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Keys to Victory, Key Matchups for Buffalo Against Miami

 

1.  Keep Miami’s defense guessing.  Buffalo has been guilty in the past of having a more than vanilla, easily predictable offense in the past.  I won’t be foolish enough to even try to argue against those sentiments.   Miami injected some youth into their defense in the offseason, and while they might be a little green, expect them to faster and more aggressive to the point of attack.  They’ll likely try to exploit the Bills’ offensive line, particularly at the tackles and come after Trent Edwards early and often.  After all, that’s what’s worked well for them, so I don’t expect them to change their style.  Look for head coach Chan Gailey to find ways to keep Miami’s defense off balance with the likes of screens, draws, and reverses.  In the early going, I think C.J. Spiller, Roscoe Parrish and perhaps Fred Jackson could be key.  It’ll be an interesting chess match between Gailey and new Miami defensive coordinator Mike Nolan.

2.  The line must keep Trent Edwards vertical.  Edwards has endured a rough go of it against Miami in his career.  The Dolphins have been a big bug-a-boo for him, particularly in the first meeting in Miami last season and the final meeting against the fins in 2008.  Miami has done an excellent job of bring mass quantities of players, pressure and big hits right into Edwards’ kitchen.  Given the surprising way he’s performed and carried himself in the offseason, it would be a buzzkill on opening day to see Edwards knocked out of action and not return.

3.  Buffalo CANNOT beat Buffalo.  It happened so many times last year, it was disgusting.  If Miami proves to be the better team on this given day, so be it.  But the Bills simply cannot afford to shoot themselves in the foot with a field day of penalties and turnovers.  If the Bills are able to turn Miami over, they must find a way to translate takeaways into points and not let the Dolphins off the hook.  On the road in hostile territory, Miami will make a point to be well disciplined and play mistake free.  There’s no reason Buffalo shouldn’t employ the same gameplan.

4.  Stop the Run, or at least contain it.  It’s going to be a season long expedition for the Bills’ 3-4 defense.  It hasn’t been the greatest in the preseason, and while there probably aren’t many Bills fans left who have patience with this franchise, that’s exactly what we’ll need when we talk about the defense: patience.  My guess, and I don’t think I’m wrong here, is that the Bills defense won’t be a rival of those great Steel Curtain defenses or the ’85 Bears.  There’s a new coordinator in George Edwards.  There’s new terminology, assignments, schemes and players.  We’re foolish to believe this isn’t going to be a work in progress.  But unfortunately, the Bills get a stiff test right out of the gate with Miami’s running prowess in Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams.  Buffalo finished nearly dead last in run defense in 2009 and if it’s more of the same on Sunday, Brown and Williams could carry Miami to a key victory.

5.  Make life miserable for Chad Henne.   There’s alot expected out of Henne this season, and he’ll get an early measuring stick against the Bills’ stout secondary which ranked 2nd in pass defense last season.  Aside from their run stoppage woes, the Bills face pass rush question marks as well.  Their leading sack man and defensive staple Aaron Schobel retired and he took his team high 10 sacks from 2009 with him.  Who steps in and fills his shoes?  Time is a quarterback’s best friend, and if the Bills don’t make Henne count the clouds in the sky or fend for his football life, the third-year signal caller could have a coming out party.

6.  Run, Run, Run.   It seems as though the Bills will be good to go on Sunday in the backfield as they’ll have all three backs at their disposal.  While Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch might not be 100 percent, both are expected to see action, with rookie C.J. Spiller making his NFL debut as the starter.  Spiller is expected to be a focal point of the Bills’ offense in the running, passing and return game.  The more successful the running game is, the more the passing will open and the less pressure they’ll be on Trent Edwards.

Key Matchups

WR Lee Evans vs. CB Jason Allen.  Allen gets the nod to start over CB Sean Smith, and he’ll be lined up across the Miami mangler, otherwise known as Lee Evans.  Now, how much time Allen sees on the field will depend on how well he shuts down Evans.  If Evans is able to get into a rhythm and is able to move the chains early, I don’t think Miami will hesitate to go with Smith.  No question, Evans will be the favorite target for Trent Edwards and they’ll be looking to make some opening day magic for Buffalo.

LBs Paul Posluszny and Andra Davis vs. RBs Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown.  The Bills were gashed and eaten alive by the running game last season, Miami included.  The Dolphins duo combined for 19 touchdowns in 2009 and the rushing attack is Miami’s bread and butter on offense.  If the Bills rushing defense is to vastly improve in 2010, Posluszny must be a force for the Bills in the middle of the field.

CB Terrence McGee vs. WR Brandon Marshall.  The best corner for Buffalo squares off against the best receiver for Miami.  Marshall is a bonafied No.1 receiver totaling over 300 catches the past three seasons and he’s coming off a year in which he set a career-best with 10 touchdowns.  Miami’s first option is still to run, but now they’ll have a downfield playmaker Buffalo and McGee must contend with.

RB C.J. Spiller vs. Karlos Dansby.  A couple of new impact players get acquainted on Sunday.  Dansby is Miami’s new defensive stud while Spiller is Buffalo’s electric impact rookie.  Linebacker Channing Crowder has been ruled out for Sunday’s game, so Dansby will shoulder more responsibility in the middle of Miami’s defense.  The Bills are expecting big, exciting things from Spiller.  It’s one of the game’s best middle linebackers against one of league’s most hyped rookies in the 2010 draft class.

Prediction:  Miami invades Ralph Wilson Stadium the better team and if the Dolphins are going to be considered a division and playoff contender, this is the type of game they must have.  But opening the season on the road is never an easy task; in fact it’s a rather dangerous hill to climb.  Generally all bets are off in Week 1 in the NFL.  So, can Week 1 be an equalizer for Buffalo?  Call it a homer pick if you want, but I’m predicting an upset.  The Bills need to play desperate football.  The schedule is not kind.  Waiting in the wings are Green Bay, New England and the New York Jets.  If the Bills don’t get this one, they could be staring down an 0-4 start.

Final Score:  Buffalo 23, Miami 20

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