Two AFC East teams hoping to reverse their fortunes this season meet in Buffalo on Sunday when the Bills host the Miami Dolphins. Buffalo is looking to turn things around after five straight losing seasons while the favored Dolphins (-3 @ Diamond Sportsbook) have missed the playoffs seven times in the last eight years.
Miami struggled right out of the gates a year ago, dropping three in a row before routing the Bills 38-10 in Week 4. Buffalo then blew out the Dolphins 31-14 rout in Week 12 in the second meeting but has lost three of the last four meetings both straight-up and against the spread. The last two meetings went OVER the total after two straight UNDERs in the series.
The Bills never really recovered after suffering a heartbreaking 25-24 loss to New England in last year’s regular-season opener. They are moving past the TO experiment this year with a new offensive-minded head coach in Chan Gailey, but he does not have the same kind of talent he did in Dallas when he led that team to consecutive playoff appearances in 1998-99.
Gailey’s best offensive player could be a rookie, as Buffalo’s first-round draft pick C.J. Spiller showed flashes of brilliance in the preseason and may be asked to carry a big workload right away with veterans Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch both recovering from injuries. However, Jackson is expected to play against the Dolphins despite breaking his hand in the preseason while Lynch has also been practicing after recovering an ankle injury.
The big concern offensively for the Bills is the passing game, as they ranked 30th in the NFL in passing yards last season with Terrell Owens catching balls from starting quarterback Trent Edwards, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Brian Brohm. Without Owens, Edwards will rely heavily on the running game and a defense that ranked second against the pass but 30th against the run.
Meanwhile, Miami has made a significant upgrade offensively this season with the addition of star wide receiver Brandon Marshall, who arrived in a trade from Denver in the offseason. Marshall should improve the play of Dolphins quarterback Chad Henne after helping Broncos QB Kyle Orton look like a Pro Bowler at times last year.
Henne played mediocre in splitting two meetings with Buffalo last year, connecting on 31-of-53 passes for 290 yards combined in the two games with two touchdown passes and three interceptions. Dolphins running backs Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams did most of the damage in the victory against the Bills, totaling 200 rushing yards between them and scoring three touchdowns.
Miami looks to be much-improved defensively with new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan after surrendering 24.4 points per game last season. The Fins tied for third in the league with 44 sacks but must improve in the defensive backfield, where they surrendered 234.6 passing yards per game.
Since Edwards does not figure to be much of a threat throwing the ball, Miami will try to pressure him and make Spiller beat them. Both running games should control the clock in this matchup, so consider betting UNDER 38.5 at DSI