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  Dolphins vs Bills Preview
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[ Game Time | Place | Weather | Field Conditions | Standings & Stats | History | Injuries ]
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GAME TIME: 1:00 PM EST on Sunday, Sept 12th. The game will be broadcast regionally on CBS TV, on DirecTV channel 705 and on Sirius radio 91 and 130.

PLACE: Ralph Wilson Stadium, Orchard Park, NY

WEATHER FORECAST: A chance of showers. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 73. Chance of precipitation is 40%.

FIELD CONDITIONS: The Bills' field has an artificial surface called "AstroPlay". This stuff is supposed to be much better than the old AstroTurf from which it evolved. There are no other events at Ralph Wilson before the game, so it should be in good shape.

STANDINGS & STATS: Since this is the first game of the season, there are no relevant stats. Stats below are from the end of last season.

Dolphins       Pts/Game  Rank   Bills          Pts/Game  Rank
Scored          22.5      15    Scored           16.1     28
Allowed         24.4      25    Allowed          20.4     16

Dolphins Yds/Game Rank Bills Yds/Game Rank Total Offense: 338 16 Total Defense: 341 19 Rushing: 140 4 vs Rush: 156 30 Passing: 198 20 vs Pass: 185 2

Bills Dolphins Total Offense: 274 30 Total Defense: 349 22 Rushing: 117 16 vs Rush: 115 18 Passing: 157 30 vs Pass: 234 24

Sacks Made (Avg/G) Allowed (Avg/G) Dolphins 44 2.7 34 2.1 Bills 32 2.0 46 2.8

Turnover differential: Dolphins -8 Bills +3

Individual Skill Position Stats: Dolphins QB: QB Henne: 274-451-2878-12-14-75.2 Rush: RB Williams: 241-1121-4.7-11 Rush: RB Brown: 147-648-4.4-8 Rec: WR Marshall: 101-1120-11.1-10 Rec: WR Bess: 76-758-10.0-2 Rec: RB Williams: 35-264-7.5-2 Rec: WR Hartline: 31-506-16.3-3

Bills QB: QB Edwards: 110-183-1169-6-7-73.8 Rush: RB Jackson: 237-1062-4.5-2 Rush: RB Lynch: 120-450-3.8-2 Rec: RB Jackson: 46-371-8.1-2 Rec: WR Evans: 44-612-13.9-7 Rec: RB Lynch: 28-179-6.4-0

Legend QBs: completions-attempts-yards-touchdowns-ints-rating RBs: rushes-yards-average-touchdowns WRs: receptions-yards-average-touchdowns

HISTORY: The Dolphins have won 3 of the last 4 against the Bills, but have only won once in their last 6 trips to Buffalo. The last time Miami faced the Bills, the Dolphins lead 14-7 going into the 4th quarter, but gave up 24 unanswered points in the final period and lost 31-14. Overall, the Dolphins lead the series 52-37-1.

INJURIES:

DOLPHINS: LB Channing Crowder (groin) did not practice on Wednesday or Thursday. OT Jake Long (knee) was limited in practice. WR Brandon Marshall (ankle) full participated in practice.

BILLS: Linebackers Reggie Torbor (chest), Kawika Mitchell (foot) and Antonio Coleman (hamstring) did not practice on Wednesday or Thursday. Safety Jairus Byrd (groin) was limited, but did practice.

DOLPHINS STARTERS:

Offense:		     Defense:
QB -  7 Chad Henne           LE  - 70 Kendall Langford
RB - 23 Ronnie Brown         NT  - 94 Randy Starks
FB - 36 Lousaka Polite       RE  - 98 Jared Odrick
WR - 19 Brandon Marshall     SLB - 59 Ikaika Alama-Francis
WR - 82 Brian Hartline       ILB - 52 Channing Crowder
TE - 80 Anthony Fasano       ILB - 58 Karlos Dansby
LT - 77 Jake Long            WLB - 91 Cameron Wake
LG - 68 Richie Incognito     LCB - 21 Vontae Davis
C  - 67 Joe Berger           RCB - 32 Jason Allen
RG - 74 John Jerry           SS  - 37 Yeremiah Bell
RT - 72 Vernon Carey         FS  - 30 Chris Clemons

