The Buffalo Bills head south this weekend, taking on the Miami Dolphins for the second time this year. Just three weekends ago, the Bills were able to hold off a hard-charging Miami team, winning 31-21 in a game that wasn’t expected to be that close. However, that effort from Miami was a harbinger of good things to come, as the Dolphins have won two of three games since playing the Bills tough in Orchard Park.
Coming off a tough loss to the Cleveland Browns, the Bills need to rebound in a hurry. Miami is playing much better over the last month, so this game won’t be a cake walk. Here are our five players to watch closely this weekend.
QB Josh Allen
The Buffalo signal caller has taken some heat this week, as he was not sharp in the loss to Cleveland last Sunday. However, he has had plenty of success in his three career starts against the Dolphins, averaging 219 passing yards, two passing touchdowns, 87 rushing yards, and one rushing touchdown per game. Allen said this week that head coach Sean McDermott wants him and the offense to play free, which hopefully translates into more points on Sunday. The team needs a strong effort from its quarterback, and Allen is facing the perfect team to allow him to have a big day.
RB Devin Singletary
For the love of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, can offensive coordinator Brian Daboll please ensure that this kid carries the ball more than eight times this week? It’s inexcusable that a player averaging 6.7 yards per touch is only averaging ten touches per game (and that’s including the fact that 23 of his 63 touches on the season came in one game). Singletary has only had one game where he averaged less than four yards per carry this season, and it came in Week 7 against these Miami Dolphins. Perhaps Miami was just ready to stop him, but that was also Singletary’s first game back from a hamstring injury. The Bills need to make sure that their best players touch the football on offense, and Singletary is already one of their best offensive players. He needs more carries.
DT Ed Oliver
After earning a starting gig coming into the season, a combination of factors—mostly involving the phenomenal play of teammate Jordan Phillips—has led to Oliver’s demotion to second string. The rookie has taken the demotion in stride, continuing to work hard without complaint, but it would be nice to see him come in and dominate on his snaps this week. Oliver has 20 tackles, one sack (of a wide receiver on a trick play), one tackle for loss, and four quarterback hits thus far in his rookie season. That’s not quite the impact many envisioned when the Bills made him the ninth overall pick in April’s NFL Draft. After playing in right around 60% of the defensive snaps through Buffalo’s first seven games, he’s only appeared on 30 defensive snaps in the last two games combined, checking in at right around one-third of the team’s snaps. Making the most of his opportunities will be crucial for him to earn his way back into more defensive reps, and a few big plays this weekend would be nice to see.
CB Kevin Johnson
I’m sick of watching Levi Wallace, who has allowed 49 completions on 74 targets (66.2%) this year to go with 501 yards and three touchdowns, so let’s check out the only other corner capable of competing with him for playing time on Buffalo’s current roster. With Taron Johnson solely a slot corner, the only player who can push Wallace time is Johnson, a former first-round pick who hasn’t played a ton this year. He’s only averaging around 18 defensive snaps per game since Week 2 (he didn’t play any defensive snaps in Buffalo’s Week 1 win over the New York Jets), but with Wallace playing pretty poorly for the better part of the last three weeks, it will be worth watching whether Johnson sees an increase in time this week. It can’t hurt to at least give him a more extended look.
K Stephen Hauschka
Missing a 53-yard field goal short isn’t ideal, but it’s not a cut-worthy offense in and of itself. Completely shanking a 34-yard kick, though? In a game decided by three points? That’s tough to swallow. Only Cairo Santos has a lower made field-goal percentage than Hauschka this year, and after he missed four field goals as a member of the Tennessee Titans against Buffalo, he was released. Hauschka is 8-of-13 on the season, but most troubling is the loss of his range. Through the end of the 2017 season, Hauschka had made 23-of-33 field goal attempts from 50 yards or more; in the last two seasons, he’s only 4-for-10 on such kicks, and he hasn’t made one since the Bills beat the New York Jets 41-10 on November 11, 2018. Whether it’s a result of age or the blindside hit laid on him by New York Jets defensive lineman Henry Anderson, Hauschka hasn’t looked like the same guy that he was when he signed with Buffalo in 2017. He also said this week that he didn’t feel ideal during the game against Cleveland, but he felt fine physically. Here’s hoping that he feels ideal this week when he’s called upon to kick.