The Buffalo Bills have lost seven consecutive games against AFC East division rivals. They are 1-2 this season, and despite flashes of excellent play (against some quality opponents, I might add), Buffalo's fan base is right back to its fickle pre-season state. Morale is low. Desperation for a win is high. The Miami Dolphins are 0-3, and their veteran leader, QB Chad Pennington, was just placed on Injured Reserve.
Needless to say, this is a game the Bills can win - and if they truly consider themselves contenders, it should be a game they win with ease. But skepticism towards that expectation is certainly warranted.
Miami is coming off of a 23-13 loss to the San Diego Chargers - a game where Pennington left, replacement starter Chad Henne struggled, and Joey Porter left with a hamstring injury. In order to get the freshest intel on one of Buffalo's most heated rivals, I sat down with John from Bolts From The Blue (SB Nation's Chargers blog) for the scoop.
My questions are in bold - there are only two of them - and John's responses immediately follow.
Describe, if you will, your objective opinion on Chad Henne's brief appearance in San Diego's 23-13 win over Miami.
Chad Henne played scared. Really scared. From my notes, I saw only one pass from him that went further than 10 yards in the air, and that was on 3rd & 10 on a pass to Ronnie Brown that was only caught because Ronnie Brown is awesome. (He turned around and caught a high pass while falling backwards out of bounds.)
He was also inaccurate. Not so inaccurate that he was throwing easy interceptions, but inaccurate enough that 6-yard curl routes were not being caught. He had no touch on his passes and was rocketing the ball at his receivers, even though he refused to throw a deep pass.
Henne made a rookie mistake that led to the "pick six" for Eric Weddle. He came back to the receiver, which was his second read, and held onto the ball while staring at the receiver (Davone Bess) and waiting for him to "get ready". He played like a QB that had no faith in himself and no faith in his receivers. If I was Miami, I'd be starting Pat White.
How did Miami's pass rush look getting after Philip Rivers?
Really dangerous with Joey Porter, who played the first quarter and some of the second before leaving with a hamstring injury, and nothing spectacular without him. Porter and Jason Taylor are a dangerous tandem if they're both playing and both healthy, and Miami's defensive linemen aren't too shabby either (Kendall Langford dominated before Porter left). Then again, the Chargers were playing without two starting offensive linemen, so we may have made them look better than they really are.
One quick note: I spoke with Matty I from The Phinsider yesterday - and as usual, you'll hear all of his thoughts tomorrow - and he views Porter's chances at playing Sunday as 50/50.
The fact that Henne is playing, and Pennington is out, makes me a tad nervous. Not because Henne is a scary quarterback - seriously, we just shut down Drew Brees - but because his presence takes Miami's offense from a known commodity to an unknown commodity. Aside from the Wildcat and the fact that the Dolphins will still be a run-oriented offense, Buffalo should literally prepare to see any and all types of route combinations on Sunday, because you can bet Dan Henning will play to his new starting quarterback's strengths - just as he did with Pennington. Mixed looks and varied pressures will be the name of the game for Perry Fewell on Sunday.
As for Miami's pass rush - well, let's just say that given how inconsistent Buffalo's offensive line is right now, living, breathing human beings pose a threat as pass rushers. Even without Porter, the Dolphins have solid players rushing the passer. If he plays, it will be a massive test; if he doesn't, it's still something to be concerned about, because Buffalo still hasn't proven itself capable of consistently beating the blitz, and Miami knows it.
We'll get much more from Matty I tomorrow, but John's intel (some if it's rather harsh, eh?), while not earth-shattering, re-affirms that this goes beyond 'must-win' territory for Buffalo - it's 'should-win.'