Game 5: Bills Face Fins in Shame Bowl 2004

This is the battle of the bozos. This matchup vs. the Dolphins at the Ralph on Sunday is a lose-lose situation for the Bills. Barring one team blowing the other one out, this game does not exactly figure to make any sort of statement. The only way that the Bills emerge from this game looking good is with a complete and utter blowout of a hapless Miami team.

Ironically, that very thing may happen. Without a doubt this Miami team is almost categorically viewed as the league's worst team and justifiably so. Miami may have just enough to make it interesting however.

Having said that, given that they and the Bills are the league's only two remaining winless teams, this is a must win for the Bills at this point or it will paint a bleak picture in Buffalo indeed. A loss here would leave the Bills as the worst team in the league both mathematically record-wise as well as proven with a loss to the "league's worst team."

Most fans, as well as writers and analysts, realize that this season is lost insofar as any hope for playoffs or even a winning season go and are now watching more out of morbid curiosity than with any hopes of much significant occurring. Fan interest now turns to next season already and looking at which players may help us there and then.

What will trouble fans with a loss in this game should it occur is why the team hasn't been able to get a group of talent which is better than opponents for the most part, on paper largely, to outperform those same opponents. If the coaches continually find a way to do less with more, then this raises questions heading into next season as well. That is what is at stake over the remaining two-thirds of the season.

Key Players and Matchups:

The Bills offensive line vs. the Miami front-7: If ever there were an opportunity for the Bills line to shine, then this is it. The Dolphin DL is outsized in spades in this game. The Fin D is built on speed. There is no reason why the Bills line, even in its inexperience and sub-tier talent level, cannot dominate a completely outsized defensive line. On the flip side, if the Fins are able to manage to get to Bledsoe when they need to, this game could prove interesting.

Bledsoe has struggled vs. the Dolphins other than in the "snowstorm" game in 2002. Last week's struggles by Brady are perhaps contraindications that the Bills should avoid relying on Bledsoe in the least. Regardless of how quickly they succeed, if they are to win here, then it will more than likely be because they were able to get the running game going and have the offense feed off of it. New England only put up 24 points at home in Foxborough and they have a better offense than the Bills do.

The Miami D Blitz vs. the Bills OL: The Dolphins have absolutely nothing to lose in this game. On paper they are worse than Buffalo. They have lost their top two skill position players, Ricky to idiocy and Boston to injury. They are big underdogs. Their starting QB is a first time starter for the most part with their first two QBs injured. Their other injuries have mounted like rust on a winter-beater. Can anything else bad possibly befall this Dolphin team?

Based on recent history, they will likely come into this game blitzing as if their game depended upon it and they may very well be correct in that assessment. Bills fans know full well now what happens when opponents blitz the Bills. Whenever opponents have blitzed the Bills frequently the results have been disastrous for the Bills this year. Dave Wannstedt and the Miami D know full well that they are going to need their D to either score or assist in setting up the offense if they are to have any shot in this game at all.

They fully realize that Bledsoe is a defensive big-play bonanza when pressured, and waiting to be torn apart like the biggest, shiniest wrapped gift under the tree on Christmas morning. It is my guess that their game plan includes pressure on the Bills all day. They know they likely aren't going to stop the running game, so they will need to capitalize on the passing game as they usually do and have done vs. Bledsoe.

Madison and Surtain vs. Moulds and Evans: The matchup here favors Miami. Factor in Bledsoe's inaccuracy downfield and even more so. Per above, expect the Dolphins to pressure Drew and hope for big plays from their playmakers. Moulds will once again meet his well-matched counterpart and Evans will meet his first real test.

Bledsoe vs. himself: Once again, how Bledsoe reacts when he gets pressured, which will happen, will have fans holding their breath until either the receiver has the ball or it falls incomplete.

Bills DL vs. Miami OL: Even for this Bills sub-tier OL this should be little contest. Aaron Schobel goes up against the healthy side of the line leaving Chris Kelsay some wiggle room on the other side. If Miami is able to give Rosenfels good protection, then it will not be a good sign.

