So how awesome is it to have full-on, bona fide superstars on our team, eh? Look, a comeback like we saw in Baltimore is definitely a team effort, and there were great plays all over the field, but Tyreek Hill? For the C-130-load of cash the Fins paid him, he's earned every penny so far. Dude was tearing it up. Then cramped up. Then IV'd up. Then tore it up even more, being arguably the key individual player who sparked so much of that historic snatching of victory from the jaws of defeat. It's the kind of player that jacks a team's ceiling up markedly, and we just got a prime example of how.
Now obviously, it wasn't a game that leaves you without a few concerns. To come back from 21 points down in a fourth quarter, you first have to have dug yourself a 21-point hole. It's not exactly a recipe for sustained success to let the opponent crack off multiple video game-level big plays, including one right from the opening kickoff, while your offense flounders around and tries to find itself. There's room for improvement, for sure.
For now, though, our Fins sit at 2-0, one of a surprisingly low number of teams who haven't lost a game yet - only six, if you can believe that. Neither win was exactly a masterpiece by a sure-fire Superbowl contender, but they were heartening wins over one division and one conference rival. Both wins also showed clear signs that this is a different team on offense - one that can respond to multiple 70-plus-yard uppercuts to the jaw. The next step is not giving up so many of those big plays in the first place.
So should we expect that kind of progress in week 3? It's gonna be a tall order.
Our Dolphins will be hosting their hands-down, #1 menace of the last three years - the Buffalo Bills. It's been 7 straight games that the Bills have beaten our guys, sometimes in embarrassing fashion. The most traumatizing had to be in Week 17 of 2020, when our spunky, 10-5, defense-driven squad went into Buffalo with a chance to snag a Wildcard spot with a win, only to get immediately blown out of the water and turned into chum.
Last year, the Bills were again all too happy to deliver a wake-up call to the Dolphins. After the 2021 Fins opened the season with an inspiring victory over despised division rival New England, the Bills decided to douse our celebratory cocktail party in petrol and light a match. Right there in Miami, Buffalo dropped a 35-0 beatdown that was downright disrespectful. It was reminiscent of Chong Li's first-round, disinterested dispatching of whatever nameless clown was unlucky enough to draw him in the Kumite in Bloodsport. Just ugly, man.
But it's 2022, right? New season. New slate. What should we expect from these two teams this Sunday?
Buffalo's Two Most Recent Games
My grand plan is to always watch the opponent's last two games, to get a sense of their strengths and weaknesses. I was a bit stymied with the Bills, though, since I was out socializing during their Thursday night season-opening win over the defending champion Rams. Then in week 2, I was only able to tune in for some of their 41-7 drubbing of the Titans in Buffalo.
The Bills' game against the Rams in LA was an impressive victory. Say what you will about Superbowl hangovers, it's no mean feat to go cross country, into an opponent's home stadium, and hand it to them on prime-time TV. It wasn't always pretty, with both teams committing turnovers left and right. The Bills logged two interceptions and two fumbles, but the Rams reciprocated with three INTs of their own. The game was actually tied 10-10 at halftime, but the second half was all Buffalo, as the Bills steadily rattled off 21 unanswered points while their defense kept the Rams' offense on its heels. The Bills put up 121 rushing yards on 25 carries, and Josh Allen went 26/31 for 297 yards, 3 TDs, and two INTs. Their defense held the high-powered Rams offense to a paltry 243 total yards, sacking Matthew Stafford a whopping 7 times. It was a hell of an opening statement.
Last week, the Bills had their home opener by hosting the Tennessee Titans, last year's #1 seed in the AFC. If you came out of the Bills/Rams game wondering, "How badly could the Bills have beaten the Rams if they hadn't turned it over so much?", well this game gave you your answer. Though the halftime score was an intriguing 17-7, Bills, the second half became hell on earth for Tennessee. The Bills scored a TD to go up 24-7, followed not long after by a field goal to make the score 27-7. After some jostling for field position, the Titans melted down completely. Tannehill threw a pick, which the Bills quickly converted into another TD. Bills, 34-7. Three plays later, Tannehill threw a pick-6, giving the Bills a gaudy 41-7 lead that would hold the rest of the way. The Bills posted 414 yards of total offense, compared to the Titans' paltry 187 yards. It was another unmitigated thrashing of one of 2021's best teams.
How might our 2-0 Dolphins fare against a team that looks like it is out for all the blood this season?
Dolphins Offense vs. Bills Defense
The Bills' defense is, once again, loaded. They were already quite good last season, and they went ahead and added future Hall of Famer Von Miller to the roster - and Von so far looks like he's got plenty left in the tank. As already mentioned, this defense stuffed the Rams vaunted offense to the tune of 243 total yards in week 1, along with two interceptions and a fumble. They then clamped down even harder on the Titans' power run-driven offense, keeping them to an embarrassing 187 total yards, including only 80 rushing yards on 27 carries. Human freight train Derrick Henry was limited to a negligible 25 yards on 13 carries.
