September 14, 2014 Leave a comment
The Buffalo Bills host the Miami Dolphins at Ralph Wilson Stadium on Sunday in what will be the biggest home opener in Western New York in years. It will be an emotionally charged day in Orchard Park as the Bills face their biggest rival, the Miami Dolphins. Both teams are coming off of big opening weeks wins. The Dolphins defeated the New England Patriots in Miami by a score of 33-20 and the Bills defeated the Chicago Bears at Soldier’s Field in overtime by a score of 23-20. A win on Sunday will be huge for either team as they will jump ahead of the division with a 2-0 record. The Dolphins had perhaps a more impressive victory last week but the Bills will be the ones with the home field advantage on Sundays. Here is a look at what to watch for in this Week 2 match-up:
When the Bills have the ball: The Bills slowed it down last week opposite the high-powered Bears offense but look for a quicker pace on Sunday. The Dolphins suffered several key injuries in week 1 on defense and the Bills will try to exploit that by keeping the Dolphins on their toes. The Patriots had some success against the Dolphins on the edges last week so look for the Bills to get creative with Sammy Watkins. They’ll also try to pound the ball with the running backs to try and control the clock. The Bills’ offensive line held their own last week against Chicago but will have a tough task with Cameron Wake and company on Sunday. E.J. Manuel bucked his rookie year trend by passing for a 7.9 yards per pass average in week 1, over a yard better than the 6.4 yard average that he had during his rookie season. Look for Manuel to take more shots down field with Watkins, Robert Woods, Mike Williams and Marquise Goodwin. If the Bills can protect Manuel they should be able to find success on offense against a depleted a Dolphins defense.
When the Dolphins have the ball: The Dolphins got a big game out of former Broncos’ running back Knowshon Moreno on opening day. They tired the Patriots’ defense out last week in the Miami heat and humidity but they won’t have the same opportunity this weekend in the cozy September Western New York atmosphere. They’ll need to come up with a different game plan in Buffalo. They are going to have to protect Ryan Tannehill like they did last week. The Dolphins’ O-Line looked great against New England but will be facing 3 Pro Bowlers in Mario Williams, Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus on Sunday. If Tannehill is under heavy pressure all day it will force him into mistakes and give the Bills opportunities to score points off of turnovers. Tannehill does not have a stellar track record away from Sun Life Stadium so if he wants to show that last Sunday wasn’t a red herring he’s going to have to show up big eventually in a tough road environment. Sunday will be a perfect opportunity to do just that. We’ll see if he can get it done on Sunday.
X-Factor for the Bills: QB E.J. Manuel - Manuel could probably go one of three ways on Sunday. He can exploit the injuries on the Miami defense and ride the emotional highs to a big time performance, he can lay an absolute egg and hurt the Bills’ chances of winning or he can be an effective game manager and do just enough that the defense and running game can take over the game. He hasn’t had too many of the first type of games but if there ever was an opportunity for one in his young career it will be this Sunday. It could be the perfect storm for Manuel to have a break out game. However if the Dolphins come to play on offense game manager Manuel will probably serve the Bills best. How the game plays out early will dictate how many chances that they let Manuel take. If the Dolphins struggle on offense early and the Bills’ defense can force some turnovers then Manuel may take some early shots to try and get in a rhythm. If Manuel can get his confidence up early he can make a huge impact for the Bills and both this game and beyond.
X-Factor for the Dolphins: DE Cameron Wake - Wake can literally take over a game – just ask Tom Brady. Wake was in Brady’s back pocket all day long last Sunday and severely hampered Brady’s production late in the game. Expect Wake to spend most of the game at left defensive end opposite Bills’ rookie right tackle Seantrel Henderson. It’s a match-up that Wake can exploit and is a much better draw than Henderson’s counterpart, the severely underrated Cordy Glenn. If Wake can get in Manuel’s back pocket all day like he did to Brady he could single-handedly force Manuel to lay the aforementioned egg. If Wake is neutralized by the Bills’ offensive line then it could be a long game for an injured Miami defense. Wake is that star of that defense and needs to set the pace.
Final Thoughts: It’s going to be very tough for the Dolphins to take the Buffalo crowd out of the game. It has all of the makings of an epic crowd this a Sunday at Ralph Wilson Stadium. The RD lot was already full on Saturday afternoon. Ryan Tannehill will have to battle the crowd noise along with a stout Buffalo front line. Both teams have a good amount of momentum heading into the game but this is just too good a set-up for a happy ending of the Bills’ story book week. Maybe Ryan Tannehill puts it together but I don’t think it happens this week. The Bills ride a week of momentum with a complete team victory and get to 2-0.
Final Score Prediction: Buffalo Bills 31, Miami Dolphins 23