Coming off a disappointing performance against New Orleans, the Buffalo Bills will be looking to even up their record in Miami on Sunday. The Dolphins may be 0-3, but they are a better team than that record indicates. They can run the ball, they can stop the run and they are well-coached, so this isn't exactly an easy game in the South Florida heat. The Bills will have to overcome a number of injuries and a pair of backup tackles protecting Trent Edwards, while trying to get their offense back on track.
What do the Bills have to do to come away victorious this weekend? You just need to head on in after the jump to find out.
Protect Edwards: The Bills will be starting Jonathan Scott at left tackle and Kirk Chambers at right tackle against the Dolphins. This isn't exactly a pair of bookends that you don't have to worry about. The Dolphins will likely be bringing plenty of pressure in hopes of hitting Edwards often and forcing him to make mistakes. It's very likely they will focus on taking advantage of the Bills' tackles. Alex Van Pelt and Sean Kugler will have to be sure the tackles receive any help they may need to help keep Edwards upright, whether that's with TE help or a RB chip. If the OL can't hold up for Edwards, he won't be able to hold up, either.
Take advantage of the Dolphins' secondary: Miami's defense has done a rather poor job of defending the pass so far this season. They are giving up 265 yards per game, have allowed 4 passing touchdowns, haven't registered an interception and opposing quarterbacks have posted a 103.3 QB rating. They've also been extremely susceptible to the big play, having allowed 11 passes of 20+ yards and 5 passes of 40+ yards. If Edwards is given time, he absolutely has to take shots downfield. This includes the intermediate routes, as well as deep routes. We've been talking about this all season, and this game is the perfect opportunity to silence us critics. Please Trent, throw with confidence and take your chances!
Involve the Wide Receivers: Even Dick Jauron thinks the team needs to get Terrell Owens and Lee Evans more involved. He mentioned getting T.O. the ball no matter how the defense is lining up. Well, how can that be done? T.O.'s bread and butter has always been over the middle where he can take passes in stride and pick up yards after the catch. I'd like to see more slants, especially if the DBs are playing off the ball. Another way to get him the ball if the DBs are off the ball is to simply throw it out to him as soon as the ball is snapped. I think giving T.O. the chance to make a quick move and get upfield against a defender would be a major advantage for the offense. Evans has been just as frustrated as Owens. It'd be nice to see him get some chances besides the occasional deep ball.
Utilize the RBs to their fullest extent: Marshawn Lynch returns from his three-game suspension to join Fred Jackson in the backfield to form one of the best 1-2 combos in the league. Alex Van Pelt needs to get creative to take advantage of this duo. Line them up together, use one as a decoy, throw them passes, shove the Wildcat down Miami's throat and so on. There are things the offense can do with both of these guys available that couldn't be done before. Van Pelt has talked about taking advantage of his players' strengths; now is the time to do that with the RBs.
Avoid the costly mistakes: We've seen the Bills commit way too many penalties so far this season. The team is leading the league in penalties and penalty yards, which just isn't typical of a Dick Jauron team. Those need to stop, especially when they take away first downs. Beyond the penalties, the offense needs to protect the ball. In last season's matchup in Miami, the Bills turned it over 4 times. Going up against a first-time starter, the last thing the team needs to do is give him short fields and easier scoring opportunities.
Confuse Henne: With Chad Henne making his first NFL start in this game, the Bills' defense will have very little tape to study. That isn't a bad thing, though. Last week, Henne looked quite poor against the Chargers, who mixed up coverages and blitzes to really confuse him. He was inaccurate and didn't do much to make anyone believe he'll be lighting it up any time soon. There's no reason the Bills should let him sit back and get comfortable in the pocket. I wouldn't mind seeing the return of "the creep" in this game as a way to confuse Henne at the line of scrimmage. No matter what Perry Fewell has designed for this game, it better include getting pressure on Henne. Mistakes will be made; the Bills just need to do a good job of forcing them.
Key on the run: I'm guessing the Dolphins will try to relieve as much pressure as possible on Henne. Having a strong running game will be a big part of that. Miami ranks third in the NFL in rushing yards per game with 161.3 so far this season. The Bills allowed 222 yards rushing last week against the Saints, so the Dolphins must be licking their chops. As they did against the Colts, look for Miami to try to grind out yards and the clock, in order to reduce the pressure Henne is sure to face. If the Bills can keep Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams in check, they will have a great chance to win this game going away.
Be ready for Wildcat wrinkles: I've mentioned it a few times already, but I think this is the week the Dolphins get crazy with the Wildcat. I really wouldn't be surprised to see a Ronnie Brown pass or two, or Pat White getting a good chunk of the snaps. Maybe we'll see some sort of reverse. Whatever it is, I don't think the Dolphins will be going with the same exact Wildcat package they've been running all year. Returning to Henne, this is another way Miami can take some pressure off of him. I'd hate to see the Bills not be ready for any new wrinkles to the Wildcat.
Avoid injuries: This isn't exactly something that any team can plan for, but wouldn't it be nice if the Bills could exit this game as healthy as they were entering the game?
Play with a sense of urgency: I'm sure Miami will be. One thing I've really been critical of with Dick Jauron teams is how they rarely seem to play with any sense of urgency. We've seen them come out flat routinely when the season seems to be on the line. Well, they'd better be ready to play this week, because a 1-3 overall and 0-2 in the division is not exactly the way to start the season. If this team is to have any playoff hopes this year, they need to win this game. I just hope they play like this game means the season to them.
This one isn't going to be easy, obviously. Heading down to Florida and playing in the heat with a shorthanded roster makes it even tougher. The Bills really need to limit the mistakes this week, as a result. Play with some fire, play with heart and let's go get a victory. Go Bills!