Next Chocolate to Be Drawn in Miami

<B>Where to begin…: </B> <P> How good was Seattle? Well, first one must consider that the combined record of the teams they had beaten to begin 3-0 and advance themselves to 6-5 now, is 16-50. Those beaten teams included San Francisco, Carolina, and Miami at home as well as New Orleans, Tampa, and San Francisco on the road. That should pretty much sum it up.

The teams that they have lost to are the 5-6 Rams, twice, 4-7 Arizona, New England, and now 5-6 Buffalo. Other than New England, the Seahawks have faced a schedule with opponents presently a combined 35-75 with no team better than 5-6. The Seahawks have lost to six of those ten teams.

How does this impact the Bills? We can't be sure yet. What it does do is raise an eyebrow at those suggesting that this team is all of a sudden a breath away from playoff competitiveness to be sure. All of the hype is also entertaining to be sure. All of this has Commander Tom polishing up his crown no doubt. He will be happy to know that this smoke-and-mirrors road show has four weeks of dream schedule forthcoming. It begins this week with one of two teams whose coaches have resigned and been replaced midseason, three teams with the three worst records in the NFL, and 5-6 Cincinnati.

The day that I never thought would arrive in Buffalo has in fact arrived if much of the hoopla of this week is to be believed. Bills fans are ecstatic to have their team playing football to a level of a .500 team and one that is capable of beating only .500 and worse teams or teams somewhat better in games with mitigating circumstances. It stands to reason that the more of such teams litter the schedule the more wins will be had. This does not increase "playoff competitiveness" or overall competitiveness of the team, rather it only capitalizes on a soft schedule and contributes to Commander Tom's smoke-and-mirrors campaign.

To date however this Bills team has not proven any ability whatsoever to be able to defeat teams better than .500 other than in unusual circumstances. This has been the very clear pattern and trend throughout the Commander Tom-Humpty Dumpty era in Buffalo, but heretofore it has never been met with final acceptance and approval. It is puzzling indeed. Needless to say, the next four games will not provide any opportunity to shake that stigma.

To sum up, the Bills have won five games this season. One was vs. the same Seattle team referenced above. Other wins have come against the 5-6 Rams, the 4-7 Cardinals, 2-9 Miami, and the 8-3 Jets who came off of a big Monday night win leaving themselves a day and a half short on rest and preparation for a road game in Buffalo.

Meanwhile, in games vs. teams that are presently 7-4 or better, the Bills are 1-4 with the win being the just mentioned Jets game in Buffalo. Those losses were not close games and despite that the scores were still closer than the games actually were speaking volumes as to the true effectiveness of this team. This team was no less effective in 2002 or 2003 in terms of winning games. Certainly these next four games will be no test as to "playoff readiness and competitiveness" to be sure. In fact, Buffalo's "late season surge" can easily be compared to Seattle's "early season surge" given that both are based on having played weak opponents primarily.

In short, these are not the types of games and game situations that teams find in the playoffs.

Defense:

Rush D: Bills 4th, Dolphins 29th
Pass D: Bills 7th, Dolphins 1st
Yardage D: Bills 3rd, Dolphins 6th
Scoring D: Bills 6th, Dolphins 16th

Offense:

Rush O: Bills 19th, Dolphins 31st
Pass O: Bills 25th, Dolphins 24th
Yardage O: Bills 26th, Dolphins 28th
Scoring O: Bills 18th, Dolphins 31st

Key Players and Matchups:

Humpty vs. himself:

Humpty may have to face frequent blitzes in this game which is something that he has rarely had to do this season for one reason or another. The Dolphins have little left in their arsenal in a defense which has always been predicated on speed and even more so now with injuries to their best run-stoppers. The Dolphins have even less to lose. How Humpty reacts to those blitzes will have a large part in the outcome of this game. The only way that the Dolphins can conceivably win this game is by forcing enough errors in the Bills passing game and by capitalizing off of those. They know Humpty all to well and fully realize the cornucopia of game-changing benefits that can be gotten via consistent pressure and varying blitz packages.

Their productivity in this area may be all that stands in the way between a game and a Bills blowout. So Clements, Humpty, and the offense should be prepared for frequent blitzing as the Dolphins displayed last week vs. the Niners. If Humpty handles those blitzes, if they occur, as he has in the past, expect to see Losman make his debut through the duration of the game.

