When a team makes the playoffs, there is usually a lot of hope and excitement surrounding them. The Miami Dolphins, on the other hand, are the polar opposite. The Dolphins are approaching the playoffs as if it is a death sentence, and it appears that their time in the postseason will be brief.
This is due to the fact that Miami is arguably the most battered team in the playoffs. As Tua Tagovailoa and Teddy Bridgewater continue to be injured, they will have to start Skylar Thompson for the second straight game. They aren’t the only ones missing, as the Dolphins may be missing several other key players for their Wild Card game against the Buffalo Bills.
The Dolphins would not have been favored to win even if Tagovailoa had been able to play, and they will not be favored now that he is out. Despite the obstacles in their path, Miami is not going down without a fight, and they will do everything in their power to upset their division rival, the Bills. With that in mind, it’s clear that this important X-Factor will have to step up and have a big game with Miami’s season on the line.
Xavien Howard, Dolphins X-Factor vs. Bills
Off the bat, it appears that the Dolphins’ biggest X-Factor will be on offense. If Thompson can get anything going in the air, Miami may have a chance to win this game. If Tyreek Hill, their top playmaker, can make some big plays, the Dolphins may be able to win this game.
The issue is that Thompson and the offense cannot be relied on in this game. Thompson can’t be blamed for his struggles, but he’s clearly in over his head this season. Playing the Bills in the playoffs is unlikely to improve his situation, so it’s clear that the defense will have to step up.
This casts a bright light on the Dolphins’ top cornerback, Xavien Howard. Howard will have his hands full against Buffalo, as he will be tasked with containing Stefon Diggs for the majority of the afternoon. Slowing down Diggs will be the most difficult issue for the Dolphins to overcome throughout the game.
Howard did not have his best season in 2022, but he remains one of the game’s best cornerbacks. There aren’t many guys you can leave on one side of the field and be confident they’ll hold down the fort, but Howard is one of them. Of course, arresting Diggs is always easier said than done.
Howard did a good job covering Diggs in the first two games these teams played this season, and he will need to put in another strong performance if the Dolphins are to win this game. Again, if the Dolphins are to win this game, they will need their defense to step up, and it starts with Howard.
Limiting Diggs is critical because the Bills’ offense is heavily reliant on his connection with Allen. Slowing Diggs down with multiple players is possible, but slowing him down with just one player, Howard, gives the Dolphins a plethora of options. The Dolphins are doomed if Diggs forces safety assistance or draws more attention than usual.
The Dolphins have a chance to win this game if Howard can keep Diggs quiet on his own. Obviously, the