The Buffalo Bills and the Miami Dolphins are set to square off this weekend in what should be the best game of the week. I say that without any shred of bias and not because I would have considered a Bills game against the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2012 to be must-see TV, of course.
All kidding aside, this going to be a great football game. Miami’s offense comes into this one on an epic roll, and Buffalo’s defense enters as arguably the league’s best through the season’s first three games. It’s going to come down to matchups and whether the players can execute. Coachspeak? Absolutely. Truth? Yes.
If the Bills want to pull even with the Dolphins in the AFC East, they’re going to need some big performances from their top-end players. Without talking about some of the more obvious guys (I’m looking at you, Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs), here are five players who’ll need to be key contributors if the Bills are going to come out with a win on Sunday.
WR Gabe Davis
Buffalo’s offense runs through Allen and Diggs. That part is obvious. What can’t happen on Sunday, though, is for the offense to become Allen dropping back and having success when he throws to Diggs, but none when he throws to everyone else. Someone needs to step up, and that man needs to be Gabe Davis. He’s caught nine of his 15 targets for 159 yards and two touchdowns. Last week, Davis caught just one of his four targets, and while it was a 35-yard touchdown grab, he left some big plays on the field. He just couldn’t land his second foot in bounds on what would have been a second touchdown at the end of the first half, and he also dropped a ball that Allen put on him over the middle. Sure, both of those grabs were proven tough, as cornerback Kendall Fuller had his arm in Davis’ midsection on the former and he had to slide to attempt the catch on the latter. But, in a game against a tough opponent, players need to make every play possible. Davis has been “Big Game Gabe” in games announced by Jim Nantz and Tony Romo, and if he can put on one more big performance Sunday, that will open up so much for the Bills. It will be interesting to see if the Dolphins go with the Bill Belichick method and put their top corner, Xavier Howard, on Davis while they double Diggs. Whatever happens, Davis needs to make plays in order for the offense to be as good as it can be.
DT DaQuan Jones
Big No. 92 doesn’t want to be in the shadows anymore, but he’s never been overlooked in these parts. Jones is arguably the most important single person on the defense, as he has the responsibility of keeping his linebackers clean, of eating blockers for Ed Oliver and his other defensive tackles, and for making stops himself. Jones had five quarterbacks pressures and 1.5 sacks last week against the Washington Commanders. He has two tackles for loss, three quarterback hits, and eight total tackles on the season in addition to those 1.5 sacks. If he can continue to perform at an elite level, it’s going to allow the other guys on defense to keep cooking, as well. Jones is a massive headache, and he’ll need to continue causing problems up front in order to slow Miami in both the running game and the passing game.
LB Matt Milano
For Dolphins fans, Milano is public enemy number-one after his shove to Tua Tagovailoa led to the quarterback’s first concussion — or back injury — during the 2022 season. Characterizing Milano as a dirty player is foolish, but such is the nature of fandom when one of your team’s star players suffers an injury. As for this Sunday, Milano continues to be one of the league’s best coverage linebackers, allowing a quarterback rating of just 28 through three games this year. That’s the best number in the league so far. The Dolphins love to throw over the middle, and they love to do so in quick-timing patterns after plenty of motion. Milano will need to be confident and sharp in reading his keys, and when catches are made in front of him, he’ll have to wrap up and stop those YAC-monster receivers in their tracks. If Milano has had one issue in his career, it’s with missed tackles — as he’s missed at least 11 tackles in every one of his professional seasons where he’s played in at least 13 games. So far this season, he’s already missed four tackles. That can’t happen on Sunday.
LB Terrel Bernard
If you clicked the link above where I cited Milano’s quarterback rating against, you might have noticed that Bernard has been the second-best linebacker in coverage in the NFL this year, allowing a quarterback rating of just 38 so far. Both of those low totals are helped by the fact that each of Buffalo’s linebackers has two interceptions. After playing a slow first half against the New York Jets, Bernard has been nothing short of phenomenal in the 2.5 games since. Miami head coach Mike McDaniel will likely try to stress and confuse Bernard with motion and different looks. If the second-year pro can remain on this roll, trust his athleticism and his instincts, and fly downhill hard, it will lead to good things for the Bills. The middle-men on defense all need to step up this week.
CB Tre’Davious White
Last week was a big one for White, as he really started to look more like the Tre that we knew and loved before his ACL tear in November of 2021. This week marks a huge test for him, as he’ll have either Tyreek Hill or Jaylen Waddle lined up across from him. My gut says that head coach Sean McDermott wants White on Waddle, but that depends on who the other corner is. I love Christian Benford, but I don’t think I want him one-on-one with Tyreek Hill unless there’s plenty of help from Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer’s fill-in. Will this be the week that they dust off Kaiir Elam? If they do, will they deactivate Dane Jackson — or will it be someone else? Having a player of White’s caliber means that the Bills can choose to have him shadow a particular player and expect success, but that success is limited if the player opposite him doesn’t perform. I’ll be interested to see how McDermott deploys White this Sunday, but I think I’ll be just as interested in who’s playing across from him.