Three storylines shaping Bills-Dolphins showdown

Trent Sherfield has seen both sides of the increasingly fierce AFC East rivalry between the Miami Dolphins and Buffalo Bills.

The Bills wide receiver played with the Dolphins last season -- when the teams met three times, including in the postseason, with all three games decided by three or fewer points.

Sherfield's expectation for Sunday when the two teams meet at Highmark Stadium (1 p.m. ET, CBS)?

"It's going to be a physical matchup, for sure," he said. "Obviously, when I was over there, it was something that we always knew that the Bills, us, we were going to be ready to play. And I think that [coach Sean] McDermott has done a great job of just letting us know, 'Hey, let's just lock in on us, no game is too big. Let's not let the outside noise try to hype us up and get us all bent out of shape. It's just another game.'"

The history, however, between the two teams would indicate it will be far more than just another game.

While the Bills, who are 2.5-point favorites, have beaten the Dolphins in 11 of the 13 meetings since McDermott became head coach in 2017, each team won a regular-season game at its home stadium (with heat impacting several Bills players in Miami and snowballs becoming involved in Orchard Park, N.Y.) last year, then the Bills went on to win a close playoff game that featured Miami backup quarterback Skylar Thompson. With the Jets dealing with the loss of Aaron Rodgers and the Patriots still finding their way in the post-Tom Brady era, the outcome of this Week 4 game will likely play a key role in helping decide the race for the AFC East crown, which the Bills have won the past three seasons.

Here's a breakdown of how the two teams stack up by Bills reporter Alaina Getzenberg and Dolphins reporter Marcel Louis-Jacques

Miami's No. 1-ranked offense vs. Buffalo's No. 2 defense

What makes the Dolphins' offense so difficult to defend? Its balance. Miami leads the NFL in passing yards per game (362) and rushing yards per game (188.3), which is in contrast to last season, when it owned the league's fourth-best passing offense but eighth-worst rushing offense. Three of the five leading touchdown scorers in the NFL play for the Dolphins: Raheem Mostert (ranked No. 1, 7 TDs), De'Von Achane and Tyreek Hill (tied with two other players at No. 2, 4 TDs). They've shown this offense is a threat to score from anywhere on the field, as evidenced by becoming the first team with at least 70 points and 700 yards in a game, and five rushing and five passing touchdowns in a game, when they beat the Broncos 70-20 in Week 3.

Dolphins' X factor: Mostert ran for 136 yards on 17 carries in last year's Week 15 matchup, but he missed the wild-card game. -- Marcel Louis-Jacques

How has the Bills' defense shut down opponents? In McDermott's first season as both defensive coordinator and head coach, the Buffalo defense has gotten off to a strong start by making opposing offenses uncomfortable and taking advantage of mistakes. Despite having the second-lowest blitz rate in the league (15.7%), the Bills lead the league in quarterback pressure percentage (50.6%) and sacks per dropback (13.3%). They also lead the league in takeaways (nine).

"The challenge this week is the ball comes out so fast [from quarterback Tua Tagovailoa], so we've got to find somehow, some way," McDermott said. "I mean I think Tua's been sacked one time all year if I'm not mistaken. [He's not.] So, it's very impressive."

Bills' X factor: The interior of Buffalo's defensive line. While the Bills' run defense is a work in progress and something to watch in this game -- allowing a league-high 5.9 yards per carry to opposing rushers -- defensive tackles Ed Oliver and DaQuan Jones have played well early in the season, with Jones having a 27.3% pass rush win rate and Oliver tied for the second-most pressures in the league (15), per NFL Next Gen Stats data. -- Getzenberg

Josh Allen vs. Miami's defense

What does Miami have to do to contain Allen? In three games against Miami last season, Allen threw for 1,056 yards and 9 TDs, with 2 INTs, and ran for 144 yards. The Bills went 2-1 in those games.

Of course, a handful of Dolphins players have some personal history with Allen, particularly Christian Wilkins, who was fined last season for an incident in which Allen was also penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct. Wilkins and Allen also sparked a brief skirmish between the teams during their game in December when Wilkins blocked Allen after an interception and the latter took exception to it.

"That's my guy. I love Josh. We're cool, we're tight," Wilkins said. "But no, he's a heck of a competitor. I love playing against him. He definitely brings the best out of you as a defense, as an individual. His résumé speaks for itself. But definitely a heck of a player, and we're going to have to be on it this week as a defense and as a team, because they're a really good team and they play tough, and we know them, they know us. There's no secrets. Just have to go out there and ball, compete, and may the best man win."

X factor: Bradley Chubb. If Jaelan Phillips is again unable to play Sunday, Chubb will have to drive the Dolphins' pass rush and apply pressure on Allen. -- Louis-Jacques

How has Allen thrived against Miami? Allen hasn't just been good against the Dolphins, he has made history. He has 11 straight games with two-plus passing touchdowns against Miami -- the longest such streak by a quarterback against a single opponent in NFL history. The quarterback has thrown 30 passing touchdowns to seven interceptions, while rushing for four more scores in those games, compiling a 9-2 record against them. Some of his best performances have come versus the Dolphins.

"I think it's a lot of familiarity, obviously. I do believe that they've got some very impressive guys on their defense," Allen said. "... We've got to be smart with what we're doing."

X factor: RB James Cook. McDermott has often spoken of the Bills having a balanced attack, and with the way the second-year rusher is playing, they are off to a good start. Heading into Week 3, Cook is third in the NFL in rushing yards (267) and fifth in yards after contact per rush (2.41). -- Getzenberg

Who are the important new faces to the rivalry?

Dolphins: The next matchup between these teams in Week 18 could feature their marquee addition from this past offseason: cornerback Jalen Ramsey, who is still sidelined after having offseason surgery on his left knee. But another newcomer erupted onto the scene last week ---rookie running back De'Von Achane, who was named AFC Offensive Player of the Week after a 233-yard, four-touchdown performance in Week 3. It's unclear what his role will be going forward, but he and Mostert could be in for another big day. -- Louis-Jacques

Bills: This isn't the same Buffalo defense from last season. Defensive end Leonard Floyd, a free agent signing from the Los Angeles Rams, has already made a significant impact -- a team-best 3.5 sacks and 27.6% pass rush win rate -- despite dealing with an ankle injury.

"Just excellence. I mean, [Floyd] is coming off the edge, he's so fast, he's so long, and just got so much talent," defensive end AJ Epenesa said.

A question coming into the season was whom the Bills would find to replace middle linebacker Tremaine Edmunds, who signed with the Chicago Bears. Terrel Bernard, a 2022 third-round pick who is leading the team in tackles (24), has quickly erased the uncertainty after back-to-back games with an interception and coming off a dominant performance against the Las Vegas Raiders. -- Getzenberg