On Sunday September 12, the 2010 NFL season kicks off for the Buffalo Bills. The hated Miami Dolphins roll into town for the home opener. This season is expected to be a bad one for the Bills according to most nationally-recognized experts.
However, we’re talking about one game. Any given Sunday. And on this given Sunday, why should the Bills be afraid of the Dolphins? Is there any reason to be quaking in their cleats while waiting for the opening kickoff? The only thing that they should worry about is the Dolphins running game.
That’s the Dolphins’ bread and butter, and that’s where they are the most dangerous. They have arguably the best backfield in all of the NFL, led by running backs Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams. Don’t overlook fullback Lousaka Polite, though. He’s dangerous in short yardage situations and is extremely difficult to bring down.
If the Dolphins have the best backfield in all of football, the Bills aren’t that far behind, however. Rookie running back CJ Spiller wowed fans in the preseason against the Indianapolis Colts and Cincinnati Bengals.
Not just the fans, either, having suitably impressed head coach Chan Gailey to name him the starter against the Dolphins. Fellow running back Marshawn Lynch will likely see a lot of carries to keep Spiller fresh while Fred Jackson likely will not see much action to continue the healing process on his hand.
Fullback Corey McIntyre is unheralded, but looked good in preseason as a lead blocker, rusher, and receiver. He could become a dangerous wrinkle in Gailey’s offense, who tries to put players in a position to make as large an impact as possible.
This game will come down to two key parts for the Bills. The passing game and the run defense. The Bills need to keep quarterback Trent Edwards upright throughout the game and give him time. They struggled in the preseason to do so against the Washington Redskins, but left tackle Demetrius Bell, right guard Eric Wood, and right tackle Cornell Green did not play at all in that game.
The line performed much better in pass protection against the Colts and Bengals. Consequently Edwards played quite well in those games. In those instances where the pass protection broke down, Edwards showed poise, mobility, and the ability to take a hit and come back.
If the Bills succeed in keeping Edwards clean against the Dolphins, he should be able to have a very good game against a suspect Dolphins secondary. That in turn will help the Bills defense and force quarterback Chad Henne to win the game.
That right there could very well be the key of the game. The Bills need to score early and score often. If they do that, I don’t think Henne is playing at a level that teams should fear him. Unlike Clark Judge of cbssports.com, I don’t think Henne is an established quarterback, and seemingly neither does Bill Parcells, who has been a huge part of the Dolphins turnaround.
Judge says here that the Bills are the only team in the AFC East without an established quarterback. Granted, he might have meant that the Bills were the only team to not have a sure-fire starter at the beginning of camp, but most fans knew that Edwards was going to win that job.
Regarding Henne and Parcells, Gregg Rosenthal of Pro Football Talk wrote an article seen here that Parcells is very disappointed in Chad Henne, according to Vic Carucci of NFL.com. That casts even more doubt in my mind that Henne can effectively lead the Dolphins at this point.
So the key points for each team are as follows:
The Bills offense needs to focus on scoring early and often for two reasons. One, it will give Edwards more confidence leading into the first part of the season. The second reason is that it will help the Bills defense against the run, which is what the Bills defense needs to focus on to win.
They need to hold Brown, Williams, and Polite to as minimal an impact as possible. The sooner and more often the Bills put the ball in Henne’s hands, the better for the Bills.
On offense for the Dolphins, they will look to run the ball early. If they can control the line of scrimmage, the Bills will struggle throughout the game. The Bills have struggled against the run throughout the preseason, and hopefully defensive coordinator George Edwards will have a good gameplan.
On defense, the Dolphins will look to generate a lot of pressure to help protect their less than stellar secondary. If the Dolphins can get good consistent pressure on Trent Edwards and couple that with a good run game, the Dolphins will likely dominate this game.
However, the Bills offensive line has improved throughout the preseason, and if the Dolphins come out aggressive, I expect to see a lot of screens and draws to CJ Spiller and crew to counteract that aggressiveness.
This game could go either way, but I expect that the Bills and head coach Chan Gailey will come out fired up and absolutely determined. They will keep Edwards protected and find ways to get the ball into the playmakers. I do expect the Bills to score more than most people do, and that will lead to win over the Dolphins in the opener.