The Buffalo Bills are 1-4 in their last five games against the Miami Dolphins. Even counting a 31-point outburst in a 2009 victory led by Perry Fewell, the Bills are averaging just 14 points per game in those five contests. One of the biggest reasons Miami has been so dominant in this series of late is their excellent pass rush.
In those five games, the Dolphins have sacked Bills quarterbacks 21 times. (12 of those sacks came over two games a year ago.) They've recorded at least two sacks in all of those games, and picked up six in the only game they've played against Ryan Fitzpatrick.
In 2010, the Dolphins have racked up 35 sacks, spearheaded by the efforts of the NFL's leading sack artist, outside linebacker Cameron Wake - who has a special affinity for playing the Bills. Miami's 35 sacks are the eighth-highest total in the NFL, but they'll be playing against a Bills offense that has been sacked 26 times this season - a stat bettered by just ten teams league-wide.
I asked Matt Infante (The Phinsider) about Wake's pass-rushing abilities, and SB Nation's Dolphins blogger pointed out that not only is Wake sacking quarterbacks, but he's doing it in critical game situations, as well.
"His sacks have been at huge times this season," Infante told me. "Just last week against the Jets, for example, Wake had two sacks in three plays - the last one being on fourth down as the Jets attempted to drive down the field with under two minutes left. So not only is he sacking the quarterback, he's changing or ending games."
BuffaloBills.com pointed out earlier this week that all of Wake's sacks have come off the right side of the offensive alignment, with Wake matched up over the offense's right tackle. It's incredibly unlikely that Chan Gailey, in setting up protection schemes, will leave Mansfield Wrotto alone with Wake; expect lots of tight ends and backs chipping, and even left guard Andy Levitre pulling on occasion to help seal off the right side of the alignment.
Infante knows that a smart, decisive quarterback that gets the ball out of his hands quickly can help abate a pass rush, and he sees some of that in Fitzpatrick.
"Ryan Fitzpatrick's pocket awareness, from what I can tell, seems to be far better than that of Trent Edwards," Infante said. "But even so, Wake is going to make an impact on this game somehow. It'll be up to Buffalo's army of blockers to limit that impact as best they can."
Fitzpatrick has been sacked at least once in every game this season, but has been sacked more than once in just five of his 11 games, and hasn't been sacked more than three times in any contest. Infante has reservations about Miami's ability to get to Fitzpatrick if the Bills can successfully scheme Wake out of an effective outing; aside from Wake, the Dolphins' highest sack total belongs to rookie linebacker Koa Misi, who has just 3.5.
"I have a sneaking suspicion that the attention Cameron Wake will get will free up others to get to Fitzpatrick - particularly when the Dolphins send defensive backs, which Mike Nolan has been doing much of recently," Infante said. "I think the Dolphins will get to Ryan two or three times. But I'm wondering about those other times when they don't get the sack. Will the Dolphins at least get consistent pressure on Fitzpatrick? I'm not sure, to be honest."