Fresh off a third consecutive winning season, the Dolphins are through to the playoffs to renew the postseason rivalry with the Buffalo Bills. All four playoff matchups between the AFC East foes occurred in the 1990's with just one win going to the good guys (1998 Wild Card).
Miami and Buffalo split the two games this season with a cumulative score of 51-50. What does Sunday have in store? We'll find out. But first, your questions.
Each Thursday, we put out the call for questions on Twitter. We choose three every week to be answered on the mailbag, as well as three for the Drive Time Podcast with Travis Wingfield and three more here on the written mailbag.
Question from @iq_snowman – How do we stop Josh Allen?
A: That's the million dollar question every time anyone plays Buffalo, isn't it? Miami has done well in stretches over the last handful of meetings, but allen always seems to find a way to have an explosive quarter; a period where it takes a handful of snaps – spread over two or three series – to light up the scoreboard.
Allen did lead the NFL in turnover-worthy plays this season, a Pro Football Focus stat that tracks interceptable passes that didn't wind up as takeaways. Think back to the Week 3 game when Miami had a few hands on footballs but couldn't quite finish the play. That is on top of six total fumbles in the two games, with just two being recovered by the guys in aqua and orange. You've got to find a way to take the ball away in addition to those punts you've forced in these previous matchups.
Furthermore, I think the best way to accomplish that is to keep Allen in the pocket. When he breaks contain, he can hunt big plays. There's nobody on the planet better than him at making you pay once he gets outside the tackles. How do you accomplish that? Miami's defensive line coach Austin Clark gave us the keys on Thursday.
"I think it's being coordinated," said Clark. "How many guys are we bringing, your rush lanes, your eyes, gap integrity, level rush, middle push. All those things kind of factor into it depending on how many guys we're bringing and what we're doing."
Question from @Luiz_Tweets – What's the best way to approach this game? Trying to match points with the Bills feels like a recipe for disaster.
A: I think you have to let the game script play out before you settle into a particular mode of operation. You always enter with a plan for how the game-flow will go, but things also come up that coaches and players have to adapt to. Ultimately, I think offensive coordinator Frank Smith said it best in his availability on Thursday.
"From philosophically for an offense, our job is to score points and however we score points is trying to obviously win the game," Smith said. "This week, we have a plan for how we want to attack the Bills and ultimately, regardless how that plays out, that's the plan that we communicate … We're just looking at what's the best way for us to make sure we score points and win the game and if we maximize those opportunities, we feel confident that we can accomplish that."
Question from @shzomfr – Does our familiarity with Buffalo and being a divisional opponent help us or hurt us going into this game?
A: I've always felt like familiarity tends to have a way of evening the playing field with two opponents. What's the old adage – when facing a division rival, you throw out the records? But make no mistake, the Bills are one of the best teams – if not the best – in the NFL.
I thought Miami matched up very well both games this year, particularly attacking the Bills in the run game led by Alec Ingold and the running backs back in December.
Defensively, we mentioned Miami's ability to keep the Buffalo offense off the scoreboard for stretches. That's a credit to defensive coordinator Josh Boyer. His Week 3 game plan was a masterclass and held this high-powered attack to just 17 points (two from a defensive safety). How does he feel familiarity sets the stage for this game?
"I think there's a lot of familiarity," Boyer said. "But at the same time, they're very familiar with us too so you kind of have to combat, 'Ok, if we do this, they'll do that. If they do this, we'll do that.' So there's a lot of back and forth when it comes to preparing for a team that you have faced multiple times."