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Breaking Down The Bills

Posted Oct 17, 2013

Examining the Dolphins opponent’s strengths and weaknesses



THE BILLS’ STRENGTH ON OFFENSE:
Nobody who has followed the Bills in recent years should be surprised that they rank third in the NFL in rushing yards per game. With C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson, Buffalo has perhaps the best one-two running back tandem in the entire league. The two have very similar numbers this season, with Spiller coming into this weekend’s game with 351 yards and a 4.2 average and Jackson with 344 yards and a 4.6 average. Spiller has been bothered by an ankle injury, which caused him to miss practice Wednesday, but he likely will be in the lineup against the Dolphins. Buffalo’s best offensive lineman is center Eric Wood, so perhaps it’s no surprise that the Bills have more runs up the middle (68) than any other team in the league.

THE BILLS’ QUESTION MARK ON OFFENSE: Rookie quarterback E.J. Manuel has shown some promise this season mainly because of his poise and the inspiring two-minute drill in a last-second victory against Carolina, but the reality is the Bills passing game hasn’t been very good. Buffalo ranks 28th in the NFL in passing yards per game and 26th in passing yards per play. With Manuel sidelined with a knee injury that’s likely to keep him out of Sunday’s game, Thad Lewis will be in line to make his second consecutive start. He actually turned in a solid performance in Sunday’s 27-24 overtime loss against Cincinnati. One big problem in the passing game in recent weeks has been the pass protection, with Manuel, Jeff Tuel and Lewis sacked a combined nine times in the last two games.

THE BILLS’ STRENGTH ON DEFENSE: The Bills rank in the bottom third in the league in both rushing and passing yards allowed, but what they’ve done well is rush the passer and come up with interceptions. Defensive end Mario Williams, the prized free agent in the offseason of 2012, leads a strong Buffalo pass rush with eight sacks in the first six sacks. The two leaders in interceptions are rookie linebacker Kiko Alonso, Dion Jordan’s roommate at the University of Oregon, and veteran safety Jim Leonhard, who have four and three picks, respectively.

THE BILLS’ QUESTION MARK ON DEFENSE: For many years, the Bills struggled to stop the run, but there’s been improvement in that department once you get past the simplest numbers. Yes, Buffalo ranks 28th in rushing yards allowed per game, but in terms of yards per attempt, the Bills are a respectable 14th in the NFL. What has hurt the Bills defense so far this season has been the big pass plays. Buffalo already has given up 13 pass plays of 30 yards or longer, including four in a 27-20 loss against the New York Jets. It should be pointed out that Buffalo has had to deal with injuries in the secondary to Pro Bowl safety Jairus Byrd and cornerback Stephon Gilmore, the 10th overall pick in the 2012 draft. Both made their season debut last Sunday against Cincinnati.

THE BILLS’ STRENGTH ON SPECIAL TEAMS: Former Dolphins kicker Dan Carpenter’s career with the Bills didn’t get off to a good start, as he missed his first field goal attempt of the season, pushing a 42-yard kick wide right. Since then, though, he’s been perfect, hitting on his last 12 attempts. Carpenter also is 3-for-3 from 50 yards and beyond, including a 55-yarder in the 24-23 victory against Carolina in Week 2. The Bills also brought back veteran punter Brian Moorman before their last game, and he responded with a tremendous effort.

THE BILLS’ QUESTION MARK ON SPECIAL TEAMS: The Bills have done well in the return game through the years, but they have yet to get a long return this season — a 26-yard kickoff return by rookie Marquise Goodwin is the longest so far. On the flip side, the Bills were victimized by a 79-yard punt return for a touchdown by Cleveland’s Travis Benjamin in the Thursday night game in Week 5.