There was a time when an AFC East showdown wasn’t a proper showdown unless the Patriots were one of the teams.
The Bills, with their revelatory 2021 season and star quarterback Josh Allen, have replaced the Patriots as the class of the division. And now the Dolphins are making noise after two weeks of the 2022 season.
On Sunday in South Florida, the Bills (2-0), who’ve routed the Super Bowl champion Rams 31-10 and the reigning AFC No. 1 seed Titans 41-7 in their first two games, will play the Dolphins (2-0), who look positively energized by first-year head coach Mike McDaniel and are fresh off a remarkable 42-38 comeback victory over the Ravens.
Miami and Buffalo are two of just three AFC teams to start the season 2-0, with Kansas City being the other.
“You don’t ignore the obvious: The Buffalo Bills have won the division and done an unbelievable job in all three phases, so what better opportunity for the Miami Dolphins than playing the best and seeing where you’re at?’’ McDaniel told reporters this week. “You don’t hide from it. I think you embrace the fact that they’re a good football team and that there’s one way to be put in the category of good football teams: You beat good football teams. It’s an opportunity for us to see where we’re at. You bask in that opportunity.”
The Dolphins will enter the game a confident team behind quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who was named the AFC Offensive Player of the Week for his performance in the win over Baltimore. He threw for 469 yards and six touchdowns in the 21-point comeback. Tagovailoa leads the NFL with 739 passing yards.
The Bills will enter the game hurting, with backup defensive tackle Jordan Phillips and two starters — safety Micah Hyde and cornerback Dane Jackson — out with injuries. Both Hyde and Jackson were taken to the hospital for evaluations on neck injuries after the victory Monday over Tennessee.
“They’re both coming off of significant situations, in particular when you’re dealing with that part of the body,” Buffalo coach Sean McDermott said. “Going anything beyond that would be irresponsible on my part because I really don’t know. They both seem to be moving around and walking around in the building and trying to improve each and every day.
“I know we have a number of injuries, but very confident in our football team.’’
It was announced Saturday that Hyde will miss the rest of the season.
Sunday will mark the first time the Bills will face receiver Tyreek Hill in a Dolphins uniform. Hill leads the NFL with 284 receiving yards, and he’s complemented by Jaylen Waddle (who has 240 yards himself) and tight end Mike Gesicki.
Allen has averaged 247.5 passing yards and 53.8 rushing yards per game in his career against the Dolphins and he has a 7-1 career record against them. The only loss was a 21-17 defeat in December 2018, when Bills tight end Charles Clay dropped a pass in the end zone with under a minute left.
Allen’s top target, Stefon Diggs, has three touchdown receptions and 270 receiving yards in two games.
Interestingly, Buffalo’s three running backs are all from South Florida. Devin Singletary (American Heritage-Delray High and Florida Atlantic) is the starting tailback, and rookie James Cook (Miami Central High) and Zack Moss (Hallandale High) split carries with him. None of the three backs has scored a touchdown yet this season and all are surely hungry to do so close to home.
Led by the explosive Allen, the Bills figure to provide a challenge to see just how legitimate a contender the Dolphins are.
“We understand that they’re a really good team,” Tagovailoa said. “They’re tough defensively. They’re explosive offensively. “I wouldn’t say that we have a measuring stick for how good that these guys are. For us, we’re just looking at playing the way we played for the past two weeks. They’ll get our best, and we’ll get theirs.”
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