Role players stepping up
This is the central theme for the Bills today. With Marcell Dareus doubtful, Robert Woods reportedly out, and LeSean McCoy reportedly set to be active but on a pitch count, Buffalo must lean on typically secondary and tertiary options against the Dolphins.
Walt Powell had a monster summer but has basically been invisible over the past two weeks. Justin Hunter has made the most of his two catches as a member of the Buffalo Bills by scoring two touchdowns, but both wideouts will have to make bigger contributions in this one.
Same goes for Marquise Goodwin... who’s been the defacto No. 2 since Sammy Watkins’ injury and has just eight catches for 165 yards in six games — albeit in a run-heavy offense — which includes his electric 84-yard score against the Jets in Week 2. Charles Clay has 10 grabs for 125 yards in the previous two outings, and the Bills certainly could use a similar if not more productive game from him in Miami.
Mike Gillislee has been an ideal change-of-pace-and-style runner for the Bills... he averages a robust 6.9 yards per carry on 17 attempt this season and an even 6.0 yards per carry on 64 rushes in a Bills uniform.
He hasn’t had more than six carries in a game this year, yet that will likely change today. The former Miami Dolphin draft pick will be given ample opportunity to get back at the team that cut him before his third professional campaign.
Tyrod Taylor with a limited LeSean McCoy
On Monday, I wrote about Tyrod Taylor seemingly embracing his unique style of play, so check that out if you want more of my overarching thoughts on the Bills quarterback. In this game, though... Taylor will likely have a fantastic chance to take another step in proving his abilities as a quarterback. Buffalo will still stay dedicated to the run game, but we have to expect it won’t be as efficient without Shady getting his typical 15-19 carries. Therefore, Taylor will be asked to do a great deal for this team this afternoon, a tough task especially considering not only the limited run-game behind him, but the limited options in the receiving corps.
Taylor’s finest combination of high volume and efficiency came in Miami in 2015, when he completed 21 of 27 passes for 277 yards with three scores and no interceptions in Buffalo’s rout of the Dolphins. A similar performance would go a long way in helping the Bills get their fifth-consecutive victory.
The Ryan Tannehilll Roller Coaster
On September 29, before the Dolphins played the Bengals on Thursday Night Football, I tweeted this graph, which showed Ryan Tannehill’s career, game-by-game QB ratings.
Tannehill's career game-to-game QB Rating. Has had 3 straight games w/ rating > 90 one time. Heads into TNF w/ 2 straight. How will he fare? pic.twitter.com/qDbAqrpMO7— Chris Trapasso (@ChrisTrapasso) September 29, 2016
Based on his crazy, up-and-down history, it was no surprise that Tannehill flopped on TNF, as he went 15 of 25 for 189 yards with one touchdown and one interception. He followed up that game with an abysmal afternoon in a loss to the Titans by going 12 of 18 for 191 yards with no touchdown passes and two picks.
Last week, Tannehill was back up — so to speak -- as he shredded the Steelers defense for 252 yards and completed 25 of 34 passes en route to a QB rating of 97.4.
What Tannehill will be on the field for the Dolphins today?
Most quarterbacks aren’t as effective when they’re under pressure, but Miami’s signal-caller takes that to the nth degree.
Buffalo’s defense needs to routinely get after Tannehill and keep him from getting comfortable inside the pocket.
Much has been made about Miami’s run defense this week. It’s currently the second-worst unit in football in total rushing yards allowed — only the 49ers have surrendered more.
The Dolphins allow 4.5 yards per rush, which ranks them 25th.
As mentioned above, even with a less-than-100-percent McCoy, the Bills should and likely will stay dedicated to the ground game, which, as we’ve seen over the past month, can keep Buffalo’s defense fresh.
Don’t overlook Miami’s secondary issues, however. Currently, opposing quarterbacks have averaged a 93.9 QB Rating against the Dolphins, which includes a surprisingly bad 57.1-rating performance from Ben Roethlisberger in Week 6.
Winning on the road is never easy in the NFL, but at least the injury-riddled Bills aren’t facing a super-stingy defense today.
Buffalo’s run defense
Outside of the Jets game, Buffalo’s defense has been superb this season. It’s run-stopping should be a focus today.
The Bills are 20th in total rushing yards allowed but have given up just 3.8 yards per rush, which is the 10th-best in the NFL.
Jay Ajayi’s 204-yard effort against the Steelers was a huge part of Miami’s upset win, and the Dolphins ran for 222 yards as a team on 36 carries.
Buffalo needs to limit Miami’s ground-game effectiveness to put the onus on Tannehill today.