2023 NFL playoffs: Three reasons Bills can beat the Dolphins on Super Wild Card Weekend

2023 NFL playoffs: Three reasons Bills can beat the Dolphins on Super Wild Card Weekend
2023 NFL playoffs: Three reasons Bills can beat the Dolphins on Super Wild Card Weekend

Buffalo's postseason run begins on Sunday when it hosts the Miami Dolphins at Highmark Stadium. The Bills enter the playoffs as the No. 2 seed in the AFC and own the second-best odds in the entire NFL to eventually win Super Bowl LVII in Arizona in February. The first step in that possible march to the franchise's first-ever title is its AFC East rival, whom it split the season series with. 

That said, we'll make the case and explain why the Bills -- who are laying 13 points in this matchup -- is the clear favorite in this head-to-head and should find themselves advancing to the divisional round. 

How to watch

Date: Sunday, Jan. 15 | Time: 1 p.m. ET
Location: Highmark Stadium (Orchard Park, New York)
CBS | Stream: Paramount+ (click here)
Odds: Bills -13, O/U 43.5

1. Drastic QB mismatch

The biggest storyline entering this game is the fact that the Dolphins will be without Tua Tagovailoa, who has still not been cleared by doctors to resume football activities after suffering another concussion. That means it'll either be Teddy Bridgewater or rookie Skylar Thompson, who'll have to go into Buffalo and try to match Josh Allen. That is likely too lofty of a task for either of those quarterbacks to actually succeed. 

When Tagovailoa is out, Miami's ceiling is drastically lowered. In the games Tagovailoa has played, the Dolphins are averaging 25.5 points per game and 6.5 yards per play. That yards-per-play average is the highest by any starting quarterback this season (min. 10 starts). When he's not under center, the offense craters and averages 16.3 points per game and just 5.2 yards per play. If it's Thompson who starts and Bridgewater backs him up as we saw in Week 18, that sinks the ceiling even lower. Thompson's 62.2 passer rating and 5.1 yards per attempt are the worst among the 47 quarterbacks with 100 or more pass attempts this season.

Meanwhile, Josh Allen absolutely dominates the Dolphins. This year, he threw for 704 yards and rushed for 124 yards against Miami, making him the first quarterback in NFL history with 700 or more passing yards and 100 or more rushing yards against a single team in a regular season. Allen is also 8-2 against the Dolphins in his career, which includes a 5-0 record at home. His teams average 32.6 points per game in those contests and have 31 total touchdowns to just seven turnovers. 

When you have that level of quarterback play on one side and possibly a third-string rookie starting on the opposite side, things could go haywire in short order. 

2. Dolphins' poor situational defense

On top of a questionable offense, Miami's defense is concerning in a couple of key areas. It ranks in the bottom 10 in the NFL on third down (24th) and takeaways (T-30th). This weekend, it will face a Bills offense that was the best in the NFL on third down this season and, as we noted above, piles up the points on offense with Allen under center. One of the bigger issues with the Bills this season has been their turnovers in the red area, but that may be a moot point against a Dolphins defense that struggles to take the ball from the opposition. 

Arguably the best way to contain Allen and this Bills offense would be to keep them off the field with sustained drives on offense, but that would also have to include the defense getting off the field. As we've seen this season, that unit was largely unable to do that. 

One thing that this Miami defense likes to do is apply pressure. It blitzed at the second-highest rate in the NFL, but that may not work out against Allen, who lit the Bills up when

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