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Dolphins vs. Bills: What to watch for Miami in AFC East showdown

The Miami Dolphins visit the Buffalo Bills on Sunday. What should we be watching for in Miami’s Week 4 game?

SPORTS-FBN-WEEK4-PICKS-FL John McCall/South Florida Sun Sentinel/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

The Miami Dolphins visit the Buffalo Bills this weekend in an AFC East contest that could showcase two of the top teams in the NFL. Will Miami continue to look like the team that thrashed the Denver Broncos last weekend 70-20? Will the Bills look like the team that recorded nine sacks on their way to a 37-3 victory in Week 3 against the Washington Commanders? Will Sunday prove a clash of two of the titans in the NFL?

We take a look at five things to watch for the Dolphins this weekend as they look to continue their winning ways to start the 2023 season.

Can the offensive line slow the Bills’ pass rush?

The Bills will be bringing in a dominant pass rush and will look to create confusion on the Miami offensive line. The Dolphins’ offensive line has been solid this year, with quarterback Tua Tagovailoa only sacked once through three games. Will they be able to meet the Bills head-on and continue to keep Tagovailoa clean?

The Dolphins use their quick passing game with seemingly perfect efficiency and that will have to continue this week to offset some of the Buffalo pass rush. The addition of a running game, which exploded for 350 yards last week against Denver, could force the Bills to read the play first, not just tee off in a pass rush.

Miami will be facing a tough pass rush. Will Terron Armstead, Isaiah Wynn, Connor Williams, Robert Hunt, and Austin Jackson be up to the task? Will Miami rely on the quick passing game to counter the pass rush? Will the Dolphins find space running the ball? How well Miami is able to slow the Bills pass rush may be the ultimate key to winning or losing the game.

Will the Bills miss Jordan Poyer?

Buffalo will be without starting safety Jordan Poyer, leaving a large hole in their defense. Taylor Rapp will likely start next to Micah Hyde in the back end of the Bills’ secondary, with Damar Hamlin likely being active as the backup. Losing Poyer hurts Buffalo’s defense.

Losing Poyer against the Dolphins is worse than losing him against almost any other team in the league. With the speed of the Miami offense, and how they use it to put pressure on opposing defenses, having a top-tier safety tandem is nearly critical. Miami will try to take the top off the defense with wide receivers Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle. Will the Bills secondary without Poyer be ready for that test?

Who spies Josh Allen?

For what seems like a century, the Dolphins have struggled against running quarterbacks. Even when the defense is able to stuff the standard running game, quarterbacks who can get out of the pocket and create with their legs have done damage. The Bills have been masters at using mobile quarterbacks to pick up chunks of yards against Miami over the last several years.

Miami has to have a plan to keep quarterback Josh Allen from changing the game with his legs. Allen likes to play “hero ball” and can make bad decisions when forced into unfavorable situations. If the Dolphins can take away the escape route of Allen running the ball, they may be able to force him into bad decisions.

Whoever the Dolphins use to spy Allen, they need to have someone assigned that duty, he has to be disciplined and ensure he is ready to shut down that threat. Could linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel have that role? Maybe the Dolphins could assign it to safety Jevon Holland and have him play in the box more. However they do it, the Dolphins have to make sure Allen is left free to pick up 40 yards with this legs.

Is the Miami run game real?

The Dolphins attack opposing defenses with their speed and their short-range passing game that then opens up the deep ball. The slant and the short crosser are the key receiver routes for Miami’s offense, with Hill and Waddle then stretching upfield once the defense cheats forward.

Last week, the running game made a huge appearance. Was that a one-off event against a porous Broncos defense? Will we see a continuation of that success this weekend against the Bills? If Raheem Mostert, De’Von Achane, and, potentially, Salvon Ahmed can resume their assault on opposing defenses, the Dolphins will be unstoppable with so many potential options on any given play.

Can Miami run the ball against the Bills?

Will the Miami special teams step up?

The Dolphins special teams have had some issues this year, from allowing field goal blocks to giving up touchdown returns. Special teams coordinator Danny Crossman said of the touchdown return allowed on a kickoff against the Broncos, “Multiple things [went wrong]. It was late in the game and we’re trying to get some different people in and had some different people in some different spots. Besides that, we had two guys not where they’re supposed to be on a fit and a little poor backside pursuit. When you do that, bad things are going to happen.”

Miami had been pulling players during the second half against the Broncos, so there were people in places of responsibility that maybe had not practiced it as much, but it still hurt to see a return like that. The Dolphins cannot be giving the Bills free yards on long returns, no to mention free points.

Special teams have had some issues this year. They cannot afford to have that happen against a team as talented as the Bills.