Sunday, October 20, 2013

Four Point Stance: Bills at Dolphins


Two teams intent on avoiding three game losing streaks face off this week, as the Buffalo Bills (2-4) travel south to play the Miami Dolphins (3-2) in a crucial divisional game.

The Bills will start third-year journeyman quarterback Thaddeus Lewis for the second straight week despite an ankle injury that led to the signing of Matt Flynn as insurance. Lewis' play has been a bright spot in Buffalo's back-to-back losses, where it was instead a defense that's allowed an average of 34 points in the two contests that has Buffalo's season teetering.

For Miami, it's a sputtering offense that's led helped squander a 3-0 start to the season, with an ineffective offensive line being the primary reason. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill has faced almost continuous pressure each game and the Dolphins have barely attempted to generate a running game, two problems the coaching staff claims to have addressed during last week's bye.

When the Dolphins have the ball:
The lack of balance in the Dolphins' offense is causing major problems, as opponents are able to focus on pressuring Tannehill and taking advantage of a poor pass-blocking offensive line. A bye week to ponder its issues will undoubtedly have Miami resolved to run the ball more. If Buffalo's defensive front can be stingy against the run early on, the Dolphins may resort to their old one-dimensional ways.

When the Bills have the ball:
Even with a hobbled Lewis and C.J. Spiller, the Bills present a dangerous inside-outside rushing attack that will challenge Dolphins linebackers Dannell Ellerbe, who is listed as doubtful with a knee injury, and Philip Wheeler to pursue laterally and contain Buffalo's speed. Slowing the Bills' third-ranked rushing game should be Miami's first priority, in order to force their inexperienced quarterback to make plays in the passing game.

Mario Williams. Williams, who rushes the right edge on 61.3% of his pass rushes, per Pro Football Focus, will line up across from declining veteran right tackle Tyson Clabo most of the day. The Dolphins decided against tweaking their offensive line group during their bye, and if left on an island, Clabo will have a long day against a resurgent Williams, resulting in more pressure on Tannehill and more offensive struggles.

Buffalo is Miami's most recurrent opponent, with the Dolphins holding a 57-40-1 all-time record in the series. Famously, the Dolphins once won 20-straight against the Bills from 1970-79, the longest winning streak for one team over another in NFL history. The teams have split 24 meetings since 2000.

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