It's been days now since the Dolphins knocked off the Panthers to get back to .500 but it feels like it's been much longer. But on Sunday, the Dolphins will finally get back on the field and head up to Buffalo to take on the division rival Bills. With the holiday approaching on Thursday, now is probably a good time to start looking ahead to Sunday's game.
So let's focus on three of the most important matchups:
Terrell Owens/Lee Evans vs Sean Smith/Vontae Davis
Sure, the Bills have obvious quarterback problems. But no matter who is under center, receivers like Terrell Owens and Lee Evans are always dangerous. Last week against Jacksonville, in fact, Owens had his best game as a member of the Bills - catching 9 balls for 197 yards and a touchdown. That 197 yard receiving performance was actually the second highest total for Owens since 2000. So don't sleep on him.
Back in week four, the Dolphins did a solid job on Owens and Evans - holding each to just 60 yards receiving. Of course, at that time, the Dolphins did still have Will Allen. And Allen was thrown at three times while covering either Evans or Owens, intercepting two of those passes with the third falling incomplete.
But Vontae Davis and Sean Smith didn't play badly themselves. Smith was thrown at 6 times while covering either Evans or Owens and he allowed 2 receptions for 39 yards. Davis wasn't as effective, allowing 2 completions to Evans for 60 yards on just two targets.
On Sunday, both of the rookies have got to play well and limit the number of big plays either of those two receivers - Buffalo's two biggest play-makers - make during the game.
Miami's interior offensive line/Lousaka Polite vs Paul Posluszny
While Buffalo's rush defense is pretty bad - 31st in the NFL allowing 165 yards per game on the ground - the Bills did manage to limit Maurice Jones-Drew last week to just 66 yards and just 2.6 yards per carry. How did they pull that off? From what I saw of the game, middle linebacker Paul Posluszny was just all over the place making plays - finishing the day with 11 solo tackles (his highest total of the season). And he now looks like he's back in game shape after missing about a month earlier this season due to injury (including the first meeting between these two teams).
Posluszny - when he's healthy - is a beast in the middle of Buffalo's defense. He does a great job recognizing plays and getting to the football. He isn't the fastest or the biggest guy around, but he has a nose for the football (a la Zach Thomas). And since returning from injury, Posluszny has looked like the budding star he is.
The Dolphins will obviously look to pound the rock against this bad rush defense. But to be effective, the Dolphins interior linemen - whether it's Jake Grove or Joe Berger at center - have got to do a better job than the Jaguars did last week at getting Posluszny blocked off. He does only measure in at 238 pounds. And we know that Miami's offensive line is big and nasty. They have to make sure they get through Buffalo's defensive line and get to the second level.
Of course, it's not only the linemen's jobs to do this. Fullback Lousaka Polite - a budding star at the fullback position, if you ask me - also will be asked at times to find #51 and get a hat on him. We've all seen just how tremendous of a run blocker Polite has become and he's coming off what was probably his best game as a Dolphin last week in Carolina. Hopefully we see the "Lousaka Monster" knock a few heads on Sunday - preferably Paul Posluszny. He's a difference maker in Buffalo's defense when he's on the field.
Miami's pass rush vs Buffalo's offensive line
Describing Buffalo's offensive line as bad would be an understatement. They have struggled all season long - including back in week 4 against the Dolphins when Miami sacked Trent Edwards six times. If you remember - and I'm sure you do - that game was Cameron Wake's coming out party, picking up 2.5 sacks. Jason Taylor also had 2.5 sacks. The Dolphins also pressured Edwards on at least 6 or 7 more drop backs.
We've also seen the Dolphins' pass rush really step up the past two games - tallying four sacks in each of their last two. It'll be interesting to see how the snaps get divided between all of Miami's pass-rushing outside linebackers (Joey Porter, Jason Taylor, Cameron Wake, Charlie Anderson). Whoever is out there, though, I anticipate the Dolphins putting consistent pressure on Ryan Fitzpatrick all game long.