On Sunday, the Buffalo Bills (2-4) will leave the cold fall weather of Western New York and head to sunny Miami, Florida for a divisional battle with the 3-2 Miami Dolphins. The game will be kicking off at 1 P.M. and will be broadcast on CBS. Let’s take a look at some keys to the game shall we?
The injury bug has plagued the Bills in the early part of the season. Last week, Buffalo’s secondary was finally fully intact with Jairus Byrd and Stephon Gilmore returning to action, and now our offense looks to be following suit. The only major injury the Bills have to deal with this week is to rookie starting quarterback E.J. Manuel. The Bills have finally given a time table for his return, barring set-backs, he should return in 4-6 weeks. His back-up Thad Lewis suffered a mild foot sprain Sunday against the Bengals, but has fully participated in practice all week, so expect to see him at the helm of the Buffalo offense. Luckily for the Lewis, he will be getting his primary receiver back in Stevie Johnson, who also fully participated in practice Thursday. Johnson missed last week’s game with a back injury. C.J. Spiller, who has been nursing and ankle injury for the past few week was only a limited participant in Thursday’s practice but, like last week, expect to see #28 on the field Sunday.
Now that the injury news is out of the way…let’s turn our attention to the game itself.
Thad Lewis showed last week that he is capable of running this offense. Lewis was able to throw 2 touchdowns in the 4th quarter of last week’s game to erase a 24-10 deficit. Although the Bills ended up losing in overtime, it’s a good sign that Lewis wasn’t overcome by the moment and stayed poised enough to keep the Bills in the game. Now that he has the first game jitters out of the way and has a second week of first team reps, Lewis should more comfortable running the offense. I expect him to play better than he did last Sunday.
Last week, Fred Jackson had an off game, only rushing for 35 yards. With C.J. Spiller playing with an injured ankle, Jackson needs to up his production running the ball. This tandem has been one of the best in the league, ranking 3rd in the NFL in rushing yards per game. With an inexperienced guy at quarterback, these two need to step up their game to open up the play-action for Lewis. Miami has a great defensive pass rush highlighted by Cameron Wake and James Starks. If Spiller and Jackson can run the ball effectively, Wake and Starks will have to respect the run, making play-action fakes and the option a viable offensive tool for Lewis.
Defensively, the Bills are starting to look better. Now that we have all our defensive backs back on the field, our passing defense should get better as these guys get themselves back into shape. Last week, Byrd and Gilmore were basically non-factors. Now that they have had another week to shake the rust off, they should slowly start returning to full form. We are definitely going to need them to be on their A-game to stop Mike Wallace from gashing us like A.J. Green did last week.
As far as the defensive line is concerned, we need to get pressure on Ryan Tannehill. Tannehill has been pretty good in his 2nd season, but is still prone to throwing interceptions when under pressure. Mario Williams and company need to be in his face all game, hopefully forcing some errant throws.
Las Vegas on line one. According to the fine gambling establishments in Vegas, the Dolphins are favored by 7 this week. The Dolphins started out hot, winning their first 3 games, but have cooled off since, losing their last 2. Buffalo has yet to play a game that wasn’t decided on the last possession. This one is going to come down to which team can execute in the 4th quarter. The Bills have been in several of these games this season and let’s face it, they can’t lose them all right? My prediction is…drumroll please….Buffalo 27, Miami 24.