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Bills vs Dolphins: Five questions with The Phinsider

The Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins kick off at 1:00 PM Eastern

The Buffalo Bills travel to South Beach to take on the Miami Dolphins this Sunday. Before kickoff, we spoke with Kevin Nogle at The Phinsider to get a “phinside” look at the Dolphins after their huge comeback win last week.

1. I’m not ashamed to say I really like Mike McDonald interviews. What has he brought to the team on the field so far early in his tenure?

A confidence and a belief in themselves. That really is what it boils down to. McDaniel's approach to the team and to the media is a guy who is confident in himself, but not arrogant. That is what the team was missing. Brian Flores is a great coach, but he was not someone who seemed to like strong personalities - see the trade of Minkah Fitzpatrick as an example - and he was someone who did not seem (a) to have his players' backs and (b) want to adjust to his players, but rather wanted them to adjust to him. McDaniel wants his players to succeed and has conversations with them about what they are seeing, what they can do, and what he can do to make them better. It is a fresh take, and probably one that works because we are not in the Don Shula two-a-days era, nor are we in the Bill Belichick authoritarian generation any more. Giving the players more input is paying dividends. And, McDaniel is simply fun. He makes jokes, you never know where he is going to go with a question, and he is having fun. It is weird to say that about an NFL coach, but that is exactly how it seems.

2. What the heck happened last week? How were the Dolphins down by so much and what flipped the script late in the game?

I think it kind of goes back to McDaniel. After the game, he said of his halftime speech to the team, "I just challenged them to say, 'Who cares what the score is?' It's about how we play football together. This is an opportunity. It's a tough one, but it doesn't even matter. Let's go and get something out of this game to feel good about in the second half, and we will worry about the score sometime in the fourth quarter." The Dolphins are simply a different team than any we have seen in Miami since at least Dan Marino's time. They play loose, they play together, and they are not letting adversity get to them. We have seen too many times - and games against Buffalo this always seems to happen - where the Dolphins get stuck in the Keanu Reeves quicksand. One thing goes wrong, a penalty here, a turnover there, and suddenly the Dolphins are sinking and cannot get out of their own way. This past Sunday, they stumbled out of the gate, literally considering they gave up an opening kickoff touchdown return, and it seemed like things could go horribly wrong. Instead, Miami came back out in the second half and looked to just play football. They played like they had practiced, and it came together. To give you an idea of just how loose the Dolphins can be, with about eight minutes left in the game, realizing they needed a spark and a big play, they called the "F*** it" play. Like, that was literally the name of the play, with Tua Tagovailao throwing a 48-yard touchdown to Tyreek Hill deep down the middle of the field.

“So we had a play ready, in case things weren’t going right, or in case there were various frustrations,” McDaniel told Peter King after the game. “We installed that play with the expletives, that the quarterbacks knew as the “F— it” play. Tua loved the play. If we really needed to make something happen, that was the play we’d call.”

3. How is the defense going to try and slow Josh Allen? He's owned them in the last several matchups.

Great question. As soon as I have an answer, or as soon as anyone has an answer, I will let you know. I think they are going to have to keep a spy on Allen and just be disciplined in trying to contain him. I could see Channing Tindall or Andrew Van Ginkel primarily tasked with the spy role; one of my authors, Marek Brave, brought up yesterday the potential for the Dolphins to use Eric Rowe primarily at safety, especially with Dawson Knox injured, and free up Brandon Jones to serve as the spy - it's an idea that could work. I just have so very many nightmares of Allen - and so many other Bills quarterbacks - running wild on the Dolphins defense. I know it sounds dumb trying to force Allen to just be a passer, but I think that is exactly what the Dolphins have to do. I think it will be a great matchup between Stefon Diggs and Xavien Howard, and forcing Allen into throwing into that coverage could be a good thing for Miami. Or they may horribly, horribly regret it.

4. The Bills have improved their pass rush, and they were able to chase Tua from the game last year after several big hits. What does Miami's offensive line look like?

This will be a great test, but they held up fairly well last week against the Ravens. There are question marks and I do not think any Dolphins fan will truly trust the offensive line until after an entire season of them playing at least solid football. There is so many bad memories about the line. The injury to Austin Jackson was concerning, but Greg Little has been solid at right tackle. Terron Armstead is dealing with a toe injury, but he played through it last week and I would expect the same this week. Connor Williams has been solid at center after Miami moved him from the left guard position he played with the Dallas Cowboys. There have been some bad snaps, but nothing overly critical and he has gotten better throughout the summer and into the season. Miami's offensive line has been solid - and that is a huge improvement over last year. Now, they have to face the challenge of the Bills defense and see if they can hold it together.

5. The Dolphins are rather large home underdogs (5.5 points on Wednesday, per DraftKings). Has McDonald been playing the underdog card with the team this year and has it been effective?

I do not think he is really playing the underdog card as much as he is challenging the team. He is not shying away from the fact that the Bills are a great team, but he is saying this is the chance for the Dolphins to prove they can hang with Buffalo. He told the team last week he wants to see them face some adversity so they know they can come back from it. He then joked that they took him too literally in letting the Ravens jump out to the big lead, but he was happy with how they responded. I think it is something similar this week, with him telling the team they are facing a challenge and have to work together as a team to overcome it. Will it be enough or are the Bills just that overly dominant? I guess Sunday will tell us if this Dolphins team can rise to another challenge.