K -   5 Dan Carpenter        P   -  2 Brandon Fields

PR - 22 Clifton Smith        KR  - 22 Clifton Smith
NOTES: Jake Long is practicing and should start. Channing Crowder did not practice on Wednesday, but may still start. If Crowder can't go, Tim Dobbins will fill in at ILB. Clifton Smith was just signed, but is an outstanding returner and will, most likely, be returning punts and kicks.
Bills STARTERS: 

Offense:                     Defense:
QB -  5 Trent Edwards        LDE - 99 Marcus Stroud
RB - 21 C.J. Spiller         NT  - 95 Kyle Williams
FB - 38 Corey McIntyre       RDE - 98 Dwan Edwards
WR - 13 Steve Johnson        SLB - 53 Reggie Torbor
WR - 83 Lee Evans            ILB - 54 Andra Davis
TE - 88 Jonathan Stupar      ILB - 51 Paul Posluszny
LT - 77 Demetrius Bell       WLB - 90 Chris Kelsey
LG - 67 Andy Levitre         RCB - 29 Drayton Florence
C  - 63 Geoff Hangartner     LCB - 24 Terrence McGee
RG - 70 Eric Wood            SS  - 20 Donte Whitner
RT - 74 Cornell Green        FS  - 31 Jairus Byrd

K  -  9 Rian Lindell         P   -  8 Brian Moorman

KR - 28 L McKelvin           PR  - 11 Roscoe Parrish
NOTES: Reggie Torbor is penciled in as one of the starting outside linebackers for the Bills, but is injured and may not go.

KEY MATCHUPS:

  1. Dolphins vs Themselves: The Dolphins had a poor preseason, have just finished playing musical chairs on the offensive line, have injuries to some key players and are working with a new defensive system. And if that wasn't enough, the Dolphins under Tony Sparano are 0-2 on opening days and 1-5 in September.
  2. Wake, Ike and Misi vs C.J. Spiller: Bills' rookie C.J. Spiller is an amazing talent and very quick to the outside. The Dolphins are starting all new outside linebackers this year and they must contain Spiller.
  3. Dolphins Interior Offensive line vs Bills Defensive line: The Dolphins are starting a rookie right guard and a brand new left guard against a tough, veteran Bills' defensive line.
  4. Chad Henne vs Bills' Secondary: In the last game against the Bills, Henne threw 3 interceptions in the 4th quarter. Bills' safety Jairus Byrd had 9 picks last year and Henne must protect the ball in order for the Dolphins to win.

PLAYERS TO WATCH:

The new season brings a lot of questions and this year, they start on the offensive line. The play of Joe Berger, rookie John Jerry and Richie Incognito will be key to the offensive success of this team and they'll get a tough test on Sunday. There will be a lot of attention paid to Brandon Marshall, but that could open up opportunities for Brian Hartline, who could have a big game.

On defense, rookie Jared Odrick will get his first taste of the real NFL and how well he can hold his position on the line will be crucial to limiting the Bills' ability to run. But perhaps more importantly, the Dolphins' perimeter linebackers - Cameron Wake, Koa Misi and Ikaika Alama-Francis - will need to contain the edge running game of the Bills. And Jason Allen will get the start at cornerback and will be tested early and often.

Bills' Quarterback Trent Edwards has been called the worst starting quarterback in the NFL, but has managed to keep his job this year under new head coach Chan Gailey. The big news for the Bills' offense, however, is rookie running back C.J. Spiller, who was a controversial pick for the Bills in this year's draft. He is very quick and elusive, but at less than 200 pounds, he's not a bruiser.

On defense, the Bills have a stout veteran defensive line with Marcus Stroud, Kyle Williams and Dwan Edwards. They also have a strong secondary, anchored by safety Jairus Byrd, who had 9 interceptions last season. However, there are questions about their linebacking corps, with former Dolphin Reggie Torbor and Antonio Coleman both injured.

Miami picked up former Pro-Bowl return man Clifton Smith a couple of days ago, but it's unclear how much he'll be able to contribute.

Bills' Punt Returner Roscoe Parrish used to be an outstanding return man, but had a very poor year in 2009.

MY ANALYSIS:

The Dolphins open the season with a game that should be relatively easy for them to win. The Dolphins match up very well against the Bills, as their offensive strength is running the football and the Bills were ranked 30th in the league in run defense last year.

The Dolphins also have a new, more aggressive defensive coordinator and more experience in the secondary. They've improved their linebacking corps and face a weak Buffalo offense that has lost Terrell Owens and will be relying on a rookie starter at running back.

