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Bills vs. Dolphins: What to look for in Week 4

The NFL’s game of the week comes to Orchard Park, NY

Buffalo Bills v Washington Commanders Photo by Jess Rapfogel/Getty Images

The Buffalo Bills will take on the Miami Dolphins in the premier matchup for Week 4 of NFL play. Two high-powered offenses will square off to see which can score the most points. However, it’s important to remember that these divisional rivals know each other well. So don’t be surprised if the total score is lower than you think. Here’s what to look for during this week’s gigantic AFC East showdown.

Josh Allen’s Dominance

In 10 career regular-season games against the Dolphins, Josh Allen has posted these eye-popping stats:

  • Passing: 106.1 passer rating, 63.8% completion rate, 2,684 yards, 27 TDs, and 5 INTs
  • Rushing: 554 yards and 4 TDs
  • Record: 8-2

Also, Allen and the Bills defeated the Dolphins 34-31 in the first round of the playoffs last year. In that game, Allen went 23-of-39 for 352 yards, 3 TDs, 2 INTs, and 20 yards rushing.

I expect nothing less than another stellar game from Allen this week. Unleash the beast and let him do his thing to Miami’s defense.

Buffalo’s run game will give us an idea of the game plan

Some have suggested the Bills might consider playing the “time of possession game” — that’s where the Bills would try their best to sustain long drives to take time off the clock and keep the Dolphins’ high-powered offense off the field. If the Bills do this organically, I’d have no problem, it might even be effective. However, my line of thinking is to let Josh Allen and Buffalo’s offense run wild and see who can score more points. The Bills spent too many years in offensive purgatory to be backing down now. They’ve surrounded Allen with plenty of weapons, so this week it’s time to re-install the anti-lag and let those turbo-powered horses run.

Regardless of my line of thinking, how much the Bills run the ball early will give us an indicator whether they plan on playing the time of possession game or not. I do think the Bills should get Cook ample touches via the ground game, but those need to be effective runs that play off the passing game.

Take advantage of mismatches vs. Eli Apple

The Dolphins traded for cornerback Jalen Ramsey this offseason. Pairing him with stud cornerback Xavien Howard, most figured Miami would field the NFL’s top CB pairing. Unfortunately, Ramsey got hurt and the Dolphins now have to turn to Bills Mafia’s favorite CB, Eli Apple (kidding of course). I believe there are opportunities to be had against Apple. Miami didn’t elect to have Howard shadow wide receiver Stefon Diggs much in their three matchups in 2023. Howard was only matched up against Diggs an average of 54.8% of the time in 2022 according to Player Profiler. I would expect the Bills to give Apple some tests early. Get Diggs matched up on him and see what he can do.

Bills’ O-line vs. Dolphins’ D-line

For two weeks in a row, Buffalo’s offensive line has proven solid against some star power on the opposing defensive front. First, it was edge rusher Maxx Crosby of the Las Vegas Raiders, second, it was the Washington Commaders’ entire defensive line, and this week it’s defensive tackle Christian Wilkins and linebacker Bradley Chubb. Luckily for the Bills, they won’t have to deal with pass rusher Jaelan Phillips as he was just listed as OUT. Regardless, Wilkins is an interior force to be reckoned with in the rush and pass game and Chubb can get after the QB with the best of them. I’d expect Buffalo to continue using blocking angles, misdirection, and chip blocks to their advantage this week. If the Bills’ offense can keep these two players out of the mouths of Jim Nantz and Tony Romo during the game, they should have a good day.

Can the Bills defense slow down Miami’s offense?

I wrote an in-depth article on this already! Be sure to read it here.

No Jordan Poyer

Safety Jordan Poyer has been officially listed as OUT for this Week 4 matchup with a knee injury. This likely means we’ll see a large dose of safety Taylor Rapp on Sunday. Rapp has plenty of experience from his time with the Los Angeles Rams, but he has a tough task ahead of him this week going against Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle.

I’d expect Miami to test Rapp’s abilities early and often. If he can hold up to the test, or maybe even make a big play, it would go a long way for Buffalo’s defense.

Among the fallout of Poyer’s injury is who will take his place on the active roster. Safety Damar Hamlin seems to be getting the nod as a backup safety. There has been lots of debate on if cornerback Kaiir Elam will make his way onto the active roster this week and I don’t think it would be a bad idea to get some extra speed and athleticism on the field in the secondary.

Key to success for Buffalo’s offense

  • Get Allen in a rhythm early, then let him sling it.
  • Take advantage of mismatches vs. Dolphins CB Eli Apple.
  • Keep using angles and misdirection in the run game.
  • Get a No. 2 option in the passing game involved, this would be a nice spot for a breakout game from rookie tight end Dalton Kincaid.
  • Get James Cook involved in both the run game and the pass game.
  • As always, score touchdowns, not field goals. Head coach Sean McDermott should be aggressive in this game with fourth-down plays in plus territory. Expect him to go for it if/when they get in that situation.

Keys to success for Buffalo’s defense

  • Tackle in space, limit both “YACs” — that is yards after catch and yards after contact.
  • In pass coverage, defenders need to keep their eyes focused on WR routes, not on the QB’s eyes.
  • Stay disciplined and read their keys — don’t get fooled by all of the motion and misdirection that Miami presents (much easier said than done).
  • Make Tua Tagovailoa get off his first read to buy time for the pass rush.
  • Win in the red zone — hold Miami to field goals.
  • D-line penetration and gap discipline will go a long way to stopping the Dolphins’ RBs before they can get momentum.
  • No long TDs (again much easier said than done).