Week 14 was straight-up depressing. On paper, a 23-17 road loss to a talented team doesn’t look so bad. Any of us dedicated Dolphins fans know better, though. It remains to be confirmed, but I have a real fear that the code has been cracked on what had been a historically scary offense before these last two games on the Pacific Coast. Against an injury-ravaged Chargers defense, the vaunted Dolphins offense just never looked right, unable to fight through tight pass coverage (and a few awful calls by the refs). This dropped our team, once 8-3, down to 8-5 and in a real scrap for playoff positioning. It also handed me another “L” in the prediction game:
driftinscotty’s 2022 Season Predictions
|1||Patriots||W, 31-17||W, 20-7|
|2||@Ravens||W, 27-24||W, 42-38|
|3||Bills||L, 34-27||W, 21-19|
|4||@Bengals||L, 27-24||L, 27-15|
|5||@Jets||W, 23-20||L, 40-17|
|7||Steelers||W, 27-16||W, 16-10|
|8||@Lions||W, 27-20||W, 31-27|
|9||@Bears||W, 34-17||W, 35-32|
|10||Browns||W, 34-27||W, 39-17|
|11||Texans||W, 45-17||W, 30-15|
|12||@49ers||W, 17-14||L, 33-17|
|13||@Chargers||W, 30-20||L, 23-17|
Things don’t get in any way easier for our Fins, with a short week to fly back to Miami late on Sunday night, figure out how in Hades to get their offense back on track, then fly up to the frigid realm of Buffalo for their second game against the Bills. The Dolphins managed a weird, hard-fought win over the Bills back in week 2 in South Beach, thanks to a gutsy performance by the defense and a brutal Miami climate that wilted half the Buffalo roster by the 4th quarter. This rematch has all sorts of implications, so let’s take a look at how the current version of the Fins and Bills stack up.
The key season stats for the two teams.
Key Team Stats for Dolphins & Bills
|Passing Yards||277.9 (2nd)||263.4 (6th)|
|Rushing Yards||89.8 (29th)||133.7 (8th)|
|Points Scored||24.3 (9th)||27.2 (4th)|
|Pass Yards Allowed||242.5 (23rd)||219.5 (19th)|
|Run Yards Allowed||108.3 (7th)||99.8 (4th)|
|Points Allowed||24 (22nd)||17 (2nd)|
|Net Turnovers||-3 (tie 24th)||2 (tie 10th)|
|Against Penalty Yards||50 (20th)||43.5 (11th)|
The numbers here should come as no great surprise. Despite looking more mortal in the past month or so, the Bills have maintained an excellent balance of offense and defense. Throw in a strong net turnover ratio and decent discipline in the penalty department, and it looks very much like the stat sheet of a very talented, experienced 10-3 squad charging hard for its third straight division title. The Dolphins aren’t that. Up to two weeks ago, they looked like a solid club with a potentially devastating offense. After scoring nearly at will against a string of weak defenses, they ran into a pair of teams that made some key adjustments that Mike McDaniel and the boys apparently were not prepared to counter. The defensive numbers for the Fins still aren’t great, despite the fact that the D has actually improved. The problem is that, even if you’re an improved defense, you’re going to have a hard time if your offense forces you to run out there for about 628 snaps every game while they crank out one 2-minute drive after another.
So the numbers don’t look great. Anything in Buffalo’s recent history on film that would inspire optimism?
Buffalo in Weeks 13 & 14: at New England and vs. NY Jets
Disclaimer: This is the point in writing this article where my regular work life went berserk and wore me out. The remaining sections are abbreviated from their usual form.
These two intra-divisional games bore more than a few similarities. Kind of ugly. Scores still close at halftime. Buffalo struggling against good NE and NY defenses to find the offensive rhythm that made them so terrifying earlier in the season. But ultimately the Bills’ offensive talent out-performed the Pats’ and Jets’ offensively-challenged squads, pulled away, and bagged two more wins. They didn’t come without cost, though. The Bills lost a few more key players to injuries, with Von Miller being the most crucial. The coming weeks will tell if the two-game lead they built in the division with these two wins will offset the losses of personnel.
Dolphins vs. Bills Unit Matchups
Dolphins Offense vs. Bills Defense: Three weeks ago, I would have looked favorably on this one. After the last two weeks, though? Not so much. The 49ers and Chargers both employed defensive strategies - namely, a lot more man-to-man and press coverage - that greatly limited what had up until then been a nigh-unstoppable Dolphins passing attack. I have to expect the Bills to try the exact same thing until Tua and the rest of the offense prove that they can counter it effectively. The Bills are missing some key defenders, but they’re still plenty talented and built to put a lot of pressure on the Fins’ pass catchers. Advantage: Bills.
Dolphins Defense vs. Bills Offense: As stated, the Bills offense has been a bit out of sorts lately. Maybe it’s been the elbow injury to Josh Allen a few weeks ago. Maybe injuries to a few offensive linemen. Or maybe it’s just the same malaise that we saw last season with both the Bills and Chiefs, where a sort of boredom over their own dominance made them a bit more vulnerable than normal. Whatever the case, the Fins’ defense has been impressive these past few weeks. The opponent scoring numbers might not suggest that, but I hang that on a Miami offense that’s left the D out to dry way too often, forcing them to stay on the field for 75 and 74 snaps in San Francisco and Los Angeles, respectively (by comparison, the offense took 42 and 47 snaps in those same games). I do think the Dolphins defense will prevent the Bills from doing too much damage and will acquit themselves well. However, the Bills still have too much proven talent for me to think that Miami has a leg up. Advantage: Bills.
Yes, the injuries are there for both teams; however, I think they almost even out. Yes, the Bills are now without Von Miller. That’s huge. But the Fins may be missing a few key guys, or at least have them out there playing hurt: Terron Armstead and Jeff Wilson (though it’s not like Wilson’s been getting a ton of run in recent games). For a mid-December game, these teams are about as healthy as one could expect.
The biggie is the weather. As I write this, several inches of snow have already fallen, with many more to come over the next several hours. In short, this does not favor the Dolphins in any way. This team has yet to show that it can play well in any sort of inclement weather, and snow generally wipes out any advantage that your speedy players give you. To succeed in these types of conditions, you need a strong running game, which the Dolphins absolutely do not have. On the plus side, the Fins are good at stopping the run, so this game could be another nasty, low-scoring affair where two or three “big” plays will be enough to get the win.
Prediction: Dolphins 13, Bills 23
I just can’t see a win here, as awesome as it would be. The Dolphins looked all sort of discombobulated last week, despite coming off a loss that just screamed for them to adjust and do something different. They didn’t, and they got embarrassed in primetime on national TV. Well, the conditions of this game are such that the options for adjustment are now extremely limited, and now is not the time to try out new strategies. I think we see our Dolphins skid to their second three-game losing streak of the season and basically drop out of the race for the AFC East division title.
Please tell me I’m wrong. Tell me that there’s hope. I just have trouble finding it against Buffalo this week. Fins Up!