The Game Matchups Preview series is dedicated to breaking down how the Buffalo Bills match up with their opponent in each game of the 2022 NFL Season. This series will look at five key matchups; Bills Pass Offense vs. Opponent Pass Defense, Bills Rush Offense vs. Opponent Rush Defense, Bills Pass Defense vs. Opponent Pass Offense, Bills Rush Defense vs. Opponent Rush Offense, and Bills Special Teams vs. Opponent Special Teams. This entire analysis will conclude with three sections; “Why Buffalo Will Lose”, “Why Buffalo Will Win”, and a score prediction for the game.
Below I present 2022’s third iteration of this analysis for the Bills’ Week 3 clash against the Miami Dolphins. Included is a scale ranking the advantage in each matchup from 👏 (Minimal Advantage) to 👏👏👏👏👏 (Massive Advantage).
Bills Pass Offense vs. Dolphins Pass Defense
When a quarterback is playing at an MVP level, it’s very difficult to beat their team, and that’s just what Josh Allen is doing. Through the first two weeks of the season, Josh Allen ranks #2 in Positive Touch Frequency, #2 in Yards per Touch, and #1 in Touchdown Frequency among NFL quarterbacks. Those numbers have been generated against Rams and Titans teams that combine for 20% of all first/second-team Defensive All-Pros from 2021. Allen has accomplished this by feeding his bonafide #1 WR in Stefon Diggs and dealing with turnover at WR2, slot WR, and offensive coordinator. The MVP hype for Allen was justified leading into the season and through two games, his accomplishments are pushing that hype to unprecedented levels.
Week 3 does not provide an easier matchup for Allen and the Bills’ air attack as the Dolphins have their own set of high-end playmakers. Arguably the best CB in the NFL resides in Miami in Xavien Howard, who will provide one of the biggest tests yet for Bills WR1 Stefon Diggs. Since joining the Bills in 2020, Diggs has averaged approximately six catches for 82 yards and a one TD per game against the Dolphins, numbers Howard will be tasked with dropping. Helping him in the backend is a rising star in safety Jevon Holland, who through two games has a Passer Rating against of just 39.6. With the Dolphins CB2, Byron Jones, out in Week 3, Holland will be a focus point as a player required to slow down the deep ball of the Bills. Holland and Howard are joined by Brandon Jones (S), Nik Needham (CB), and Kader Kohou (DB) as the players tasked with slowing down the Bills’ air attack. Can they do that against some form of Gabe Davis, Jake Kumerow, Dawson Knox, Jamison Crowder, and Isaiah McKenzie? That remains to be seen.
Up front, the Dolphins are going to need to try and find a way to get pressure on Josh Allen. Through two games, Allen is only being pressured on 9.0% of his dropbacks. In comparison, in the best season of his career Allen saw a pressure rate of 21.9% (2020). The Dolphins need to push that 9.0% rate higher through their edge rushers of Emmanuel Ogbah and Jaelan Phillips. Through two weeks the two have combined for just five total pressures, a number they will have to equal against the Bills in Week 3. Under a lack of duress Allen has proven to be surgical and for the Dolphins that will be a concern as Mac Jones and Lamar Jackson have produced a Passer Rating of 114.4 against the Dolphins. Do that against Buffalo and you are signing a death warrant.
EDGE: Bills 👏👏👏
Bills Rush Offense vs. Dolphins Rush Defense
With Josh Allen, the Bills are a top-10 rushing team. Without Josh Allen, the Bills are a bottom-10 rushing team. Buffalo’s focus on rotating their three RBs of Devin Singletary, Zack Moss, and James Cook has reduced any of their RBs’ ability to consistently pick up chunk yardage. Prior to garbage time against the Titans, not a single one of the Bills RBs was able to consistently pick up yards resulting in the Bills calling 21 consecutive pass plays against the Titans. The Bills’ lack of a traditional run game has not bit them thus far in 2022 but as the season goes on some ability to move the ball on the ground, not involving Josh Allen, will be needed.
