Sports

Five Story Lines Heading Into the Dolphins' Biggest Game in Years

"Miami Dolphins Crush Buffalo Bills | Seurat"
"Miami Dolphins Crush Buffalo Bills | Seurat" AI image via Pixray
It's not often a Week 3 matchup in the NFL can be deemed massive, but the significance of the showdown between the undefeated Miami Dolphins and the undefeated Buffalo Bills at Hard Rock Stadium this Sunday cannot be overstated. Much more than a record or early stranglehold on first place in the AFC East is on the line.

A Miami victory over Buffalo — perhaps the best team in the NFL right now and definitely the current favorite to win the Super Bowl — would create a seismic shift in how the Dolphins are perceived and provide a clear indication that the team's surprising start to the season under new head coach Mike McDaniel is no fluke.

To put it bluntly: This game is huge for the Dolphins, a team looking to shake the ghosts of decades of disappointment. So let's run through a few major storylines heading into one of the biggest Dolphins games since Dan Marino retired in 1999.

Tua Takeover

All-Pro Bills quarterback Josh Allen and Tua Tagovailoa enter their Week 3 matchup with seven touchdowns and two interceptions apiece on the year. Both lead the league or are near the top in passing yards, completion percentage, and downright awesomeness through two games. Both quarterbacks have been incredible this season. But Tua enters the game with more to prove.

If Tua outplays Josh Allen on Sunday — if, in other words, he vanquishes a media darling and bonafide NFL superstar — the league will be on notice that he has arrived and the cluster of questions surrounding his ceiling in the NFL will be put to rest.

Sunday marks a big game for the Miami Dolphins, but it's a game that stands to affect the career of Tua Tagovalioa.

Mike McDaniel for Coach of the Year

You certainly can't win Coach of the Year in September in the NFL, but first-year Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel is doing his best to try. Through two games, Las Vegas taps McDaniel as the favorite to win the honor. Adding a win over a Super Bowl favorite like the Bills — who have steamrolled the competition through two games — would cushion what already is a lead.

The Dolphins finally seem to have found their version of the Miami Heat's Erik Spoelstra. Sunday will go a long way toward showing us how far along he has already moved.

Team Chemistry

There is no league in sports with more parity than the NFL. The difference between 5-12 and 12-5 can at times only be an injury to a key player or a tight locker room that meshes well.

The Dolphins have been on both ends of that spectrum but more often than not have lacked a team that felt motivated and strong enough to endure what a long season throws at them. A win on Sunday would catapult the Dolphins to the top of the NFL power rankings and instill confidence in what Mike McDaniel has brought to the franchise — and, perhaps most important of all, in what the players believe they can achieve on the field.

Penguin/Cheetah vs. Diggs

Jaylen Waddle and Tyreek Hill are the undisputed best wide-receiving duo in the NFL right now. The Dolphins best two playmakers both rank in the Top 5 of nearly every important wide receiver statistic.

On the other side of the ball is Buffalo's Stephon Diggs — quite possibly one of the only wide receivers in the NFL a team would take over one of the Dolphins' duo. This Sunday is sure to bring with it offensive fireworks on both sides of the ball, many of which will inevitably involve the NFL's three top wideouts.

Playoff Football

Miami Dolphins fans know this next stat like the last four digits of their social security numbers: Miami's last playoff win came in December of 2000, when Dave Wannstedt led the Dolphins to an 11-5 record and edged the Indianapolis Colts in OT in the Wild Card round, only to be shut out by the Oakland Raiders a week later. What followed has been two decades of pain and suffering with few moments of happiness sprinkled in.

A win on Sunday against the Bills would move Miami to 3-0 in what is clearly the most difficult part of the team's schedule, putting them in a perfect position to make a run at a playoff berth. That's really all Dolphins fans want. Especially those college-age Miami fans who've never experienced a weekend that included a Dolphins playoff win.
KEEP MIAMI NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Ryan Yousefi is a freelance writer for Miami New Times, a lover of sports, and an expert consumer of craft beer and pho. Hanley Ramirez once stole a baseball from him and to this day still owes him $10.