The Miami Dolphins(2-4) round out the first half of their division schedule this Sunday against the Buffalo Bills (5-1) in Miami. These teams are heading in opposite directions; with the Dolphins on their second losing skid of the season, and the Bills coming off a huge win at home against the San Diego Chargers.
This is the Bills' first AFC East matchup of the 2008 season. The Dolphins are 1-1 in the division and a win would help restore confidence and keep them in the hunt for a playoff spot.
The Bills have found many ways to win this season: offense, defense, and special teams. The Dolphins will have their hands full this week trying to defend their home turf.
On that note...here come the matchups.
Dolphins' offensive line vs. Bills' defensive line:
The Bills front will be one of the biggest tests yet for a Dolphins offensive line that is still trying to gel.
Former Jaguar Marcus Stroud has been making his presence known in his first season with the Bills. He is very disruptive against the run and can push the inside of the pocket on passing downs. Dolphins center Samson Satele is also having a strong season so far, but he will need help to keep Stroud out of the backfield and open running lanes for Ronnie Brown.
Bills defensive end Aaron Schobel always seems to play his best against the Dolphins. It will be rookie left tackle Jake Long's job to keep him off of Chad Pennington's backside, and Long has yet to allow a sack this season.
Dolphins' front seven vs. Marshawn Lynch:
Lynch's production has dropped off a bit in 2008 after a stellar rookie season in 2007. He has rushed for 389 yards and five touchdowns through six games but is averaging only 3.5 yards per carry.
He is still showing the ability to run over defenders, which is why the Dolphins cannot allow him to reach the second level. Lynch gave the Dolphins' defense fits last year, but this year's unit is much better against the run.
Will Allen vs. Lee Evans:
Lee Evans has made a nasty habit of having career games against the Dolphins. In the eight games he has played against Miami, he has 25 catches for 554 yards and eight touchdowns. That's over 22 yards per catch and one touchdown per game.
Will Allen has been a bright spot in the secondary, which is why he hasn't been thrown to a bunch. He has struggled against bigger receivers like Andre Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald, but should be able to keep up with the 5'10" Evans.
Allen does not have an interception yet this season, but he did force a fumble in Week Five against Houston.
Chad Pennington vs. Bills' secondary:
Although the stats don't show it, Pennington is coming off of his roughest game of the season. He threw an interception to Terrell Suggs that was returned for a touchdown last week against the Ravens, which swung the momentum for the remainder of that game.
Despite that, Pennington remains the unquestioned leader of this Dolphins offense. The Dolphins are looking to put up their fifth straight week of 350+ yards of offensive production. He will be tested with Terrence McGee, Jabari Greer, Ko Simpson, and Donte Whitner standing back waiting for throws. The Bills' secondary is eighth in the NFL in passing yards allowed per game.
The best way for Pennington to bounce back is for Ronnie Brown to be productive. If the Dolphins can establish the run, then Pennington will be able to move the ball downfield with the play-action pass.
Dolphins' special teams:
STOP ROSCOE PARRISH!!!!!
But seriously, the University of Miami product is dangerous, and the Dolphins have given up big returns this season.
Tony Sparano needs to make sure that they have the kind of game they had against the Chargers' Darren Sproles. If Parrish gets loose, he can take over the game.
The Dolphins will be tested in every phase of the game on Sunday. Hopefully they can eliminate the costly mistakes and bring back some of that winning attitude that the team carried after wins against the Patriots and Chargers. If not, then fans might need to start looking forward to 2009.