The Buffalo Bills (0-1) travel to South Florida to take on the Miami Dolphins (1-0) in Week 2 of the 2021 NFL Season. Buffalo is coming off of a brutal 23-16 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, while Miami secured a 17-16 win against the New England Patriots in Week 1.
Josh Allen and the Bills hope to regroup Sunday on the road against a Dolphins team that they’ve won five straight against. Allen has had great success against Miami in recent years and Buffalo needs a strong performance by their quarterback in order to earn their first win of the year.
Here are the top four storylines to watch in Week 2.
How will OL respond after Week 1 dismantling?
To say the Steelers enjoyed success against the Bills’ offensive line would be an understatement. Pittsburgh’s defensive front led by T.J. Watt, Cam Heyward and Melvin Ingram flat out dominated Buffalo all game. Josh Allen was pressured on 23 of his 56 dropbacks and the Bills simply had no answer for the Steelers, who got away with rushing four for the majority of the game.
Miami’s defense doesn’t have the wealth of talent that Pittsburgh boasts, but they were able to generate consistent pressure on Patriots quarterback Mac Jones in their season opener. Miami’s defense totaled 19 quarterback pressures, including eight hits in Week 1. But they did so by blitzing Jones on 21 of his 40 dropbacks.
The Dolphins have edge rushers in Emmanuel Ogbah, Andrew Van Ginkel and rookie Jaelan Phillips, who certainly won’t win their one-on-one matchups with Dion Dawkins and Daryl Williams with the ease in which Watt and Ingram were able to. And with the amount of empty, spread looks the Bills will show Miami, the Dolphins will need to be cautious bringing extra rushers at Allen, who has had incredible success against them over the last three years.
Against an average Miami defensive line, look for Buffalo’s offensive line to regroup and win more matchups, allowing Allen to get into a rhythm and go into attack mode.
Takeaways will be key
Despite multiple opportunities in Week 1, the Bills’ defense wasn’t able to register a single takeaway against the Ben Roethlisberger-led Steelers. Tremaine Edmunds had a tipped pass fall through his hands, Tre White had an interception called back due to penalty, and Buffalo wasn’t able to fall ontop of a fumble caused by Mario Addison’s sack.
Against Tua Tagovailoa, Buffalo’s defense needs to generate turnovers. The book thus far on the former Alabama quarterback is that if he’s forced to progress past his first read, things can get dicey and he’ll become erratic. Buffalo’s pass defense was lights out against the Steelers until the final drives of the fourth quarter when Roethlisberger began to pick on Levi Wallace, getting their hands on six passes while holding him to 188 yards on 18-of-32 passing attempts.
Look for the Bills to have more success in the big play department Sunday against their AFC East foes.
Pass rush can pin ears back
Buffalo’s defensive line tallied two sacks and just seven pressures against Roethlisberger a week ago. But that lack of pass rush success had more to do with Big Ben getting the ball out quickly than it did with the Bills’ front. Roethlisberger averaged 2.25-seconds from snap to pass, the quickest rate among all passers in Week 1, outside of Justin Fields’ two attempts.
Conversely, Tagovailoa averaged 2.5 seconds from snap-to-throw, which was 15th among opening day quarterbacks. That fraction of a second can make all the difference in the world, and the Bills know that they’ll have chances to hurry, hit and sack the second-year signal-caller.
Miami doesn’t have the quick receivers that are as impactful in the quick game as the Steelers do, and Tagovailoa will certainly struggle to get to depth in his dropbacks without facing some sort of pressure. Jerry Hughes, Ed Oliver, Greg Rousseau all had great success in their pass rush matchups last week, to little avail from a box score standpoint. Look for that to change Sunday.
Josh Allen & Co. vs. Dolphins Secondary
With the Steelers having success with four rushers, they were able to play tight coverage in the backend which limited what Stefon Diggs and Cole Beasley were able to do after the catch. The two were targeted a whopping 27 times, combining for 17 catches, 129 receiving yards and just 46 yards after the catch.
Miami has two of the best cornerbacks in the NFL in Xavien Howard and Byron Jones. But with the amount of blitzing they’ll likely do, Jones and Howard will be stuck in man coverage against Buffalo’s trio of elite route runners. This is a matchup that the Bills have, and will likely enjoy success against.
Howard and Jones are quality players, but Diggs and Beasley have already proven capable of defeating man coverage at an exceptional rate, while adding Emmanuel Sanders to the mix should only provide a boost to the success that Josh Allen has already enjoyed against the Dolphins. In his last six games against Miami, Allen has completed 64-percent of his passes for 1,552 yards, 17 touchdowns and four interceptions.
The Dolphins simply don’t have the pass rush to consistently pressure Allen, and he has the talent to make their defense pay when they send an extra defender.