Bills Front-4 vs. A.J. Feeley:

The Bills front four will have to exert enough pressure on its own to keep the Dolphin passing game from being successful. Against a weak offensive line this should not pose a problem. The Bills will likely gamble at times and blitz opening up one-on-one opportunities for Dolphin receivers. How Feeley reacts will determine the point at which this game is over. Randy McMichael poses perhaps the biggest threat and was the top receiver in the first game although his performance in that game left him far off pace for offensive player of the week honors. The Bills still have no single player that is typically in a position to have to cover larger and more athletic tight ends effectively and as such better tight ends often flourish vs. the Bills.

Bills Secondary vs. the Dolphin Air Game:

The Dolphin air game is the only thing the Dolphins have going on offense with any consistency. The odds of the Dolphins having a repeat performance of the earlier game in which Sammy Morris rushed for over 80 yards in the first half are slim-to-none with Morris out. If the Dolphins can amass 80 yards of rushing from their running backs on the day they can consider themselves fortunate given the way that the Bills rushing defense has been playing on the season vs. similar teams. The pressure will be on the Bills secondary and back-7 to prevent the Dolphins from moving the ball and scoring.

McGahee vs. Dolphin Run Defense:

There is no run defense in this game. The last semblance of it reaggravated a hamstring last week vs. the Niners and will be out for this game. Zach Thomas was by a wide margin the Dolphins' leading tackler. It is quite possible that never in the history of McGahee's playing career in the NFL will he ever again face a rushing defense as weak and depleted as what he will face on Sunday. The Dolphins have allowed 136.6 yards-per-game rushing to date with that being prior to Thomas' injury.

If ever there was an opportunity to carry this team on his back, then this if a gift horse. Rookie Derrick Pope replaces the perennial pro bowler and longtime standout Zach Thomas in the middle. The interior of the Dolphins line is neither big nor good. While Pope was highly touted coming out of college, he will not step in and supply Thomas-like play in his first season. The Fins' pass defense is solid to a large extent because Dolphin opponents have had no trouble running the ball and have had little need to pass. If McGahee is even half the running back that he is presently being given credit for at this time, then the Fin pass defense should not even be an issue however as the Bills ground game should set the tone for the entire game with McGahee finally earning his first honor as the basis for offensive success in a win vice being on the beneficiary end of the equation. As well, given the potential for disaster on blitzes, it would behoove the Bills to run the ball to every extent possible.

Summary:

The Bills have the shortest injury list in the NFL. Miami has one of the longest injury lists in the league and has lost 11 players for the season and has numerous others out for this game. Dolphin DTs Larry Chester and Tim Bowens are both out for the season and MLB Zach Thomas is out indefinitely. One of the Dolphins' best linemen, Jeno James remains questionable for this game as well. Sammy Morris will also not play. The Bills should have no trouble running and controlling the game vs. this Miami defense, and the word "defense" is used loosely. The Dolphins have little depth left on defense and nothing reliable.

Miami's only shot at doing anything in this game will rely on their ability to blitz Humpty and in the process attempt to shut down the Bills running game before it gets going. Offensively, the Dolphins will be fortunate to gain over 50 rushing yards on the game putting the onus on their air game. If given time to throw or when being blitzed Feeley can take advantage of the Bill relatively lackadaisical coverage, then they will have an opportunity to hang tight in this game. If not, this game should be over by the half.

Bottom line:

The Dolphins are not good. In fact the Dolphins are arguably the worst team in the league and certainly the worst team in the AFC. This should be yet another stat-padding fest for the Bills and even playing as they were earlier in the season, this game should be over by halftime given all of the Dolphin injuries which have occurred throughout the season and recently. Willis McGahee, if even half the rusher that the media has now made him out to be should have no trouble dominating this Dolphin defense and exploiting it to take full control right from the get-go with at least 150 yards vs. a very, very, very sad rushing defense. He should be able to do this on much better than 4.0 yards-per-carry let alone his season average of 3.8yards-per-carry.

Then again, who knows what kind of play the Bills will bring to the table. History during the Commander Tom-Humpty Dumpty era suggests however that this should be an easy win. The opponent is well below .500 at 2-9.

Prediction:

Bills 27, Dolphins 10.

There is virtually no way that the Bills can lose this game while preserving the integrity of last week's achievement. Solid rushing by McGahee should make this a quick moving game, keep the number of drives for each team down, and give the Bills an enormous advantage in time-of-possession. Barring some enormous special teams contributions to scoring or setting up more points, fans can expect a decent win.

Comments: mweiler.billsreport@cox.net


Buffalo Football Report Top Stories