The Miami Dolphins will kickoff for the second time this season against the Buffalo Bills later this afternoon. Will the Dolphins be able to complete the season sweep and put themselves in position to claim their first playoff berth since 2008, or will the Bills even the season series and severely damage Miami’s postseason dreams?
Earlier this morning, SUTTON published his three key match-ups for the game. Now, we take a look at a few other things to watch for in the contest.
The Bills want revenge for a couple of reasons. The obvious one is the loss in Week 7, but the one that will be more dangerous will be players targeting Miami wide receiver Jarvis Landry. In the first game, Landry laid out Bills safety Aaron Williams as the Dolphins were trying to run a play to the offense’s left. Landry hit Williams high and it snapped his head back - never a good thing for a player with a history of neck injuries. Bills players have already come out and said they will be looking for Landry. This could get ugly early if there are cheap shots at Landry in “payback” for his hit on Williams.
J-Train warming up
In Week 7, Jay Ajayi rushed for 214 yards against the Bills. It was the second of two-straight 200-yard performances for the second-year running back. In a game that should be cold (upper 30s - but no snow), getting Ajayi warmed up and running through the Bills defense should be a key focus for Miami early in the game. The Bills are going to stack the box and force the Dolphins to throw it, but plowing Ajayi into the “strength” of the Buffalo defense could be exactly what plays into making Rex Ryan over-confident and then opens up the deep pass.
Matt Moore gets into rhythm
I do not think anyone, even the most “Bench Tannehill for Moore” advocate, would have predicted what Moore did to the New York Jets last week - and he only did it on 12 completions. Now, if the Bills are able to slow Ajayi, Moore will have to continue to put up big numbers in just his second start since 2011. Coming in and looking like a veteran backup who is ready to play is exactly why Moore is paid the millions he has made over the past few years. He is probably going to be the key to whether or not Miami can make the playoffs this year.
Xavien Howard stepping up
Miami rookie cornerback Xavien Howard came back from a knee injury last week, an injury that caused him to miss nine games, and he was expected to be slowly re-introduced to the game, with somewhere around 10-15 snaps. Instead, he was thrust back into the lineup when Byron Maxwell sustained an ankle injury. It does not look like Maxwell will be available this week, so Howard has to be ready to play at full speed. The Bills will likely target him early to see if he is responding, so he has to be ready from the opening snap.
Stopping Charles Clay
Clay has not had the greatest season - he’s on pace for 510 yards, his lowest season since 2012 when he was primarily a fullback for the Dolphins - but he did have a strong seven-catch performance last week. He has averaged 17.3 and 10.3 yards per reception the last couple of weeks after not surpassing 8.5 yards the previous four games, so something seems to be finally coming together for the tight end. The Dolphins have struggled with tight ends since sometime around the 1966 season, so Clay getting hot at the same time as Miami has to face him is not a good sign. In the last meeting, Clay caught two passes for 29 yards. The Dolphins need to force him into the same type of production.
(On a side note, stopping LeSean McCoy should be on this list, but I will consider that covered with SUTTON’s article earlier today.)