Unfortunately, there are two reasons to think that this game will not be as easy for Miami as it should. The first is that the Dolphins have not won in Ralph Wilson Stadium since 2003. There are more than one reason for this record, but a very large factor is that the Bills are always extra fired-up to play the Dolphins, one of their biggest rivals. That extra enthusiasm the Bills show often makes up for a lack of talent.

The other reason is that, under Tony Sparano, the Dolphins have been very slow starters. Since Sparano took over, the Dolphins are 0-2 on opening days and 1-5 in September. If the Dolphins get off to a slow start this weekend, they could find themselves on the losing end of an embarrassing loss.

For Miami to win this game on Sunday, they will need to play much better than they have in the preseason. Chad Henne must avoid the kind of mistakes that doomed the Dolphins the last time they traveled to Buffalo. In last year's game at Ralph Wilson Stadium, Henne threw 3 picks in the 4th quarter to give the Bills the victory.

On defense, the Dolphins must secure the perimeters to keep the Bills from running to the outside. Last year, Miami had trouble doing that and it cost them. This year, with new starting outside linebackers, the Dolphins must secure those edges to stop the Bills' rushing attack.

When Miami has the ball, look for them to concentrate on the run. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that Miami will want to run the ball right down the Bills' throats as this will not only attack the weakest part of the Bills' defense, but it will also give the Bills' secondary less chance to do what they did to Chad Henne last year.

Fortunately for the Dolphins, they are in a much better position to run the ball effectively than they were the last time they visited Buffalo. Ronnie Brown is back and the Dolphins have their full complement of running backs ready to go. The question for Miami's running game is whether or not the new offensive line can open the lanes that Ronnie and Ricky need and we don't know the answer to that question - yet.

When Miami throws, Brandon Marshall will get his share of passes, but it could be Brian Hartline that will have the best opportunity to break some big plays. Hartline averaged 16.3 yards per catch last season, about 5.2 yards per catch more than Brandon Marshall. With Buffalo focusing on Marshall, Hartline should get plenty of opportunities to break some big plays - provided Henne sees that and can get the ball to him.

On defense, Miami's first priority will be to guard the perimeter and prevent the Bills from running to the outside. With new starting outside linebackers Cam Wake, Koa Misi and Ike Alama-Francis, this could prove tough. If those three players can hold their own and seal the edges, the Dolphins should be able to contain the Bills' runners. Alama-Francis is big and strong, but has never played OLB before, while Wake is primarily a pass-rusher and Misi is a rookie.

The defensive backs will also need to contribute to containing the outside running game of the Bills, which may account for the promotion of Jason Allen to starting on the right side. While Vontae Davis is a very aggressive and hard-hitting tackler, Sean Smith is not as good at defending the run. Jason Allen is a stronger hitter and probably a better tackler than Smith and with the Dolphins facing a team with a very limited passing attack, Jason Allen would be better in run support than Smith.

The Bills' passing game is not very strong and will be even less dangerous this year without Terrell Owens. Their starting quarterback, Trent Edwards, is one of the worst in the NFL and shows no signs of improving dramatically. As long as the Dolphins don't commit and huge errors, they should be able to halt the Bills' offense.

In the past, the Bills have had some very good special teams, but last year they regressed dramatically. They have many of the same players returning kicks and punts, but their production dropped off dramatically last season.

For the Dolphins, it will be very interesting to see if newcomer Clifton Smith can put some spark back in Miami's return game. Two years ago, Smith made the Pro-Bowl as a rookie return man for Tampa Bay, but had two concussions last year and was not as dynamic, although he still averaged 29.1 yards per kickoff return in 2009.

Overall, the Dolphins should beat the Bills on Sunday. But to do that, they must come out of the gate faster, with more intensity and playing smarter than they have the last two years. They must not make the kind of mistakes they have been making on opening day since Tony Sparano took over or they will find themselves losing in Buffalo.

PLACES TO WATCH:

To watch the game on TV, you may go to one of the sports bars listed on my "Places To Watch" web page.

To listen to the game live over the Internet, you must now pay the NFL for the privelege. They are charging $9.99 (US) per month or $39.99 for the season for something you used to get for free. If you want to sign up for that, go to the following link NFL Field Pass.

Also, here is a list of some websites that have live scores and updates. Both the Official Website and NFL.com have almost live applications that run in your browser and give you current stats and play-by-play information.

Related Info:
     
   
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