I do always enjoy the "Dolphins/Bills weeks" each year. It's a terrific rivalry and it always seems to be unpredictable. But there's something about this particular meeting that doesn't sit right. And I think it's a combination of uneasiness over the fact of what is at stake for the Dolphins and the oddness of playing the Bills in Toronto.
Regardless, let's discuss my 4 questions for this week:
Can the Dolphins get back to stopping the run?
Remember back during the Dolphins' 4 game winning streak. What was one of the things the Fins were doing very well? They were stuffing the run consistently. And that's part of the reason why the Dolphins are ranked 11th in rush defense - allowing just 97 yards per game on the ground. But that's a very misleading figure.
Over the past 2 weeks, the Dolphins are surrendering 125 yards per game on the ground and letting opponents pick up 4.6 yards per carry. That's a big problem.
Back in week 8 against the Bills, a game the Dolphins won to kick-start their 4 game winning streak, the Dolphins didn't exactly do a good job against the run then, either. Marshawn Lynch and Fred Jackson combined to run for 102 yards against the Dolphins on just 23 carries (4.4 ypc). While I think Jason Ferguson's injury - the injury he suffered in the week prior to the Bills' game, hindered him in this game and played a part in Miami's inability to contain Buffalo's running attack, this defensive line as a whole was getting pushed back at the point of attack consistently.
This week, whether it's Trent Edwards or J.P. Losman under center, the Bills will likely look to establish a running game. It's going to be up to the Dolphins to force Buffalo to pass by shutting down Lynch and Jackson.
Can the Dolphins please contain Lee Evans?
In terms of most-hated players that the Dolphins play against, Lee Evans is definitely on my short list. I can't stand the guy - which is a compliment to him. I can't stand him because the Dolphins, for years now, haven't been able to contain him. Back when these two teams first met in week 8, Evans continued his stellar play against the Dolphins, catching 7 balls for 116 yards.
Now in 9 career games against the Dolphins, Evans has 32 catches for 670 yards and 8 touchdowns. His 20.9 yards per reception average is just ridiculous. And it seems like no Dolphins' regime has any idea how to keep Evans in check.
This has got to change.
Where's the pass rush?
Miami's ability to get pressure on the opposing quarterback has been one of the triggers to their success this year. But two weeks ago, the Dolphins were able to only get to Matt Cassel twice, a big reason why he had so much success. Most of the time, Cassel had all day to stand in the pocket and locate the open receiver, leading to his 400+ yard passing day. Then last week in St. Louis, the Dolphins were unable to get any pressure on Marc Bulger, failing to pick up any sacks despite the Rams having surrendered the 4th most sacks in the league entering that game.
Now the Dolphins will have to go against a Bills' offensive line that has surrendered 28 sacks - still a somewhat large figure, but not nearly as bad as St. Louis. You'll remember that back in week 8, Joey Porter's ability to apply pressure played a major role in Miami's win. He sacked Trent Edwards twice, including once in the endzone - forcing a fumble that resulted in a safety. But by now, Jason Peters has shaken the rust off from his prolonged holdout and his battle with Porter will be a critical match-up to watch.
But the Dolphins need to get pressure on the QB in other ways - not just from what Porter can generate. After Porter's team-high 14.5 sacks, nobody has more than 3.5 - which is a major problem. Without a legitimate pass-rushing threat opposite of Porter, teams can double-team him and chip him all game long.
So it's going to be up to the coaches to come up with new ways of generating pressure - whether it's with more corner blitzes from Will Allen or some safety blitzes from Yeremiah Bell.
Can Ted Ginn repeat his week 8 performance?
I'm sure you haven't forgotten that the last times these two teams met, Ted Ginn really had his NFL coming-out party against a banged-up Terrence McGee, catching 7 balls for 175 yards. Since then, Ginn has played better than he did prior to week 8, but hasn't matched the kind of production he provided against Buffalo. In the 5 games since, Ginn has 20 catches for 299 yards and a touchdown (as well as his rushing TD on that reverse play).
But now with Greg Camarillo sidelined, production from Teddy is more important than ever. Last week in the first game since Greg's injury, Ginn caught just 4 balls for 55 yards. That's not terrible. But he will need to really step up his game over the next 4 weeks if the Dolphins are going to accomplish "Mission 4W."
So that's what I got for this week's "burning, itching, and scratching" questions.