3TFO: Dolphins @ Bills, Week 11
In 2011, the Bills started the season strong with a 5-2 start, but ended it poorly with a 1-8 finish. The Dolphins were the exact opposite with a 0-7 start and a 6-3 finish. While things aren’t as extreme this year, we might be seeing these teams do the opposite.
The Dolphins started out with great play by the defense and some strong play by Reggie Bush, but have lost the past two games including an embarrassing 37-3 home loss to the Titans. The Bills have been playing better, but haven’t done enough late in the fourth quarter to get the victories. No matter which road these teams seem to take it all looks to lead to the same destination — a losing record and no playoffs.
When these two teams played last year it was during the Dolphins’ hot streak, and they ended up winning both games. The Bills seem like a hotter team now, so will they continue the trend of the form team winning, or can the Dolphins get back to .500? Here are three battles that will help answer the question.
C.J. Spiller vs. Dolphins Run Defense
After two weeks C.J. Spiller was one of the stories of the season with 292 yards on 29 carries. He slowed down in Weeks 3-5, but over the past four games he has remained effective with 10 carries per game and 6.8 yards per carry. Fred Jackson is missing this game with a concussion, so Spiller will see even more carries.
The Dolphins have been surprising this year in part because of their run defense. Over the first five games, they allowed 302 yards on the ground on 114 carries for a 2.6 average. Over the past four games, however, they have allowed 541 yards on 112 carries for a 4.8 average.
Part of the blame goes to Karlos Dansby, who had a Run Stop Percentage of 13.9 over the first five games, and 8.8 over the last four. Defensive tackle Randy Starks has seen his decline from 8.3 to 2.9. The biggest weakness in the run defense is the outside ends, where the Dolphins have allowed 4.9 yards per carry. While only 22.9 percent of Spiller’s runs are to the outside end, he averages 7.7 yards per carry, so you might see Spiller running to the outside more than usual.
Steve Johnson vs. Sean Smith
On the two occasions the Bills played the Dolphins last year, Steve Johnson was targeted 19 times but only managed nine catches for 98 yards. The main reason Johnson didn’t have the success he usually sees is Vontae Davis played well against him. This year Johnson hasn’t had the same success as last year, but he still has been effective with 20 catches for 268 yards and four avoided tackles in the past four games.
With Davis traded, it has been Sean Smith responsible for the top receiver on the opposing team. He has been the most targeted defender this year with 78 targets, with at least six every game. The past two games, he has seen his PFF rating shift from positive to negative. The reason for that is he had gone six straight games with a pass deflection, and hasn’t recorded one in the past two. Although his numbers don’t look much different, with eight catches allowed on 14 targets for 98 yards and a touchdown, three of those six incomplete passes were drops by the receiver rather than good play by Smith. We can expect Johnson to be the target of many passes, and if their recent play is any indication, Johnson should find success.
Dolphins Interior Offensive Line vs. Kyle Williams
After missing the 2011 season, Kyle Williams has returned to being a dominant defensive tackle. During the first six games he was playing well, with a Run Stop Percentage of 5.6 percent and a Pass Rushing Productivity of 8.3. During the past three weeks he has stepped his game up even more, with a Run Stop Percentage of 9.5 percent and a Pass Rushing Productivity of 10.0.
The men trying to stop Williams are led by center Mike Pouncey, who leads the league in Pass Blocking Efficiency for centers at 99.5. He also ranks eighth in terms of Run Block PFF Rating at +8.5. The man to his left is Richie Incognito, who has improved significantly as of late. After allowing eight pressures in the first five games, he has allowed just one in the past four. After six games he had a -8.1 Run Block Rating, but over the past three games he has a +5.8 rating. The weakest link of the interior three is John Jerry. In pass blocking he has done well with just one hurry allowed over the last three games, but he has consistently graded negatively in run blocking the last few weeks. While Williams might be able to make some plays in the run game going against the guards, he will struggle to come up with any pressure.
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