I commented on tonight's Bills game yesterday thinking yesterday was today. Teedge noted that yesterday was yesterday, not today, and suggested that I write about today's game. So I wrote this last night, which as I sit here typing is actually today, but not the same today as the today in which the Bills play the Dolphins.
Just as yesterday and today are confusingly the same, so too are these AFC East squadrons. Both teams are 5-4 coming off close painful losses which were preceded by major blowouts. The Bills and Fins are ranked #20 and #21 respectively in passing offense which is somewhat surprising given that only a handful of teams in the league jettison their current QB in favor of Kyle Orton or Ryan Tannehill (I'm looking at you Houston, Tampa, St. Louis, NYJ and Tennessee!). They are below league average in yards per attempt, yards per completion, yards per game, and TD percentage. Surprisingly, both teams are above league average in INT % and QB rating. And they're pretty close to each other in all of these metrics.
At a more granular level their passing offenses consist of one good receiver and a bunch of dreck. Sammy Watkins has played very well for a rookie WR and the Bills win whenever he goes over 100 yards. (Parenthetically, I think the standard for young WR needs to be adjusted. It seems like preposterously dominant young WR are suddenly ubiquitous. Demaryius Thomas, AJ Green, Julio Jones, Dez Bryant, Alshon Jeffrey, Antonio Brown, Randall Cobb, Eric Decker, and Keenan Allen have all entered the league since 2010. Either this is a golden age of wide receivers or the rule changes have thrown everything out of whack.) Watkins has 617 yards so far; the second closest Buffalo receiver has 346. The gap twixt Sammy and the rest of the team would be about five yards bigger but for this play.
Meanwhile, Mike Wallace carries the receiving load for Miami with 519 yards. The next closest Dolphin has 354 yards.
I think both players are held back by their QB situations. If you're going to mortgage your future to trade up for, or pay $60 million to acquire, a great WR, you should make sure your QB is at least serviceable. The Bills apparently realized this a few weeks after the draft so they ran out and gave $10 million to Orton who at the time was retired.
The jury is still out on Tannehill and I'm not buying just yet, he's too spotty to rely on long term.
The similarities continue on defense--Miami is ranked #4 and Buffalo is #7. Paradoxically, a team named after an aquatic mammal is absolutely deadly against airborne attack, allowing only 210.8 passing yards per game (second best in the league). The Bills allow 224.6 passing yards per game, seventh best in the league. And they sit at third and fourth in terms of lowest opposing QB rating.
And both teams are stout against the run. Actually, let me rephrase ... after years of pissing and moaning about Buffalo's run defense, I'm delighted to report that they've allowed the eighth fewest rushing yards so far this year! At only 3.7 yards per carry, they are the seventh best team in this regard! No slouch either, Miami is tenth and eleventh in these categories.
So what does all this mean? A Bills loss, in all likelihood. Here's why. After this game they have the following schedule: NYJ, CLE, @DEN, GB, @OAK, @NE. They will doubtlessly lose the Denver, Green Bay, and New England games. I expect them to beat the Jets at home and Oakland (even though they have to fly across the country to do it). That's 7 wins and 7 losses. Buffalo is clearly prohibited from being over 0.500 for the season (haven't done so since they went 9-7 in 2004) so they have to have to lose two more games, which would be Cleveland and this Miami game. It's fate.
Further, Buffalo's running game is in shambles. Only 10 teams have fewer rushing yards and only nine teams average fewer yards per carry. Fred Jackson is back but gingerly, leaving Bryce Brown and Boobie Dixon to carry/fumble most of the load. As an aside, whenever I hear "boobie" I think Hey Ma.
Meanwhile, only seven teams have more rushing yards than Miami and only four teams average more yards per carry.
Adding to my concerns is that Orton hasn't thrown a pick since October 19 so he's due, probably for a plurality of INTs. And Tannehill plays well in alternating weeks, putting up triple-digit QB ratings and >8 yards/attempt one week followed by ratings in the low eighties the next. He rating was 81.8 in last week's loss so I expect about 275 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT, a completion percentage hovering around 70% and maybe a rushing TD too.
Final score: Buffalo 17 Miami 31
Special bonus image--I couldn't figure out how to work this in but it's too good to ignore.