MIAMI, FL — Coming off a win in the season opener, the Bills head south this week for a meeting with a longtime rival, the Miami Dolphins.
Last week, Buffalo fared well on both sides of the ball, a performance that was highlighted by the first 300-yard passing game of QB Josh Allen’s career and a stellar effort from the Bills defense. With each new week, however, new challenges are presented and Buffalo will be in for a steeper challenge when they face Miami at 1 p.m. on CBS.
Here are five things to watch for during today’s Bills-Dolphins game:
Allen’s involvement in the run game was a major part of the Bills’ gameplan in Week 1 and don’t expect that to change in Week 2 against the ‘Phins, a team that allowed the most rushing yards of any NFL team (217) in Week 1 during their 21-11 loss to the Patriots. A big part of the success that New England enjoyed in the running game was the effort of Pats QB Cam Newton, who carried the ball 15 times for 75 yards and two scores against Miami. Allen was almost equally as good as Newton in the Bills’ win over New York, carrying the ball 14 times for 57 yards and a touchdown, but added two fumbles that killed scoring drives. While some, like myself, have called for Allen to be used in the run game less, it doesn’t seem as if the Bills will be obliged to do so. It’s clear that Buffalo views Allen’s legs as weapons and they don’t appear ready to stop using them to their advantage.
THE RUN GAME
As good as Allen looked in the run game, the Bills’ running backs did not have a good afternoon against the Jets in Week 1. RBs Devin Singletary and Zack Moss carried the ball nine times a piece for a combined 41 yards in the win, finding little room to run against what is widely considered a solid run defense. This week, going up against a lesser run defense in Miami, expect the Bills to do what they can to get their two young backs into a rhythm early. Another player to watch in the run game today will be WR Isaiah McKenzie, who recorded three carries last week for 17 yards and is likely to remain as an important piece to the Buffalo rushing attack all season. Last week the Dolphins allowed Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman to escape for a 23-yard run off the right end, a play that sparked New England’s game-clinching touchdown drive in the fourth quarter.
REPLACING MILANO AND EDMUNDS
If any defense is equipped to handle the loss of two of its starting linebackers, it’s the Bills. With that said, it certainly won’t be easy as Edmunds, the Bills’ defensive play-caller, and Milano, one of the team’s top playmakers are as important to this unit than any Buffalo defensive player outside of maybe Tre’Davious White. There is hope that neither injury will keep Milano or Edmunds out long-term. But in the short-term we could see a negative impact as a result of their absence, especially being that the Dolphins have one of the best young tight ends in the game in Mike Gesicki, a player who has great route running ability and has the potential to have a big day against the Bills reserves. The loss of Milano particularly hurts in this department, as he is one of the better coverage linebackers in the league. But with him being out, look to Buffalo’s only remaining starting linebacker, A.J. Klein to try to fill the void in coverage.
It was a debut to forget for the rookie kicker in Week 1, but the beauty of sports is there will always be another opportunity - at least until there isn’t. For Bass, it will be of vital importance for him to have a clean game this afternoon and get into a rhythm as the Bills progress into the meat of their regular season schedule. As we’ve seen before, kickers don’t get many chances to fail as other players might, especially if they don’t have a proven track record to fall back on. The Bills drafted Bass, but that doesn’t mean they will force themselves to keep him on board if he continues to struggle.
Unlike during Buffalo’s season opener at Bills Stadium, there will be a limited number of fans in the stands at Hard Rock Stadium this afternoon. The ‘Phins are planning to welcome up to 13,000 fans into Hard Rock, which is a number that could create enough crowd noise to perhaps impact the Bills on offense. Buffalo head coach Sean McDermott previously came out and said that he found it ‘ridiculous’ that some NFL teams would be allowed to host fans and others would not. We will see if it plays any role in the outcome of today’s game.