I love divisional football, and this week we have another fun matchup with playoff implications in the AFC East. The Buffalo Bills (10-3) are favored as they host the Miami Dolphins (8-5) in one of the most-anticipated games of the season. The AFC East is very competitive this season, and it’s still considered one of the best divisions in football. Each team currently has a record above .500, and each game feels more important than the last. The Bills have improved to 2-2 in the division since losing to the Miami Dolphins and the New York Jets this season, but defeating the New England Patriots in Week 13 and redeeming themselves against the Jets in Week 14. The Dolphins started the year off hot but have lost their last two games and come into Buffalo for the third and final game of their three-game road trip.
I said this last week, and I’ll say it again: this weather is what most Buffalonians call “football weather,” but I call it disgusting: 28 degrees at kickoff with up to 7.5 inches of snow for today. Winds between 15-30 mph should make for a cold, windy, sloppy game of football that could mean turnovers and a strong run effort for both teams.
Here are my thoughts and things to look for during the game:
- As usual, this starts and ends with quarterback Josh Allen, but this time it’s going to be about which quarterback can move the ball in the elements. The Bills are expected to play better at home with snow than the warm-weather Dolphins. But we have seen Allen struggle as recently as last week — when in the first half he struggled against the Jets in sloppy, cold and wet weather. The Dolphins may have a bigger problem with quarterback Tua Tagovailoa facing the elements. He hasn’t performed well in the cold, and he hasn’t yet played in the snow as an NFL quarterback. For his career, Tagovailoa is 0-3 in games played in 45 degrees or less. This game will certainly be that, as the forecasted temperature for the game is supposed to be around 28 degrees with 15-30 mph winds. Last week against the Los Angeles Chargers, Tagovailoa struggled getting the ball to his receivers, and looked very uncomfortable all night against a defense that dialed up the pressure. The Bills are one of the best teams in the league at getting pressure without needing to blitz. I think that’s something that’s been underrated and overlooked about this team. Allen will probably need to be used more as a runner than I’m comfortable with, but he’s built to succeed in this weather more than Tua is, in my opinion. I expect the ground-and-pound game this week, with Allen being the focal point of that attack.
- Earlier in the season when the Bills traveled to Miami, safety Jordan Poyer was ruled out for the game with an injury, and cornerback Tre’Davious White was still on Injured Reserve. Cornerback Kaiir Elam performed well, but there were key mistakes in the secondary that led to big plays for the Dolphins and set them up to win the game. This time, Poyer and White are both active, and the defense will be difficult to throw on. Both linebackers Tremaine Edmunds and Matt Milano are expected to play, as well, which will be a problem for Miami because they’ll have to rely on short passes and long drives in order to beat the Bills this time around. Even without edge rusher Von Miller, the Bills have been effective at applying pressure and getting to the quarterback. In the first matchup, Tagovailoa was injured in the first half with what many believe was a concussion that led to him being knocked out of the following game. The second key to watch is the defensive unit slowing down the Dolphins even after adjustments are made. The San Francisco 49ers basically laid out the blueprint for how to defend head coach Mike McDaniel’s offense, and we saw the Chargers duplicate aspects of it to similar success. Put bodies on the receivers and throw off the timing, and put pressure on the quarterback. I think this time around, the Bills will be even better at this than they were in Week 3.
- What about wide receiver Tyreek Hill? In the game Sunday night against the Chargers, it looked like he injured his lower leg, although it was classified as an ankle injury. Hill is by far the most important player to the Dolphins’ offense — which was otherwise very ineffective, despite most thinking Miami would move the ball with ease against several Chargers backups. If Hill is even limited, it’s going to be hard for the Dolphins to generate enough points to beat the Bills at home in December.
The Bills are built for football in Western New York, and there’s a bad taste left in their mouths after losing to the Dolphins earlier in the year. The same mistakes won’t be made again, and the Bills clinch their playoff spot this weekend while also making the Dolphins work to keep their wild card hopes alive. Bills win, and many tables around Western New York are left broken Saturday night.
For The Division SGP
- Josh Allen 50+ Rushing Yards
- Stefon Diggs 65+ Receiving Yards
- Devin Singletary Anytime Touchdown
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