This will be a three part series previewing the other teams in the AFC East and how they affect the Dolphins in the upcoming season. Next Thursday we will cover the Jest and then the Cheatriots the following Thursday, August the 11th.
2016 Games Schedule:
Week 7 October 23 @ Dolphins Ball Park of Sun-Life Financial Presented by Jimmy Buffett Stadium
Week 16 December 24 @ Ralph Wilson Stadium
This needs to change. The difference in roster talent and overall results between the Dolphins and Bills in recent years has been minimal. Buffalo hasn’t had much of a playoff scope in that time, but the Dolphins have been within a game or two on two separate occasions.
In football, I prefer to break things down into eras. So when I speak of this recent rivalry, I’m referring to the Ryan Tannehill era. These divisional games have been the bugaboo of the team under the tenured quarterback and it starts with Buffalo. Winning just two of eight games in that time span, including a 1-3 mark in the 2013 and 2014 seasons, is the primary responsibility for Miami’s continued playoff drought.
Viewing these following statistics might be akin to watching a recording of your wife taking a tour of your neighbor’s bedroom, so viewer discretion is advised.
In Tannehill’s eight games against the Bills, he has posted the following passer ratings: 46.9, 93.7. 71.2, 45.6, 73.6, 114.8, 59.7, 100.3. The two wins came in games where he had zero turnovers and had above league average passer ratings.
Those eight games saw him throw eight interceptions and take an eye-popping 27 sacks. Getting dumped nearly four times per game is not an ideal path to victory.
Zeroing in on 2015, the Dolphins got embarrassed in the two games. In the first meeting, Tannehill had three interceptions, took two sacks, and Tyrod Taylor carved up the Miami defense for a near perfect passer rating tossing three touchdowns.
When Miami went to the Ralph in November, the Bills ran roughshod totaling 266 yards and three scores with an average of 8.08 yards per carry – yikes.
Now that you’ve relived the horror of getting our asses whopped by an equally crappy team, let’s look ahead to the 2016 Bills and how we can buck this trend.
Buffalo wants to do two things under Rex Ryan. Play a harassing style of defense and lead the league in rushing attempts on offense. The Bills ran the ball more than any other team in the NFL besides Carolina and led the league with a very impressive 4.8 yards per rush figure.
LeSean “Shady” McCoy was the bell cow of the group but Karlos Williams was the more productive runner. He rushed for seven scores and averaged 5.56 yards per rush. However, his wife became pregnant this off-season and adopted the former eating habits of Karlos’ head coach, Rex Ryan. Not to be outdone, Williams added 30 pounds of pregnancy weight and the word out of Bills camp was that his conditioning drills were “laughable” to quote one anonymous player in OTA’s.
On top of the added weight, Williams has to stay away from the facility and team activities for the first four weeks of the season while he serves a suspension for violating the substances abuse program.
With Karlos carving up more cold cuts than NFL defenses in September, the Bills will rely on McCoy whose injury history requires he remain on a pitch count.
Tyrod Taylor chipped in with 568 rushing yards of his own, and he might be the focal of the running game for a team that wants to lead the league in rushing.
Off of this strong ground game, Tyrod Taylor’s deep passing game was the primary staple when the Bills took to flight. He was an elite deep passer with great arc and touch on his downfield throws. Pro football Focus graded Taylor as the best deep passer in the league in 2015 but he struggled immensely when he threw short and intermediate routes.
The lack of ground game and inability to use as much play pass will make this more difficult. This goes without even mentioning the volatility of deep passing in the NFL. Much like relief pitching in baseball, these numbers can drastically fluctuate from year to year (see Teddy Bridgewater going from an elite downfield passer in 2014 to one of the league’s worst in 2015.) Does this mean Bridgewater forgot how to throw a deep pass? No. It simply shows that deep passing is a small sample size with varying degrees of success.
The Bills only receiver worth a damn is Sammy Watkins. And while Watkins is a complete stud that beat up Brent Grimes’ reputation more than the diminutive cornerback’s wife’s Twitter account, Watkins is recovering from surgery to repair a broken foot.
Buffalo’s offense could be a nightmare this season, but that’s what happens with Rex Ryan led football teams. The longer he’s around, the worst the offense and the team gets. Luckily he still has a quality offensive line with stars Cordy Glenn, Richie Incognito and Eric Wood lining up at left tackle, left guard and center respectively. However, the right side is completely unfigured with the maligned John Miller at right guard and a battle at right tackle between incompetent Jordan Mills and new Crohn’s patient Seantrell Henderson.
On defense, the Bills essentially trashed the blue-print that made it a top flight unit in 2014 and took Rex’s approach en route to the 19th ranked defense that went from a league leading 54 sacks to just 21 in 2015. To make matters worse, Rex brought his brother (Rob Ryan) in to further destroy yet another NFL defense.
The Buffalo front seven has more questions than it does answers. Marcel Dareus is an all-pro quality end but Corbin Bryant is one dimensional Kyle Williams is 33 with a lengthy injury history. Jerry Hughes is the only linebacker capable of winning one on one rush opportunities and the group, as a whole, regressed in the run game dramatically. First round pick Shaq Lawson has a ton of upside but enters camp with a shoulder injury.
The secondary has some terrific corners with great ball skills but the safety position is wide open. Stephon Gilmore is a top 10 corner, Ronald Darby could’ve been the defensive rookie of the year in ‘15 and Nickell Robey is a plus slot corner. Aaron Williams was once a pro-bowl safety but he is dealing with a serious neck/head injury.
Coach Adam Gase has compiled an offensive roster predicated on ability to mismatch and out scheme opposing defenses. If a Rex Ryan defense can’t pressure the quarterback, it’s not going to be effective. The hope is that Miami’s line stays healthy and can keep Tannehill on his feet. When Tannehill isn’t pressure double digit times against Buffalo in his career, the Dolphins win (2-0.) When he’s continually harassed, we lose (0-6.)
Stopping the run against this team should be an easier task this year but we still need better linebacker play to accomplish this.
I believe Miami matches up well with the biggest thorn in our side since 2012 (Miami has a better record against New England than Buffalo in that time – think about that.) I see that home game in October as a comfortable win with a narrow win coming on Christmas Eve in Buffalo – preferably ending with a missed Dan Carpenter field goal (fuck you, Dan.)
I may be more down on the Bills than most. But I believe I have sited plenty of valid reasons on why the Bills finish the season 5-11.
Miami sweeps Buffalo in 2016.
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