Against the Dolphins, the Bills may be able to find their footing as the Dolphins are struggling to contain the run. Two games in they are giving up 5.0 Y/A and just saw a mobile QB in Lamar Jackson run for 119 yards. Specifically, Jackson gashed the Dolphins running to the right which tested their LB speed. Jerome Baker and Elandon Roberts are both very good LBs who possess above-average speed but their vulnerability to getting sucked into scrums has reduced that speed level. That plays into the Bills’ talent at center and right tackle where both Mitch Morse and Spencer Brown specifically excel at getting to the second level and slowing down opposing LBs. This means more space not just for the Bills’ RBs (this could be a “let James Cook” game) but also for the Bills’ best runner, Josh Allen.
A lot of this though depends on Buffalo’s push up front. In the first two weeks of the season, they had to deal with Jefferey Simmons and Aaron Donald and now will take on Raekwon Davis and Christian Wilkins. While not the same caliber of talent both of these players are talented with Wilkins being specifically of concern. Wilkins is currently on pace for 111 Tackles and 26 Tackles for a Loss which are numbers more than capable of garnering an All-Pro nod. The Bills will be wary of Wilkins and attempt to avoid him Sunday afternoon. Expect the Bills to test the edges of the DL to see if they can’t break any big runs and in doing so reduce the effectiveness of the Dolphins’ edge rush.
EDGE: Dolphins 👏👏
Bills Pass Defense vs. Dolphins Pass Offense
Matthew Stafford, Ryan Tannehill, and Malik Willis have combined for a QuBeR of 12.67 against the Bills’ defense in 2022. For context, a QuBeR of 12.67 is on par with Ryan Leaf’s disastrous rookie season (1998) which saw him produce a 12.47. Making this all the more impressive is that the Bills have done this with a boundary CB trio consisting of a 2020 seventh-round Pick in Dane Jackson and two rookies in Christian Benford and Kaiir Elam. Reinforcements are coming sooner than later when All-Pro CB Tre White returns but as of now these young CBs are earning their stripes. Injuries are a concern but in Week 3, against this Dolphins aerial attack, the young CBs’ stripes will be tested.
They will be tested by QB Tua Tagovailoa who just had his coming out party with a six-touchdown game in Week 2. The Dolphins have built the perfect offense around Tua’s skillsets by combining him with Jaylen Waddle and Tyreek Hill, both of whom are game wreckers with the ball in their hand. The Dolphins are heavily reliant on getting both Waddle and Hill the ball in space and allowing them to make plays. This will severely test the Bills’ zone defense, as if Waddle/Hill can find gaps in the zone, it could result in a high-scoring affair. Injuries make this a larger concern for the Bills as it is likely both rookies will start at CB this week withDane Jackson and Tre White recovering from injury. Meanwhile, the most potent part of the Bills’ defense, safety, could be tested as well with Micah Hyde nursing an injury. Still, the Bills’ scheme is highly deceptive and can mask a lack of talent when necessary.
Further help in masking their deficiencies is a DL that looks fairly dominant as of now for Buffalo. Von Miller is Von Miller and Greg Rousseau is becoming a force at the other edge rusher position. With Tua’s left-handedness, the Bills have the ability to avoid the stalwart Terron Armstead and overload the Dolphins at RT. This puts career backup Greg Little in a vulnerable position and should test Tua’s instincts on if/when to get rid of the ball. Add to that the possibility that the Bills could see both Ed Oliver and Tim Settle return and suddenly a pass rush that gave both the Rams and Titans issues could cause the Dolphins, a team with a worse OL, even larger issues.
EDGE: Bills 👏👏
Bills Rush Defense vs. Dolphins Rush Offense
Dare we say the Bills Rush Defense is…elite? Against the Titans, they held All-World RB Derrick Henry to just 25 scrimmage yards, his lowest total since December 10, 2017 (20). To this point in the season, the Bills are giving up just 2.9 Y/A which ranks third in the NFL. The addition of DaQuan Jones is proving beneficial as Buffalo has finally found their true 1T-DT. This has provided LBs Tremaine Edmunds and Matt Milano more time to dissect plays and therefore a better ability to make instinctual moves towards the ball carrier. If this keeps up a Bills defense that has already been dominant against the pass could be dominant against another aspect of opposing offenses.