Randy McMichael vs. Bills LBs and Ss: McMichael is the Dolphins' leading receiver and is averaging nearly 6 catches per game for 67 yards. This is not good for the Bills who don't seem to match up well vs. large, athletic TEs. If the aforementioned line matchup gives Rosenfels time, then McMichael and cohorts Booker and Chambers (if healthy) may have a good day against an overrated (when healthy) defensive backfield, or inferior (otherwise) defensive backfield. Again, the key will be pressure applied up front by the Bills. This has not been their specialty, but it is what they will need to do in this game to prevent Miami from moving the ball and scoring. Allowing Rosenfels to have time may cost the Bills this game.


The Bills should be able to win this game easily. A loss is completely and unquestionably unacceptable. If the Bills were to lose this game, then expect something bigger than a meaningless Bobby Shaw release if the temperament at One Bills Drive remains unchanged.

Call me nuts, and many already do, but I can see the Bills putting up 30 points in this game one way or another if things go right. Having said that, would I wager the farm on it happening? Absolutely not. The Patriots at home last week, who have an offense far better than that of the Bills, only amassed 24 points v. the Fins.

The Bills should easily be able to hold the Miami rushing attack to under 50 yards, so the onus for moving the ball will fall on a completely inexperienced QB likely, and on the Miami passing game. Good for Miami in this regard is that the Bills secondary is somewhat banged up and "safety challenged." Even with Milloy in there, who provides only average play, perhaps slightly better, they are very beatable. The safety play is well below average without Milloy in there. Wouldn't it be just in line with the way this season is going for Rosenfels to come in and light things up for the Dolphins though.

The pressure is on the Bills however from the top down. Mike Mularkey really must win this game or he will begin to face pressure such as he has never known so early in his young career. Bledsoe may very well be facing his toughest game of the season if the Dolphins blitz frequently. He should be on his knees hoping that the running game succeeds this week, which it should, and easily.

If it does not, then that will not be a good sign either. The Bills should have absolutely no trouble amassing a minimum of 120 yards rushing on well over 4.0 yards-per-carry. If they cannot, vs. this undersized front-7 of Miami, then it is time for Bills fans to throw their hands up in the air.

It has become dull and predictable covering and analyzing this team. Watching the games is becoming even more of a pill. A loss here and it will be a minor miracle if anyone within 500 miles of Buffalo even realizes that there's any particular event going on on Sundays henceforth. Having said that it can be expected that even this sad Bills team will rebound this Sunday vs. the completely hapless Dolphins.

There is as good a likelihood as ever that the defenses in this contest will outscore the offenses as well. That will not be good enough for the Bills however. They will need to put up a minimum of 17 offensive points, and on their own merits, not with the ball being handed to them at the Miami 5, if they are to be considered as anything other than non-improved from last season to this one. This is the game to do it in.

Bottom line:

The Bills face a difficult situation in this game. If they win, then they were supposed to win and the win will have been over the worst team in the league simply sparing further ridicule and criticism. If they lose however, then this season will have gone into the shredder. In fact, it will not be a good sign either if the game is even close as it will be indicative of equally matched teams. Given that this game is in Buffalo, a close game can almost be considered a disaster.

The Bills haven't played a solid game yet. Oh sure, they've played a few good scattered quarters both offensively and defensively. But there is little reason to suggest that they will start now. Offensively they are fortunate if they can play decent offense for more than a quarter. Yet, the Miami Dolphins are so emaciated with injuries that it would be a minor miracle if they can win this game in Buffalo. Lack of wintry weather is to their favor in this game if anything is, which is not a tremendous primary positive edge for this game.

Regardless of how bad Miami is, their defense is still above average and matches up with the Bills offense very well in some key respects. If the Bills can run the ball then they should have no trouble controlling this game from start to finish. If not, then expect a long day with the Miami D exploiting Bledsoe and the Bills passing game for more big plays than they amass on offense. Also, moving the ball will be one thing, punching it into the endzone will be quite another as Bills fans know all too well during the Bledsoe era.

As long as the Bills cannot play four full quarters and as long as they cannot seem to break the 14 point mark offensively speaking, it is difficult to assume that the scoring output will be any higher in spite of the obvious indicators here that it should be. Can I see the Bills winning this 30-6? Yes. But until such a time as the Bills can prove that they can play solid ball for more than half a quarter and until such a time as they can prove that their offense can score more than 10 or 14 points, there is no reason for such hope.


Bills 13, Dolphins 10.

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