Bills At Dolphins Presents Both Teams A Grand Opportunity To Make A Bold Statement

Pro Bowl safety Micah Hyde is out for the season so he isn’t playing and neither is starting cornerback Dane Jackson. Both players injured their necks in the Buffalo Bills Monday night victory over Tennessee. All-Pro safety Jordan Poyer isn’t expected to play although coach Sean McDermott said that wasn’t yet decided.

That means the Bills secondary will start a couple of rookies at cornerback in Kaiir Elam and Christian Benford, with this being Elam’s first career NFL start. And career backups at safety, fourth-year player Jaquan Johnson as Hyde’s replacement and 2021 sixth-round pick Damar Hamlin starting for Poyer.

That is an entirely new secondary for the Bills.

And the reason the start of this column is merely a regurgitated injury report is because it means something very significant for both the Miami Dolphins and Bills as they prepare to play at Hard Rock Stadium at 1 p.m. Sunday.

It means both teams can make a bold statement if the result falls in their favor.

For the Dolphins it’s a wonderful opportunity to take advantage of a situation that comes at the perfect time because last week quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, in one lightning bolt fourth quarter against the Baltimore Ravens, burst onto the NFL scene as an elite passer.

Four touchdown passes in the fourth quarter and six in one game will do that, you know.

BALTIMORE, MARYLAND – SEPTEMBER 18: Tua Tagovailoa #1 of the Miami Dolphins warms up before a game against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium on September 18, 2022 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Dolphins Receivers Have Been Electric

Miami speedsters Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle have looked like the most explosive receiver tandem in the league, combining on 22 catches (11 each) for 361 yards and 4 TDs.

“To have two guys like that with that kind of talent and that kind of speed just puts so much stress on a defense,” said Dolphins receivers coach Wes Welker. “Their speed has really changed my perspective on the receiver position. Not totally changed my perspective, but not only do they have speed, but they’re dawgs.”

That Baltimore game welcomed the Miami passing game as the most surprising on the NFL landscape.

And now, fate being what it is, that newly explosive passing combination of Tua, Tyreek and Waddle are playing an undermanned and inexperienced secondary?

This is too perfect for the Dolphins.

Suddenly a game that seemed like a mismatch in the Bills favor a week ago, based on Buffalo’s sheer dominance of the rest of the NFL and the Dolphins in particular — they’ve beaten Miami seven consecutive games and outscored them 117-37 the last three games — now looks like a head-to-head preview for the AFC East title.

And if the Dolphins win, everyone will recognize them as a potential division champion because they just knocked off the team that won the division each of the last two seasons.

BALTIMORE, MARYLAND – SEPTEMBER 18: Tyreek Hill #10 of the Miami Dolphins celebrates a touchdown catch against the Baltimore Ravens in the fourth quarter at M&T Bank Stadium on September 18, 2022 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Dolphins Are 2-0 For First Time Since 2018

“Their opening game, they beat the Super Bowl champions of last year,” Tagovailoa said, summing up the Bills. “And they didn’t just beat them; it was by a lot. And the next team they played, a really good team; they beat them by a lot.”

The Dolphins have been playing coy throughout the week, declining to call this game which will measure how close they are to one of the NFL’s premier teams, a measuring stick.

But there’s no denying the game’s importance for Miami.

“Each game gets bigger if you continue to win,” said cornerback Xavien Howard. “Each game gets bigger. I’d say we’re ready for the matchup.”

Yeah, so are the Bills.

Playing on the road and the South Florida heat or not, diminished in the secondary or not, the Bills are and will remain a Super Bowl contender regardless of the outcome.

That’s because the secondary isn’t going to be banged up all year and eventually teams will have to travel to Buffalo in November, December and January.

But this final game of September presents multiple opportunities for the Bills to make a statement as well.

First, we’re going to find out about that depth everyone says they enjoy. Is it real or will it be exploited?

ORCHARD PARK, NEW YORK – JUNE 14: Sean McDermott of the Buffalo Bills talks during a press conference at Bills mini camp on June 14, 2022 in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Joshua Bessex/Getty Images)

Bills Remain Confident

McDermott believes it’s real because you ask his confidence level playing backups against Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle and he doesn’t blink.

“Very confident in our football team,” he said. “Listen, I know we have a number of injuries here but I’m very confident in our football team, very confident in the back end.”

And here’s the other opportunity for the Bills to say something bold by late Sunday afternoon:

If they can beat the Dolphins (again) it makes a statement to the entire division that the Bills can travel and beat the second-best team in the division on a short week after playing Monday night — all while nursing injuries to a bunch of starters.

So, the message would read to the entire division, what hope can anyone have later in the season when McDermott’s club gets healthy?

Follow on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero

 

Written by Armando Salguero

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