By Senior Sports Columnist CHUCK POLLOCK
OK, so I wouldn’t count on the Bills and Dolphins combining to score 73 points, Sunday afternoon at Highmark Stadium … even though that total is only three less than Miami hung on Denver in a 70-20 victory last week in South Florida.
Indeed, it was only a field goal short of the pro football record the Bears put on Washington in the 1940 NFL Championship Game.
The significance of Buffalo and Miami meeting at Orchard Park is that it will match the league’s two highest-scoring teams on a perfect weather day. And there’s precedent for these two teams to put up big numbers. Last January, in a playoff game contested in winter weather at Highmark, the Bills had to hang on for a 34-31 victory even though the Dolphins were down to their third-string quarterback.
Sunday will match the NFL’s two highest-scoring teams. Miami has tallied 130 points or 43 per game while Buffalo has scored 91, an average of 30. Hence that 73-point figure mentioned at the outset.
Still, Las Vegas has set Sunday’s over/under at 53½ points, easily the highest on the board this week.
You want some other stats?
Miami leads the league in yards per game (550), passing yards per game (362), rushing yards per game (188) and yards per play (8.4). The Bills, defensively, rank second in yards allowed per game (253) and scoring (18.7 points) and lead the league in sack rate (16%), interception rate (9.33%) and takeaways (nine) while topping the NFL in average time of possession per game (35:34 minutes).
So even though this game looks to be a square-off of prolific offenses, it could well come down to the Dolphins’ potent attack versus Buffalo’s stingy ‘D.” The problem, of course, is that Miami’s ability to score quickly might render the Bills’ skill at controlling the ball moot.
There’s also another problem for coach Sean McDermott’s defense. Both starting safeties, Jordan Poyer (knee) and Micah Hyde (hamstring), missed practice time this week as did reserve nickel back Siran Neal (ankle) and end Leonard Floyd (ankle) , the team’s sack leader with 3½.
All returned Thursday except Poyer who missed the two most important workouts of the week and won’t play against Miami.
WHEN ASKED about the matchup, Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel allowed, “If you need to be motivated for a game like this, check your pulse …. or maybe consider a career adjustment.
“This is a very, very difficult challenge that I think our players are pumped for because you sign up to play the best, and I think (the Bills) fit that.”
McDaniel concluded,”(These) are my favorite type of games, the ones that take an absolute team commitment. Two teams that really want to have no business leaving that stadium with a loss … good players, good coaching staffs, it’ll be a fun one.”
McDERMOTT admitted, “They’re explosive. Anybody that touches the ball can score, whether it’s what you think is going to be a 2-yard run that turns into a crease and a gasher — same thing with the passing game. Coach McDaniel does a great job of moving guys around, creating different styles of offense. It’s a handful.
“When you’re playing an explosive team, a team that scores like this offense does, you have to play a complementary game. All three phases have to blend together and work together. It’s certainly going to take all of us to get it done.”
Of course, Bills quarterback Josh Allen knows there’s even more pressure on him than usual.
“I think this is what football’s all about … these type of rivalries — they get emotions going,” he said. “We play an emotional game at the end of the day, that’s why we play it. That’s a big part of the reason why I play this game.
“It makes me feel certain things and to go against in-division rivals and have that type of vibe with some of the guys, it makes you want to get out of your seat. But at the same time, trying to stay as level as possible and try to focus on what I need to focus on.”
Allen concluded, “It’s quite literally one of my favorite types of football games, because with that offense they have (quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, wideouts Tyreek Hill, Jaylen Waddle and Braxton Berrios and running backs Taheem Mostert and De’Von Archane) and and how good they are, and the defense they have and how good they are … it takes the entire team to execute … you can’t overcome that teamwork that they have with individuals.”
Dolphins 35, Bills 31
(In other words, the tip for the day is, bet the over)
(Chuck Pollock, a Wellsville Sun senior sports columnist, can be reached at email@example.com.)
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