Week 1 Preview: Miami at Buffalo
The glorious rivalry, which once held annual playoff implications, comes early this year. The Miami Dolphins travel to Buffalo this week to open the 2010 NFL Season. The Dolphins luck out as they won’t have to worry about the dreaded Buffalo winter this year. Both teams have high hopes this year with a lot to prove. Many analysts have the Jets and Patriots battling it out for the AFC East.
Date: Sunday, September 12, 2010
Time: 1:00pm Eastern
Location: Ralph Wilson Stadium, Orchard Park, N.Y.
Weather: High 60s, Cloudy, Chance of Rain 30%
Last Time: 11/29/09 Ralph Wilson Stadium (Bills win 31-14)
All Time: Miami Dolphins lead series 53-38-1 (inc. playoffs)
The Bills are coming off their tenth consecutive season without making the playoffs, going 6-10 in 2009 and finishing last in the AFC East. They look to get off on the right foot in 2010. Head coach Chan Gailey begins his first campaign with the Buffalo Bills. Gailey was 18-14 with the Dallas Cowboys from 1998-99, leading them to the playoffs both seasons.
Biggest Acquisition: C.J. Spiller (RB)
The Bills weren’t too active in the off-season when it came to free agents. The most notable pickup of came on draft day when the Bills selected running back C.J. with their first round pick.
Biggest Departure: Aaron Schobel (DE)
After nine seasons with the only team he’s ever played for, defensive end Aaron Schobel called it quits this off-season. He retires with the second most sacks (78) in Buffalo Bills history (Bruce Smith is first with 171). He also recorded 481 tackles, 21 forced fumbles, and 3 interceptions. Though production has declined the past three seasons, the Bills will miss his leadership and experience.
The Dolphins are coming off a disappointing finish to 2009. After being 7-6 at week 14 of the season, Miami had visions of making the playoffs. However, after dropping the final three games of the season, they finished with a 7-9 record and were third in the division.
Biggest Acquisition: Brandon Marshall (WR)
As a Denver Bronco, Marshall has tallied over 100 catches and 1,100 yards in each of the last three seasons. Last year, in only 15 games, he was good for 101 receptions, 1,120 yards and career best 7 touchdowns.
Biggest Departure: Jason Taylor (DE)
Last season, in his one-year reunion with the Dolphins, Taylor made 42 tackles and 7 sacks. He’s a veteran player who has a nose for finding the football. At 36 years of age, he could have helped lead the young defensive line of the Dolphins.
Good For Buffalo
As bad as the 2009 season went for the Buffalo Bills, Their secondary was surprisingly one of the bests in the NFL. Jairus Byrd, George Wilson and the rest of the defense finished second in the NFL in interceptions (28), passing yards per game (184.2) and passing touchdowns allowed (14). The defense hasn’t changed much besides switching to a 3-4 scheme.
Good For Miami
The Dolphins have high hopes for quarterback Chad Henne. After being inserted in Week 3 against the Chargers, Henne started the remainder of the season. In 14 games, Henne threw for 2,878 yards and 12 touchdowns. He also threw 14 interceptions, which proves he still has some learning to do. It will be interesting to see what happens should Henne begin to struggle. The man Henne replaced last season, Chad Pennington, is waiting on the bench. Who knows how short Henne’s leash is with the 2008 NFL Comeback Player of the Year on the bench. In fact, Pennington has won the award twice, in 2006 and 2008. Since it seems like an every-other-year thing, Miami might just want to save Henne for next year and go with Pennington.
Bad For Buffalo
If you ask any Bills fan what the weak spot of the team is, they likely will say one of two things: quarterback or the offensive line. Although the quarterbacks have done nothing to brag about, it all starts up front. Over the past few seasons, the Bills have had a pretty young offensive line, and seem to be getting younger. The average age of the offensive linemen on the 53-man roster is 25.5 years old. Cornell Green inflates that at 34, but of the 9 men, only 3 of them are over the age of 24. It may be another tough year for the men up front, but it takes time to gel, and the coaches know that. We could be see a different looking unit by the end of the season. Optimistic? Maybe. Only, time will tell.
Bad For Miami
Of the Dolphins’ top 10 tacklers of 2009, 5 of them are no longer with the team. In fact, only one projected defensive starter, Yeremiah Bell, has been with the Dolphins more than two years. A lot of this is likely due to the arrival of new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan. But, with change comes uncertainty, especially with such young players. They’ll have to rely on Bell and other veterans such as Karlos Dansby and Randy Starks to lead the way.
Bills Player to Watch
In his last season at Clemson, Spiller was a diverse weapon. He ran for 1,212 yards and 12 touchdowns while racking up 503 yards and 4 touchdowns on 36 catches. The Bills drafted him in the first round (9th overall) of the 2010 NFL Draft. Spiller has been impressive in the preseason.
In the first game against Washington, veteran running backs Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch both went down with injuries in the first half. Spiller ran for 16 yards on 4 carries. The following week against Indianapolis, he had 54 yards on 10 carries, including a 31-yard dash for a touchdown. His final preseason appearance was against the Bengals in the third game. He wowed the Buffalo faithful with two touchdowns on 12 carries for 52 yards.
With the combination of Spiller’s production and the injury to Fred Jackson (who missed the final three preseason games), head coach Chan Gailey chose to sit Spiller for the final preseason contest. A week later, C.J. Spiller was officially named the opening day starting running back.
Dolphins Player to Watch
Brandon Marshall (WR)
Marshall has had a successful career thus far. He has spent his first four seasons as a Denver Bronco. He is often in the discussion of the best receivers in the NFL, catching over 100 passes in each of the past three seasons. However, after issues between him and Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels, Marshall took his talents to South Beach (seems to be a trend).
During the preseason, Marshall was almost absent, amassing only 8 catches and 122 yards, including no touchdowns. He has dropped a few passes in the preseason and, according to league reports, has been having a problem holding on to passes in camp. Will Brandon Marshall be able to recapture his Denver form?
The “X” Factor
Any Bills fan can tell you how much injuries play a part in a team’s success (or lack thereof). By the end of the 2009 season, the Buffalo Bills had over 20 players on injured reserve. In order to be competitive this season, they must find a way to stay healthy. As of this morning, Kawika Mitchell has been placed on IR.
Miami 13 – Buffalo 23
- Brandon Marshall gets his first touchdown in a Dolphins uniform.
- Bills’ defense gets at least one interception
- C.J. Spiller runs for a touchdown
- Trent throws for a second touchdown
- Buffalo’s famous ability to settle for a field goal shows through three times
Wednesday, September 15, I will be starting a weekly segment called "Remember That..." Each week I'll take a trip down memory lane to highlight past games, players, and "that one time".