EAST RUTHERFORD NJ - DECEMBER 12: Ronnie Brown #23 of the Miami Dolphins rushes against the New York Jets at New Meadowlands Stadium on December 12 2010 in East Rutherford New Jersey. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
That means it's time to again bring in Brian Galliford from Buffalo Rumblings. Like we did back before week one, below are three keys I've identified for the Dolphins - along with Brian's thoughts on each key.
1. Remain committed to the run. We're all aware that the Dolphins have struggled to run the football - averaging just 3.7 yards per attempt and 106 yards per game. The offensive line just can't block and Miami's two backs just can't seem to get into a rhythm. The Bills, meanwhile, are the league's worst team defending the run - surrendering a whopping 165 yards per game. But in their three wins, the Bills have allowed just 105 yards per game on the ground. Running the football is probably the most important thing the Dolphins can do on Sunday - both to protect the football by keeping it out of Chad Henne's hands and to wear down Buffalo's defense.
Brian's Rebuttal: Yep, this one's obvious. This was Cleveland's undoing last week; Peyton Hillis fumbled a few times (Buffalo only recovered once), but once those fumbles happened, Brian Daboll put the game into Jake Delhomme's hands, which was, of course, a supremely idiotic thing to do. Hillis should have doubled his 21-carry count against Buffalo. The Bills did improve against the run as the game went on, but clearly, run defense is their critical weakness, and Miami - however they've struggled running the ball - needs to exploit that.
2. Get consistent pressure on Ryan Fitzpatrick. The Bills have an offensive line that tends to give up lots pf pressure. But Fitzpatrick is quicker getting rid of the ball than Trent Edwards was. Still, Cameron Wake is going to demand regular double teams to keep him in check. That's going to free up Koa Misi, those pass rushers along the defensive line, and the defensive backs that Mike Nolan sends fairly frequently. I'm expecting tight coverage on the outside receivers to prevent the quick throws and force Fitzpatrick to go through his progressions, giving Miami's pass-rushers time to apply pressure.
Brian's Rebuttal: This is easier said than done - not because Buffalo's offensive line play is great, by any means, but because Fitzpatrick gets the ball out of his hands really fast. He's making very quick decisions, and avoiding a lot of pressure that way. Even when he's pressured, he has the wheels to make something out of nothing with his legs. But as with any NFL offense, if you can get heat on the quarterback, you're going to win some and lose some - and Fitzpatrick is still quite turnover-prone. Buffalo has at least one turnover in 11 of 13 games this season.
3. Prevent Buffalo from making the big play. Though Lee Evans is out, the Bills have a couple of players who can still pick up chunks of yardage at a time. Receiver Steve Johnson has as many 20+ yard receptions (10) as Anquan Boldin, Larry Fitzgerald, and Santonio Holmes. C.J. Spiller, though, is the guy who worries me the most. He hasn't been as electrifying as I thought he'd be as a rookie, but is still a threat as a runner, receiver, and returner. I love how this Miami defense has been playing as of late. And if the Dolphins can force the Bills to methodically drive down the field rather than picking up chunks at a time, I'm not sure the Bills will be able to score many points on Sunday.
Brian's Rebuttal: All Miami will need to do to achieve this key is tackle well, because with Lee Evans out of the lineup, the Bills don't have a single player that can hurt a defense with the long ball. C.J. Spiller is the only home run threat on the roster at this point, and he's struggling mightily, getting only around seven touches per game. Of late, Buffalo's big plays have been of the catch-and-run variety; Fred Jackson's screen pass TD against Pittsburgh and Jonathan Stupar's short flat-turned-35-yard gain come to mind. If Miami tackles well, the Bills won't pose a serious threat to breaking off big chunks of yardage.