That said, the Dolphins' offense is a different animal from either of the first two offenses the Bills' D has faced. The Rams offense has lost a few folks from last year, like Odell Beckam Jr. Also, Matthew Stafford seemed to lapse into his worse self, gambling a bit and allowing the Bills' defense to make him pay for it in the form of interceptions. And the Titans' offense just looks outdated and old at this point. The current Dolphins offense, though, will be the most dynamic and talented that the Bills have faced in quite some time, short of the Chiefs in last year's Divisional Round game. In the second half of last week's miraculous comeback win over the Ravens, we saw just how explosive this offense can be, so I have a hard time envisioning the Bills' defense clamping down quite so hard as they did against the Rams or Titans.
A massive factor here is injuries. Both teams are struggling with them, and it's this side of the ball where it's most obvious for both. The Fins' stud left tackle Terron Armstead didn't practice all week, as he nurses a toe injury. He's listed as "Questionable" to play, and that would be a real problem. However, the Bills' defense has far worse injury problems. They have already ruled out star starting defensive tackle Ed Oliver and rotational DT Jordan Phillips. Their backfield is far worse, with three starting DBs listed as Out for the game: strong safety Jordan Poyer, free safety Micah Hyde, and cornerback Dane Jackson. These are serious losses for the Bills, so I'll be shocked if we don't see the Fins' speedy, talented receiving corps rack up some yards and points on Sunday.
Dolphins Defense vs Bills Offense
This is the part that still really scares me, and it really all comes down to two guys: Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs. Those two guys alone create complete nightmares for defenses. They've become so lethal in just over a season's time that they force a defense to commit extra resources to it, thus opening up other guys for the now-accurate Josh Allen to capitalize one. They did it all of last season, and they ratcheted it up even more to open this season. Their running game isn't spectacular by any means, but it doesn't have to be. It's adequate enough to keep defenses honest, giving Allen his pick in the passing game, with the ever-lingering threat of Allen to run it. It is an extremely tough offense to figure out. No team has really figured out how to do it yet, frankly.
The Dolphins' defense has all the making of being a very good one - maybe even one that can keep a lid on Buffalo's high-octane offense. Later in the season. They're not there yet. They're currently not healthy enough, and I don't think they've all completely gelled enough this season to really handle what has been one of the two or three best offenses in the NFL for the past couple of seasons. We saw the little breakdowns last week that led to the Ravens' two huge-play touchdowns last week. The Bills have that same kind of quick-strike capability, and I'm not sure that one week is enough for the defense to completely correct all those little errors. Add in that we're still without key cornerback Byron Jones, and that Xavien Howard is dealing with a nagging groin injury, and I just can't see our defense putting the clamps down on the Bills here.
Special Teams, Coaching, and Other Aspects
I hope the Dolphins' special teamers all just watched their surrendering of that opening kickoff return for a 103-yard TD from last week on repeat all of Monday and Tuesday. The Bills have a similar guy in McKenzie who can do that, so they need to clean that up for sure. On the whole, though, special teams is probably a push this week, perhaps giving us and Jason Sanders the slight nod in the field goal game.
Coaching. Mike McDaniel first proved that he wouldn't be intimidated by Bill Belichick. Then he proved that he could remain utterly calm in overseeing his team mount a historic comeback against another all-time great coach in John Harbaugh. Next, he'll face Sean McDermott, who has emerged as one of the best new head coaches to rise in the NFL in the last decade or so. Since taking over in Buffalo in 2017 and overseeing two years of transition, the franchise has only gotten better and better. At this point, McDermott has shown enough that I can't give our guy McDaniel the nod over him just yet.
I've already written about the injuries, which impact the Bills more than the Fins, though ultimately I feel like they all balance each other out. The missing and injured guys on both squads are mostly on defense, which gives the offenses that much more opportunity for big plays.
Finally is that the game is in Miami. Against most teams, especially from the far north, I would say this is an advantage. But Buffalo has won three straight in Miami, including last September's embarrassing 35-0 shellacking in week 2. That doesn't exactly speak to a tremendous home-field advantage due to the elements.
Prediction: Dolphins 27, Bills 34
I hate to do it, but I don't think Mikey McD and our Fins are quite on the Bills level yet. I do think that they have a very real chance to be there by the time we play them again in mid-December, but we're not there yet. I see this game as being an exciting one, where the offenses move the ball well and each one has one or two huge chunk plays. In the end, though, I think Buffalo still has the leg (hoof?) up on us in terms of experience and offensive firepower.
Last week, I once again had the outcome correct and the score differential almost exactly right. But I can't lie - in no way did I see the game shaking out that way. Still, I'm off to a decent start, if we're not taking over/unders into account:
Game # Opponent Prediction Outcome
1 Patriots W, 31-17 W, 20-7
2 @Ravens W, 27-24 W, 42-38
3 Bills L, 34-27 ???
Here's hoping I'm wrong about the outcome and that out Fins take another massive step forward in proving that McDaniel really is "the guy" and that this squad is ready to play with the big boys.
Let me know how you're feeling about things in the comments below. Fins up!!