5 Bold Predictions for Miami Dolphins' Week 7 Matchup
The 3-2 Miami Dolphins return from a much-needed bye week that followed two consecutive deflating losses after an exciting 3-0 start.
Awaiting them are their division rival Buffalo Bills, a 2-4 outfit that has played much better than its record would indicate while dealing through injury issues at key positions.
The Dolphins know that the Bills will not be a walk in the park. Buffalo took the New England Patriots and Cincinnati Bengals down to the wire in hard-fought losses and defeated the Baltimore Ravens and Carolina Panthers.
With two games against the Patriots and Bengals within the span of four days coming up, it's safe to say that this is a must-win game for the Dolphins.
Here's a list of five bold predictions for their Week 7 contest against the Buffalo Bills.
Miami's Running Game Will Pick Up
How many times have I made this prediction this season?
In every game, I've expected Miami to run the ball well, and in every game, they've disappointed me.
Usually the reason is because Miami is ineffective at running the football. At least that appears to be the problem until you look at the yards per carry in each game, which shows that the Dolphins get decent rushing yards but abandon the running game.
This happened against the Atlanta Falcons (when the Dolphins ran the ball 15 times for 90 yards for an average of six yards per carry) and then repeated itself the following week against the New Orleans Saints (19 rushes for 115 yards, an average of 6.05 yards per carry).
If Miami can get six yards per carry, it's running the ball well, so why would the team give it up?
This week, I can't see the Dolphins abandoning the run so early in the game. Against Atlanta and New Orleans, Miami fell behind early, which made Miami put the running game on the backburner.
Against Buffalo, Miami likely won't have the same issue. The Dolphins will get good yards on the ground against a poor Buffalo run defense (ranked 28th in the league against the run), which will allow them to take an early lead. Miami hasn't had that luxury since Week 2 against the Indianapolis Colts.
With an early lead, the Dolphins will continue to run the ball, leading to a good day for Lamar Miller and an even better day for the rest of the offense.
Guess what other result an effective running game will give them?
Miami's Offensive Line Will Allow Less Than 3.5 Sacks
This is the boldest prediction I will make: Miami's offensive line will have a good day, compared to the horrendous standard set in the first five games.
By good game, I mean Ryan Tannehill will "only" get sacked three times or less.
The reason for this will be the use of more moving pockets (as we saw against the Ravens and Saints in small doses) as well as a stronger running game.
This is a bold prediction when you consider that Buffalo's pass rush is one to be feared. The Bills have 21 sacks on the season, with Mario Williams leading the way with eight.
As crazy as this sounds, this will be one of the better pass rushes that Miami faces all year. In this week's contest, the Dolphins' offensive line will actually hold its own.
Mike Wallace Will Make You Forget His Effort Against Baltimore
Mike Wallace was atrocious against the Baltimore Ravens.
The statistics weren't too bad (seven catches for 105 yards), but the drops were costly and not very timely.
This week will be different. He will finally be on the same page with Tannehill. The timing between them will be better.
They will finally connect on a touchdown pass longer than 30 yards.
Despite a good pass rush, Buffalo hasn't done as well against the pass as you'd expect, ranking 22nd in passing yards allowed (teams average 270.8 yards per game).
Screen passes especially kill the Bills, something I noticed last week upon watching their contest against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Miami can get a good screen-pass game going with Mike Wallace (and Marcus Thigpen and Lamar Miller), which will weaken Buffalo's pass rush and set up the big play to Wallace later in the game.
Overall, Wallace will have a huge day. Start him this week if he's on your fantasy team.
The Dolphins Will Stop Buffalo's Running Game
The Dolphins are normally a good team against the run; however, they've also been inconsistent against the run and have struggled against shiftier running backs like Darren Sproles and Ray Rice. They also struggled against Atlanta's running game, but that was without Paul Soliai.
C.J. Spiller is the type of running back that Miami usually does a pitiful job of containing. Going back to last season, he practically won Buffalo's Week 11 contest against the Dolphins by running for 91 yards on 22 carries. He would have had more yards if then-Bills coach Chan Gailey had known that Spiller could be used in the red zone.
New Bills coach Doug Marrone knows that he can be used in the red zone, and the coach has also figured out not only how to use Spiller but how to use Fred Jackson.
Now before we get to Spiller, a note on Jackson: Miami has done a good job against Jackson historically, and I don't expect that to change on Sunday.
Spiller is the problem, but the Dolphins will solve it on Sunday. Part of the solution will be the personnel on the field, as the Dolphins will likely see Dion Jordan playing more snaps against the run this week. Jordan's speed and quickness match up well against Spiller, which should help slow him down a bit.
Another factor is that Spiller is dealing with a lingering sprained ankle suffered against the Ravens in Week 4, per Mike Rodak of ESPN.com. Because of the sprained ankle, you won't see him on every down, and he won't be as explosive.
Spiller needs to rest to heal his ankle, but against the Dolphins, he can ill afford to. Miami can ill afford to allow him to go off, and I expect them to contain him well.
Miami's Victory Won't Be as Close as Everyone Expects
This game looks and feels like it will be a close one.
It might be a game that is too close for comfort.
However, it won't be as close as you think.
Miami can exploit Buffalo in so many ways. The Dolphins can run the ball against the Bills and in turn stop Buffalo's rushing attack. They will be facing an undrafted quarterback with a foot injury who will be making his second NFL start.
Miami will win this game, but in a big surprise, the victory will be a lot more decisive than many expect.
The Dolphins are the healthier team at the moment with a bit more talent than Buffalo. That should be enough to win the game.
It will be enough for them to have their first dominant performance of the season.
Prediction: Miami Dolphins 27, Buffalo Bills 10
All statistics provided by Pro Football Reference unless otherwise specified.