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Three Keys

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Three Keys | John Congemi Previews Dolphins at Bills

1) Tua Going Start to Finish

The biggest game of the year for the Miami Dolphins will require their rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa to have his best 60-minute performance of the season. There's no chance of getting replaced in the second half by backup Ryan Fitzpatrick, with the veteran quarterback being placed on the COVID-19 list, and that situation just might be what the talented young quarterback needed. It's Tua's game to win, no different than it's been the last two months. He will need to continue to provide leadership, protect the football, and hopefully make enough plays in the passing game to win. The offense must find a way to rally around Tagovailoa, and it's not only the skill players or the offensive line that needs to also be at their best. Offensive coordinator Chan Gailey will need to have a good mix of screens, rubs and shot plays to keep the talented Bills defense guessing. Buffalo can be a very difficult place to go to and get a victory, but that's the situation this team hopefully will be in for the next five to ten seasons, with both rosters continuing to challenge for the AFC East crown. It's a position that the Dolphins need to embrace and one that Tagovailoa should feel comfortable in. There is no greater feeling in sports than knowing that your execution at quarterback can help control the outcome of a game, and this time it's Tua's team from start to finish.

2) Controlling Allen and Company

Buffalo quarterback Josh Allen is having an MVP-type of season, passing for more than 4,300 yards and 34 touchdowns. He is without question the leader of the Bills, and should be for years to come, making life difficult for the Dolphins defense. His athletic frame and strong arm allows the Bills offense to utilize the entire field, and his running ability can sustain drives when things break down around him. Buffalo's offense can score points averaging just under 30 points a game, and doesn't rely solely on one receiver or running back to get the job done. However, it does help having a player like receiver Stefon Diggs leading the way on the perimeter. His 1,459 yards and 12 yards per reception help provide their offense with explosive plays that create room for everyone else to thrive. Moving the chains on third down will be a battle of the league's best, with both the Dolphins defense and Bills offense ranking first in the NFL. This is the area where off-script running by Allen or check downs to running back Devin Singletary (35 receptions on the season) can hurt you. The Miami defense must do a great job of tackling in space, not allowing yards after catch or yards after first contact to favor the Bills. That's where the Bills can play keep away with the football, taking time off of the clock while finishing off drives with touchdowns.

3) Sustaining Positive Field Position

One other area that could help decide the game is starting field position. Weather in western New York isn't too pleasant this time for year, and wind with a mix of rain and snow is definitely in the forecast for Sunday's game. Making solid decisions in the return game is an area that Miami should certainly put a spotlight on. Knowing when to field a punt, or sometimes more importantly when to stay away from one, could impact those hidden yards in field position. Kick and punt returner Jakeem Grant is still questionable for the game. If he cannot play, that responsibility might fall to players like Lynn Bowden, Malcolm Perry or Noah Igbinoghene. Also, staying away from the holding calls or the unnecessary block in the back penalties that usually push the starting field position into negative territory. Conversely, punter Matt Haack and placekicker Jason Sanders must play a perfect game. Keeping the Bills offense on a long field is what could keep this game close early, and Haack has done a nice job with directional punting all season long. Also, Sanders will probably be asked to deliver from distance more than usual. Jason has had a terrific year kicking, ranking second in the league in points with 136, and has made 34 field goals. Finding success from those types of kicks can sometimes stabilize a game, giving a large boost to an offense and the team.

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