If your pulse isn't pounding with excitement as we now stand less than 48 hours away from the first game of the season, either (a) you have no pulse or (b) you are merely a casual fan. We welcome all sorts here at Phins Phocus, but chances are if your reading this post, you bleed aqua and orange.
As the anticpation mounts, it's a good as time as any to outline the keys to a Dolphins' vicory, with most football fans busy watching the exciting slate of college action tomorrow. If you've been around much this week, you would know by now that I consider Buffalo very capable of winning this football game.
After all, the Dolphins haven't won a game in Ralph Wilson Stadium since 2003. And I know the 2000's were one of this franchise's worst decades, but the Bills haven't had a playoff team since 1999.
At least September is ideally when the Dolphins would want to make this trip, with December typically being the month the scheduling committee likes to slot this game. Considering all the negativity that has been flying around the web in the last few weeks, and the schedule the awaits the Dolphins starting in Week 2, ending this five year losing streak (Dolphins beat Bills in Toronto in 2008) is more crucial than you may think.
1. Run Ronnie and Ricky, run
Getting the running game going will probably be a key to victory every week considering that's this offense's identity. But against the Bills, it's magnified even more so because their pass defense is solid but their run defense projects to be one of the league's worst.
We've heard they still don't have the personnel to effectively run the 3-4, which should bode well for the Dolphins' running game. If we don't see Ronnie and Ricky combine for at least 120 yards, it may be a long day for this offense if they have to put the ball in Chad Henne's hands more than they want to in difficult situations against statistically one of the better secondaries in football.
2. Get after Edwards
We were hoping the secondary would be ready to make huge strides this season. Based on what we've seen so far, and the fact that Jason Allen is starting, improvement may have to wait. That means Mike Nolan's blitz happy scheme needs to compensate.
No, Edwards hasn't proven to be a quality starting quarterback in the regular season yet, but this defense isn't good enough to allow any quarterback all day to throw. Cleo Lemon or John Beck could probably dissect this secondary given adequate time in the pocket.
Cameron Wake needs to provide pressure all day long from the weakside, Koa Misi needs to begin to flash some pass rushing ability, Karlos Dansby and Tim Dobbins need to collapse the pocket when Nolan calls their number, and the safeties and corners better get there quick considering the secondary will be covering with one less man.
3. Contain the edge
Based on his eye popping preseason, and the health of his counterparts, C.J. Spiller should get at least a good 10-15 carries. When defending speed and quickness of Spiller's caliber, one mistake is all it takes to give up a touchdown and possibly lose a game.
The Dolphins can't get caught over-pursuing their angles because Spiller has the lateral quickness to cut on a dime, and the accelaration to get to full speed in a blink of an eye. And even more importantly, the outside linebackers need to do a great job of containing the edge.
Cameron Wake has obviously been improving against the run, but he needs to diagnose the play almost immediately, and begin to set the perimeter before Spiller gets into the secondary.
On the other side, I expect Ikaika Alama-Francis to get the bulk of the action on running situations. He definitely has the strength to shed blocks, but he needs to flash the quickness to beat Spiller to the edge.
If Misi is in the game, he has the athleticism to get over there, but he better not get pushed around and concede too much ground, or it's going to be yards in chunks for the Bills and their running game.