The Dolphins will present a unique challenge with RBs that are mostly homerun threats. So far Raheem Mostert and Chase Edmonds have seen similar snap and touch shares but neither has exactly lit the world on fire. The two have combined for 125 rushing yards on 33 attempts for a Y/A of 3.8. Mostert is the homerun threat, but after multiple recent injuries in his career, is struggling to get to speed while Edmonds is the more complete RB. As of yet, the Dolphins have not needed to rely on their RBs and/or been able to use them much with the flow of prior games. Saying that though, no one should be shocked if one of these players gets the ball and breaks off a big run at any point.
The Bills present an enigma in this matchup as a team that has yet to put its best foot forward. In Week 2 they were missing their 3T-DT1 and their 1T-DT2, and in Buffalo’s rotation that presents a serious issue. Still, their scheme and ability to roll with DaQuan Jones and Jordan Phillips resulted in consistent success against the Titans and Derrick Henry. In Week 3, Buffalo may or may not have some combination of Ed Oliver, Tim Settle, and Jordan Phillips, all of whom are dealing with injuries. If they get one or more of those players the Bills not only gain a massive advantage against the Dolphins on the ground, but also one against the Dolphins through the air. The Bills’ defense is arguably dominant in both phases, with or without their stars.
EDGE: Bills 👏👏👏
Bills Special Teams vs. Dolphins Special Teams
The Bills’ special teams has played surprisingly well thus far in 2022. Kicker Tyler Bass has drilled all 12 of his kicks including 3 FGs and 9 XPs. Punter Sam Martin saw his first action in Week 2, kicking three punts in garbage time, two of which were fumbled by the returner. As for returning for the Bills, Jamison Crowder has handled punting duties well averaging 12.2 Y/PR while a Bills player has yet to return a Kick.
For the Dolphins kicking has been equally as impressive with Jason Sanders nailing 10/10 kicks including two FGs and eight XPs. Their punter, Thomas Morstead, has averaged a solid 44.2 yards per punt along with a 41.3 net yards per punt, making him a solid weapon. Add to that Jevon Holland on PR and Raheem Mostert on KR, both of whom are capable of breaking big returns, and the Dolphins present an issue on Special Teams.
Why Buffalo Will Lose
The Dolphins are an ascending team and one that seems to be peaking two weeks into the season. Their offense fired on full cylinders in Week 2 with Tua Tagovailoa’s six TD performance being impossible to ignore. Their speed at WR jumps off the page and their talent at TE in Mike Gesicki makes for a matchup nightmare for opponents. It should be surprising to no one if the Dolphins prove capable of topping the 17 points combined that the Rams and Titans have produced thus far against the Bills.
On defense, the Dolphins have struggled a bit more but they have talented playmakers throughout. Both Jevon Holland and Xavien Howard are capable of singlehandedly flipping the game on its head. Meanwhile, the front seven of the fish are more than capable of holding their own against the Bills on the ground. Contain Josh Allen’s legs and force a few turnovers and you can beat the Bills. The Dolphins have the talent to do that.
Why Buffalo Will Win
The Bills are the better team. Josh Allen may be the best football player on Earth right now and Stefon Diggs is coming off two straight games where he torched two first-team All-Pros in Jalen Ramsey and Kevin Byard. Xavien Howard will test Diggs, but even if he shuts him down, you should expect Allen to work his other players into the rotation. If that includes Gabe Davis the Dolphins will have a huge issue, but if that is Jake Kumerow, Dawson Knox, Jamison Crowder, or Isaiah McKenzie the Dolphins may still struggle.
On defense, the Bills may have the best unit in football, even without their top two CBs. Waddle and Hill will be an issue but with Buffalo’s ability to mask coverages while simultaneously pressuring QBs with a four-man rush, Tua Tagovailoa may see ghosts on Sunday. Further, LT Terron Armstead may be able to nullify the Bills’ strongside ER but their ability to rotate and rush elsewhere, against a subpar OL, may prove the difference in this game.
Prediction: Bills 35 – Dolphins 24
The Dolphins likely get theirs on Sunday but with the way the Bills’ offense is playing you have to question who can stop them. Josh Allen has reached a new level of offensive proficiency and will put up points against a defense that has historically struggled against him. Miami can keep it close because their scheme should break zone defenses but at the end of the day, it won’t be enough to keep up with Allen’s offense. Would it shock me if Miami outscores the Bills? No. Do I expect it to happen? No.