The Dolphins return home to Miami Sunday with an 0-3 record and a new starting quarterback. But this is also the first game of the season in which the Dolphins are not playing against a team that reached the playoffs last season. It's always fun when it's time to play against divisional rivals and this week's game begins a run of four divisional opponents in five games.
With that said, here are my three keys matchups for week four:
Lee Evans/Terrell Owens vs Will Allen/Sean Smith
Last game was really the first game that saw the Dolphins give up big plays to the opposing team's receivers. Vincent Jackson really hurt the Dolphins last week, catching 5 passes for 120 yards - mostly against veteran Will Allen. And let's be honest, Allen hasn't played very well this year. We all expected more from our supposed number one corner this year.
Malcom Floyd even made a big play last week as well, catching a 47 yard pass despite solid coverage from rookie corner Sean Smith. But Smith has been very good this year. He helped limit Reggie Wayne to just three receptions for 37 yards back in week two. And last week, he help shut out Chris Chambers from making any receptions against his former team. So far in 2009, it actually seems like teams are trying to stay away from throwing in Smith's direction, instead targeting Will Allen more often.
But heading to Miami on Sunday will be the best receiving duo that the Dolphins have faced so far in 2009. Terrell Owens and Lee Evans are a very dangerous tandem on the outside for Buffalo's offense - even if this season's stats don't show it. The two have only been targeted on 30 of Trent Edwards' 91 pass attempts and neither player even has over 100 yards receiving on the year. But that doesn't make the duo any less dangerous.
Terrell Owens leads the NFL in touchdown receptions since 2000 with 110 and Lee Evans has 693 career receiving yards against the Dolphins - his most against any team. And it's only a matter of time until those two get going this season. The Dolphins have got to make sure that this week isn't the week where Owens and Evans perform up to their abilities.
Dolphins offensive line vs Bills defensive line
Last week the Dolphins continued their dominance on the ground, running for 149 yards against the Chargers. For the season, the Dolphins have the third ranked rushing offense in the NFL - averaging 161 yards per game on the ground.
On the flip side, the Bills surrendered 222 yards on the ground to the Saints last week. And running the ball will be key for the Dolphins this week as Chad Henne makes his first career start.
Equally important will be Miami's ability to protect Henne when he drops back to pass. The Bills aren't exactly a great pass-rushing team. But the Dolphins offensive line hasn't been spectacular at protecting their quarterback this year, either. The seven sacks the Dolphins have surrendered is the 8th most in the league.
If the Dolphins want to move the ball on Sunday, they have got to win the battle in the trenches.
Ted Ginn vs Bills defensive backs
Like it or not, Ted Ginn is still the only explosive wide receiver the Dolphins have on their roster. And prior to his drop of the potential game-winning touchdown against the Colts in week two, Ginn was putting together a very solid second game of the season, catching 11 passes for 108 yards. But that drop seems to have started a downward spiral for Teddy.
Last week against the Chargers, Ginn was shut out from any catches - and even had two drops on back-to-back passes from Chad Henne. But Ginn still leads all Dolphins players in targets, having been thrown 27 of Miami's 94 pass attempts.
On Sunday, Ginn will go up against a depleted secondary. Buffalo's top corner, Leodis McKelvin, and starting free safety, Donte Whitner, will both miss the game due to injuries. That means that there's no excuse for Ginn to do yet another disappearing act on gameday. It's time for Ginn to start stepping up.