Updated: Sep 26
By Diego Perez-Torres
With the regular season over, the Dolphins have found themselves clinching a playoff spot in the AFC with a very defense-driven game against the New York Jets. It was an ugly 11-6 win. Nonetheless, the Dolphins look to make a deep run to bring the franchise their third Super Bowl win. With injuries, it will be an uphill battle. Their first tall task: beat the mighty Buffalo Bills. It is doable. These are some key variables the Dolphins must do to have a fighting chance.
Contain Josh Allen in the pocket
The first time the Dolphins faced the Bills in the regular season, Josh Allen kept plays alive by moving around the pocket and dodging defenders due to poor tackling. Allen's ability to scramble allowed the Bills to have more than half of the possession time in that game. And when a team has more than half of the possession time in a game, it's very hard to beat them. That game went down to the last seconds and Allen could not spike the ball in time. On another note, containing Allen in the pocket would allow the Dolphins to utilize their edge rushers to pressure Allen, hopefully resulting in a sack or causing Allen to make a mistake.
2. Stick to a 4-3 or 3-4
Throughout last season, defensive coordinator Chris Boyer often ran his defense in Cover 0, meaning that there are no safeties in deep coverage. The Dolphins were a big fan of this last year as they ran this coverage 40 times against the Ravens on Thursday Night Football. But fast forward to this season, and the blitz seems to be deflated by just simply better quarterback play. The whole concept of the coverage is to overload the offensive line by putting more pass rushers on the line than there are blockers to cause the quarterback to make a mistake or become hesitant resulting in a sack. Due to Allen's superior quarterback play and how heavy of a passing offense the Bills have become over the last two years, a simple 3-4 or 4-3 defense would work to at least work to slow down their big over-top pass game and force Allen to go through his progressions.
3. Let Skylar Thompson shock the world
Dolphins rookie quarterback Skylar Thompson got his first piece of NFL action in Week 5 of the season after quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was ruled out for the week due to concussion protocol and backup Teddy Bridgewater went down after the first drive when he was sacked by rookie phenom Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner. Although Thompson played very well in the preseason, this was his true, "Welcome to the League" moment. He was swiftly picked off by Gardner shortly after entering the game. Thompson has looked more sure of himself in recent play such as moving around in the pocket, looking for his check downs and protecting the football.
With the season of the Dolphins in his hands, Thompson should have one thought on his mind, and that thought is what he told himself last week before the Jets game: “I don't need to be the hero I just have to be Skylar Thompson”.
4. Look downfield
In Thompson's last start, he seemed hesitant to throw downfield and didn't really look at wide receiver Jaylen Waddle, who was often breaking off coverage deep. Thompson instead would try to force a throw to star Tyreek Hill. Another factor of this issue is that the offensive line doesn't really seem completely in sync due to injuries. But as mentioned before, Thompson is only growing more with time, and with another week of reps with the starters, he will be more comfortable, more confident and ready to lead this team with all he’s got.
5. Don't be scared to run the ball
In week 15 when the Dolphins and Bills faced off, the Dolphins MVP of that game was running back Raheem Mostert. The reason for that was the Dolphins integrated the run into their pass-heavy offense, which allowed them to keep the Bills on their toes. Due to the running success of that game, the Dolphins should focus on the run again for this playoff game. On Sunday, Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel will have a very good scheme for his team and will do everything in his power to give this franchise their first playoff win since 2000.
The Skylar Thompson lead Dolphins will have a lot on their plate come game time Sunday afternoon in Buffalo. But if they follow these five variables, the game will be a well-fought-out battle. The Bills do have MVP candidate Josh Allen. But as Skylar Thompson fans and many Dolphins fans are saying now: "In Skylar we trust."