The Buffalo Bills have certainly looked like one of the best teams in the NFL through two weeks, beating the defending Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams 31-10 and then demolishing last year’s AFC top seed Tennessee Titans 41-7.
However, things will get a bit harder on Sunday against a young, upstart Miami Dolphins team that has started the year 2-0 with wins over the Patriots and Ravens. With Buffalo coming into the game a little banged up, this could be more of a challenge for the current Super Bowl favorites than people expect.
Here are the keys for the Buffalo Bills Week 3 matchup:
Key #1: Will the Bills’ secondary be healthy in time?
While the Bills left Monday night’s game against the Titans largely satisfied, there were a few key injuries that put a little bit of a damper on the celebration. First was the scary injury to cornerback Dane Jackson, who had his neck backward when Tremaine Edmunds hit him as both were trying to make a tackle. Then there was another neck injury, this time to safety Micah Hyde, who left the game late in the 3rd quarter and did not return.
While the Bills received good news that Jackson avoided major injuries, and both players have allegedly told teammates that they’re fine, they both also didn’t participate in either Wednesday’s or Thursday’s practice, which at least calls into question their status for Sunday’s game. Since the Bills will already be without Pro Bowl cornerback Tre’Davious White, losing one or both of Jackson and Hyde could be a real problem against a potent Dolphins passing attack.
Key #2: Which Defense Can Get Stops?
We mentioned the Bills’ injury concerns above, but this Dolphins offense is dynamic even if Buffalo was at full strength. Miami is led by Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle, who come into Sunday’s game first and third in the NFL in yards, respectively, combining for 524 yards and five touchdowns on 34 receptions. That’s as dangerous a duo as you can get.
Tua Tagovailoa has also stepped his game up this year. He’s 10th in Pro Football Focus’ adjusted completion percentage with 77.8% and leads the league in passing yards at 739 yards. Now, he did face a Ravens secondary that was without four of its top five cornerbacks last week, so we may need to take the numbers with a grain of salt, but they have certainly been there so far.
Both teams are in the top four in the NFL in points scored, with Buffalo ranking first with 72 points in two games and Miami coming in fourth with 62 points. They’re also both in the top six in point differential, with the Bills leading the league at +55 and the Dolphins ranking in 6th with +17, which indicates that both their offenses and defenses have been doing their job so far.
However, the Bills’ defense is clearly playing better. They have nine sacks through two games and are ranked as the best defense in football by Football Outsiders’ DVOA ranking. What’s more, they’re second in the NFL in pressure rate at 41.6%, but they have only blitzed three times on the entire season, which means their front four is consistently beating opposing offensive lines.
If the Dolphins want to hit those big plays to Hill and Waddle, they are going to need to protect Tua first and buy him some time to make those throws.
Meanwhile, Pro Football Focus ratings suggest that the Miami Dolphins have the 2nd-worst grade for defensive coverage against receivers through two weeks. With Gabe Davis back at practice, the Dolphins are going to have their hands full with the Bills’ receiving corps and will really need to rise to the challenge.
Key #3: Can Josh Allen Continue His Domination of Miami?
Lastly, it seems like a cop-out to mention Josh Allen as a key since he’s an MVP favorite this year, but we just need to highlight what Allen has done against the Dolphins.
Buffalo has won the last seven matchups with the Dolphins; six of them have been by double-digits and five have been by over 15 points. Even if you include the one loss Allen suffered to Miami in his first career start against them, the Bills quarterback has a passer rating of 106.8 with 1,980 yards, 21 touchdowns, and five interceptions in eight games versus the Dolphins in his career.
What’s more, Allen averages 53.8 rushing yards per game against Miami at nine yards per carry with four touchdowns. There is clearly something about the Dolphins that brings out the best in Josh Allen, and we could see another big offensive performance from this team.