Tua Tagovailoa, Dolphins get litmus test in trying to snap 7-game skid vs. Bills

MIAMI -- Obviously, the Dolphins want to win a Super Bowl, and the easiest path to do so is by winning their division.

Even if that’s not seen as a mandate, team owner Stephen Ross was clear when introducing head coach Mike McDaniel in February.

"We’re excited that Mike is here, and we look forward to him working with us and [general manager] Chris [Grier] in creating a team that will win Super Bowls -- first, we got to start winning our conference games and our division games," Ross said. "I look forward to continuing this collaboration and hoping that we are winning our division and going onto much greater glory, let’s put it that way."

For the past two years, the AFC East has run through the Buffalo Bills, who will visit South Florida for a divisional matchup Sunday (1 p.m. E.T., CBS).

Week 3 is not always indicative of where a team will be by the end of the season, but this week's game does give Miami (2-0) an opportunity to see how it stacks up – after myriad offseason changes – against arguably the best team in the NFL.

"You don’t ignore the obvious. The Buffalo Bills have won the division and done an unbelievable job in all three phases," McDaniel said. "So what better for the Miami Dolphins that’s a young team that is really invested and they’re very eager to play football; what better opportunity than playing the best and seeing where you’re at? So I think you don’t hide from it.

"I think you embrace the fact that they’re a good football team and that there’s one way to be put in the category of good football teams -- you beat good football teams."

Miami has struggled with that in recent years, as its last win over the Bills was in 2018.

Since then, Bills quarterback Josh Allen has blossomed into a player McDaniel said you could "easily argue" is the best in the NFL -- and he's played like it against the Dolphins. During Buffalo's current 7-game win streak over the Dolphins, Allen has completed 65% of his passes for 1,749 yards and 19 touchdowns against 3 interceptions. He's also added 295 yards and 4 touchdowns on the ground.

“It’s definitely a challenge when you got a quarterback that can move around back there," Dolphins linebacker Melvin Ingram said. "Josh Allen is really one of the best quarterbacks in this league right now as far as running and throwing. He does it all. You got to try to just cancel out every phase. You got to have good rush lanes and try to play complementary football.”

Miami played a mobile quarterback last week in the Ravens' Lamar Jackson. He was nearly perfect, throwing for 316 yards and 3 touchdowns and adding 119 yards and a touchdown on the ground.

Allen and Jackson aren't the same types of players, but they bring similar qualities in terms of being able to beat teams by passing or running. Dolphins linebacker Jaelan Phillips said lining up across from Allen puts constant pressure on a defense.

“I mean it’s a war. Every time you go out there, every single play is a battle," he said. "When you have an offense that is as dynamic as the Bills are, they can really take the top off at any time. You have to prepare for everything, and you have to bring your A-game when you come, so you better believe we’ll be playing hard.”

Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is off to the best start of his career through two games, throwing for a league-leading 739 yards and 7 touchdowns -- including a 469-yard, 6-touchdown performance in last week's comeback victory.

He's struggled in three games against Buffalo, completing just 56.4% of his passes for 579 yards and a touchdown against 4 interceptions. But that was without Tyreek Hill (19-284-2), who is the NFL's leading receiver through two games. Between Hill and Jaylen Waddle (15-240-3), the league's third-leading receiver, Miami is more equipped to keep up with the Bills' offense than it's been in years past.

Three of the Bills' top defensive backs will miss Sunday's game -- All-Pros Tre'Davious White and Micah Hyde, as well as starting cornerback Dane Jackson, which leaves rookies Christian Benford and Kaiir Elam as the Bills' projected starting corners.

Even with their depleted roster, however, Miami understands the Bills pose a significant threat.

“We understand that they’re a really good team. That’s no secret. Everyone knows that they’re a really good team," Tagovailoa said. "They’re tough defensively, they’re explosive offensively. ... So for us, we’re just looking at playing the way we play and playing the way we’ve played for the past two weeks, and we’ll go out there, they’ll get our best and we’ll get theirs.”