs in football at scrambling for first downs and red zone TD’s. It is no secret that letting a 6’5, 240 pound mobile QB loose in the secondary is about as ideal as leaving a fox in a hen house overnight, but it is much easier said than done. Miami must not let him get to the second level of the defence either up the middle or on the outside.
- Passing: 32-45/352/2 and 1 interception,
- Rushing: 8/32/1
- Receiving: 11/108/1
- Receiving: 9/70/0
- Receiving: 5/70/1
- Rushing: 13/85/0
- Receiving: 6/22/0
- Passing: 21-33/215/1
- Rushing: 8/20/0
- Receiving: 6/85/0
- Receiving: 5/65/0
- Receiving: 3/18/1
- Rushing: 8/45/1
- Receiving: 4/15/0
This game is going to be decided by which Josh Allen walks onto the field in Florida this week. If Josh Allen returns to 2020 form, then the Bills should have a clear path to victory and even their record at 1-1. If not then Miami has a real shot at going 2-0 to start the season and (more importantly) 2-0 in the division.
I am going to chalk last week’s Buffalo Bills performance up to pressure felt by the QB to be great in front of a packed house at home. I think Allen and the Bills will right the ship this week and defeat the Dolphins in a hard-fought battle.
Final Score: Bills win 24-17.
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