Dolphins' To-Do List Against The Bills

Posted Dec 19, 2013

Breaking down the Dolphins’ biggest priorities this weekend.

The strength of the Buffalo offense for several years has been the running tandem of Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller, and the Dolphins did a very good job against them in the first meeting even though they ended up losing the game at Sun Life Stadium. On the flip side, Jackson and Spiller combined for 147 yards last Sunday when the Bills beat the Jacksonville Jaguars 27-20, and the Dolphins would make things simpler for themselves by being able to shut them down again.

A FAVORABLE MATCHUP FOR THE DEFENSE: For the second time this season, the Dolphins will face the Bills with former Hialeah-Miami Lakes standout Thad Lewis starting at quarterback instead of 2013 first-round pick E.J. Manuel. The October game at Sun Life Stadium was one of three starts for Lewis, but he hasn’t thrown a pass in a game since Oct. 27. The game against Miami was the only in which Lewis completed at least 60 percent of his passes, although his passer rating of 70.1 was the worst among his three starts. Given how long it’s been since he’s played, the Dolphins could be at an advantage here, particularly if they can put some pressure on him.

THE BIG PRIORITY ON OFFENSE: Anyone who watched the first meeting between the Dolphins and Bills knows the answer, which is protecting Ryan Tannehill and in particular keeping Mario Williams away from him. It may come as a surprise, though, that Tannehill was sacked only twice in that first Buffalo game; it’s just that one of the two sacks came at a most inopportune time. Another reason the Dolphins lost were two interceptions, one that was returned for a touchdown and another at the Buffalo goal line that stopped a scoring opportunity. The Bills are among the league leaders with 20 interceptions, including four each for safeties Jairus Byrd and Aaron Williams, and rookie linebacker Kiko Alsonso, Dion Jordan’s roommate at the University of Oregon.

A FAVORABLE MATCHUP FOR THE OFFENSE: The Dolphins faced Buffalo the first time in their sixth game of the season and finished with their highest rushing total to that point, with 120 yards on 25 carries. That shouldn’t have been shocking considering the Bills once again have struggled to stop the run this season. Buffalo ranks 26th in the NFL in rushing yards allowed per game and 23rd in yards per rushing attempt. Given what may be tough weather conditions, the ability to run the ball could be vital for the Dolphins’ chances Sunday.

THE BIG PRIORITY ON SPECIAL TEAMS: It might sound odd to point this out because of where the Bills rank in the NFL in kick returns, but the Dolphins clearly need to be wary of punt returner Leodis McKelvin. His touchdown on a return was one of the key plays in Buffalo’s Thursday night victory against the Dolphins in 2012.
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