Week 1 is in the books. It was a slug-fest, but the Dolphins came out on top against Mac Jones and the Patriots in the opener. Thanks to some luck, Miami now sits atop the division. This gives the team a golden opportunity in Week 2. Miami welcomes the Buffalo Bills to town and has a chance to put some distance between themselves and the rest of the AFC East with a win.
Most media and fans alike had the BIlls as an overwhelming favorite to walk away with the AFC East title again. After a loss in Week 1, those hopes certainly aren’t dashed, but it becomes a lot harder should they lose this Sunday to a division foe. For Miami’s part, a win on Sunday puts them at the only 2-0 team in the division and gives them at worst a tie with the Bills when all is said and done in January.
The Dolphins didn’t look spectacular in their Week 1 matchup. They did just enough to get the job done. However, Buffalo is a different beast. It’s going to take a much better performance for the Dolphins to put an early stranglehold on the division. Let’s take a look at what the Dolphins keys to victory are this week.
Contain Josh Allen
The Dolphins defense did a solid job of containing Mac Jones, Josh McDaniels, and the Patriots offense on Sunday . They’re up against a different beast this week. Brain Daboll has done a masterful job with Bills quarterback Josh Allen. Allen has transformed his game from a toolsy, but inconsistent QB, into one of the games’ top passers.
Allen isn’t just dangerous from a passing perspective, either. He’s just as dangerous with his legs, which poses a unique problem for the Dolphins defense. Miami has not been good in recent years against mobile quarterbacks. It’s of critical importance for the Dolphins to keep Allen in the pocket and make him beat them with his arm.
Beating them with his arm is well within Allen’s capability. He’s got one of the strongest arms in the league and has learned to throw with touch instead of firing only fastballs. If the Dolphins secondary can put the clamps on Stefon Diggs and make the supporting cast of receivers step up, it’ll be a long day for Allen and the Bills offense.
Miami played a bend-but-don’t-break defense in Week 1 against the Patriots. Fans should expect a similar result in the Week 2 game. However, that’s playing with fire when you consider how explosive the Bills offense can be. Coverage over the middle of the field will have to improve if Miami is going to walk away 2-0 and firmly atop the division.
Better play from Tua
All offseason, the talk around the Dolphins was centered around quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. The national media wasn’t sold on Tua and needed to see more development from the young quarterback. Dolphins fans on social media were fervent in their defense of Tua. Dolphins beat reporters had a new piece about Tua’s development in camp seemingly every other day. It was something everyone was keeping an eye on, for better or worse.
After the first week of the season, the jury is still out on Tua’s development. On the one hand, it did look to the naked eye like Tua was more aggressive and confident in his decision-making last Sunday. On the other hand, Tua struggled massively in the intermediate areas of the field. Something that is supposed to be his strong suit.
Against the Patriots, Tua completed just one of his eight passes in the 10-19 yard range. The vast majority of the damage Tua did against the Patriots came on passes that traveled less than 10 yards from the line of scrimmage. If Miami has any hope of pulling off the upset against Buffalo, Tua and his receivers will have to be more in-sync in the intermediate areas.
One area of hope for the Dolphins is that the deep ball was reasonably effective against the Patriots. Tua only attempted four passes of 20 yards or more, but he completed two of them. That’s an aspect of the game that was glaringly absent last season. If Tua can connect on a couple of deep balls again this week, it should make things exciting. Having Will Fuller in the mix would have helped greatly in that aspect, but he has been ruled out for Sunday’s game.
Miami has forced a turnover in 23 straight games. That streak is by far the longest active streak in the NFL. The next closest team has forced a turnover in eight consecutive games. When the streak started, most thought the way they were playing wasn’t sustainable. They’ve proven doubters wrong, forcing a turnover in every game over nearly a season and a half now.
One of the biggest reasons Miami came away with a win on Sunday was the fumble cornerback Xavien Howard forced to put the game on ice. It’s imperative that Miami forces Allen into some poor decisions and can capitalize on those decisions.
Allen is the ultimate gunslinger. He has a powerful arm, and he trusts that arm to make throws that other quarterbacks simply can’t make. That can be a double-edged sword, as it gives defenses a chance to make a play. This defense has been incredibly adept at capitalizing on those opportunities, and they’ll need to again on Sunday.
On paper, Miami comes into the game on Sunday at a considerable disadvantage. The Bills are easily the most talented team in the division. They are one of the most talented rosters in the entire NFL. If Miami is going to pull off the upset, they need things to break their way. They play the game on the field — not on paper — for a reason. By forcing Allen to make mistakes and coming out on top of the turnover battle, suddenly the paper advantage doesn’t mean much.
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