Five burning questions for Dolphins’ trip to Buffalo to face Bills


The Miami Dolphins will travel to Buffalo for a matchup against the Bills on Saturday night. Yes, it’s that time of year when the NFL adds a day to its schedule, and college football doesn’t fill up on Saturdays. And this game will be dating display.

The Dolphins are reeling after two losses. Not only did they lose, but how. Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel has enjoyed a formula for success that was unchallenged until Week 13. But the San Francisco 49ers and Los Angeles Chargers have found ways to slow Tua Tagovailoa and the offense of the Dolphins. And this has ruined the works of the whole team.

The Bills, for their part, seem to have overcome this phase of their season. They have an attack that can adapt and a defense that is elite. So it could be a tough game for Miami.

Let’s dive into some burning questions.

1. How can Mike McDaniel adjust his offense after watching defenses create a blueprint for the Dolphins offense?

This was a theme of my takeaways earlier this week. But it’s the biggest question for the rest of the Dolphins’ season. When their offense clicks, they are unbeatable. When their offense fails, they are extremely beatable.

And now what?

The Chargers and 49ers did an excellent job of taking the middle zone and the middle of the field in the passing game. That means limiting Tua’s ability to find his receivers 10-20 yards from the line of scrimmage. That area has been where Tua revels in getting Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle the ball, and they’re so quick they can generate yards after the catch.

Now, Tua has to find ways to attack the short game to combat what teams are doing against Miami. Another option: shoot the ball deep. But you can’t throw deep balls every play and expect to score five 70-yard touchdowns. So the Dolphins will need to develop their offense to include more passing closer to the line of scrimmage.

“A lot of times this year when we found the hit, the first read of a deep route would be open. So basically, we never had to check that much this year,” Tagovailoa said Wednesday. “Those are good lessons we’re learning now in the season, going into schedule time.”

The rushing game will be what gets the Dolphins offense going against a Bills defense that has an incredible defensive line but an unimpressive cornerback corps.

2. What point of emphasis do the Bills choose in crime?

The Bills have done a great job of showing their ability to run the ball in recent weeks. His DVOA, an advanced stat, has shown his efficiency on the field has improved over the past three weeks, with a top-10 rushing offense. But that’s not the best way to attack the Dolphins’ defense. Miami struggles to defend the pass.

So Josh Allen might have a day.

He’s been quiet, taking a bit of a back seat, perhaps in part due to an elbow injury. Instead of missing a few games and resting, he played it. But they seem to be limiting their passing attempts. They may not be able to do that in this game. Allen and Stefon Diggs can absolutely put up numbers on this Dolphins defense, with top cornerback Xavien Howard struggling (with the worst coverage grade of his career at PFF).

I suspect the Bills will lean on their passing offense. And if the Dolphins find out what ails them, this game could turn into a shootout.

3. Did you know?

Here are a handful of interesting stats, courtesy of our FOX Sports research department.

Dolphins:

  • The Dolphins defeated the Bills, 21-19, in Week 3 and are looking for their first season in Buffalo since 2016
  • Tagovailoa had a career-low 35.7% completion percentage in Week 14 (minimum 10 pass attempts)
  • Dolphins are 1-5 when held under 20 points this season (7-0 when held to 20+ points)
  • Miami is 5-1 in their last 6 divisional games dating back to last season

Invoices:

  • Allen scored a passing touchdown and a rushing touchdown in the Bills’ Week 14 win. The Bills are now 24-1 (including the playoffs) when Allen scores both a passing and rushing TD.
  • With a win, Allen (49-24 regular season record as the Bills’ starting QB) would become the third quarterback in Bills franchise history to record 50 or more regular season wins.
  • The others? Joe Ferguson (77-86 record) and Jim Kelly (101-59 record).

4. We see it Tre’Davious White game against Tyreek Hill?

If White were fully healthy, this would be as compelling a matchup as any. But White is slowly recovering from an ACL injury and just got off the pitch count last week. So it will be interesting to see how much, if any, he plays against Hill.

“It was good to have him back where you didn’t have to have him in a pitch count,” Bills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said Tuesday. “Just let him go out there and play and get a chance to play a full game. So that was really encouraging. There were some good moments in that game and there were some moments where you know he’s not back from wherever he wants to be.”

Frazier doesn’t seem to relish the idea of ​​putting White against the best receiver in the NFL. But I bet we see these two players fighting here and there.

Tyreek Hill explains why he left the Chiefs for the Dolphins

Tyreek Hill explains why he left the Chiefs for the Dolphins

Dolphins WR Tyreek Hill on his departure from the Kansas City Chiefs and a potential playoff matchup against his former team.

5. How much will time change the complexion of this matchup?

While I don’t normally put a ton of stock in the weather, the forecast for this game looks remarkable: 20 mph winds, several inches of snow, and a temperature in the low 20s.

Tua has played some of his worst games in cold weather. And Saturday will be cold.

“It could be snowing. It could be raining. I don’t know. I think at least for me, I can speak for myself, it’s a mindset thing,” Tagovailoa said Wednesday. “And if I’m too focused and worried about whether it’s too cold, can I catch the ball, or not, then I’d say I’m focused on the wrong things.”

Because of his problems with the cold, Tua spent some time training in 20-degree weather last season. He organized a pitching session in Maryland last winter.

It’s not good news for Miami, which has been enjoying its temperate climate in Florida. With Tua having an accurate but not electric arm, the wind could be problematic for the Dolphins’ deep game. So again, he’ll be back in Miami setting up the passing game.

Not that the cold is going away for the Dolphins. It’s likely to be cold in Foxborough, where Miami plays in Week 17. And then the road to the Super Bowl is likely to go through Buffalo or Kansas City. The Dolphins need to figure out how to make their offense work in adverse conditions like the ones they’ll be playing on Saturday.

As for the Bills, they’re used to this weather. The only question will be how much Allen can throw in that wind and whether his arm strength appears diminished by the elbow injury.

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Prior to joining FOX Sports as an AFC East reporter, Henry McKenna spent seven years covering the Patriots for USA TODAY Sports Media Group and Boston Globe Media. Follow him on Twitter at @McKennAnalysis.

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