Miami's ground attack: The Dolphins’ passing struggles this preseason have been well documented in this space. Now that the games count, expect Miami to be more conservative with rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill. The Dolphins would be wise to draw up a simple game plan to run as much as possible against the dangerous Houston Texans. Miami has a decent stable of running backs, led by starter Reggie Bush, and deploying them successfully is the best way to keep the game close. If Miami falls behind early and tries to pass its way back in the game, look out! The Texans’ pass rush could cause the Dolphins major problems.
Stevan Ridley is likely to receive the lion's share of carries for New England against Tennessee.
Ridley the focus:New England Patriots tailback Shane Vereen has been held out of practice this week with a foot injury and is not expected to play. That means most of the responsibility will be on second-year tailback Stevan Ridley. He beat out Vereen in training camp for the starting job but was still expected to share carries. For Sunday’s game against Tennessee, Ridley likely will be the workhorse, with help from backup Danny Woodhead.
Sanchez must perform: Perhaps no starting quarterback in the NFL faces more pressure to perform in Week 1 than Mark Sanchez. His job security has been in question from the day the New York Jets traded for the popular Tim Tebow. Then Sanchez failed to lead the Jets to a single preseason touchdown. There is no way around it: Sanchez enters the season on a short leash. He must play well against the Buffalo Bills at home Sunday or questions will increase about his job security.
Statement for Jets' D: New York talked this offseason about the potential of having the best defense in the league. The Jets can go out and prove it Sunday against the Bills. New York -- particularly at cornerback -- has matched up well against Buffalo’s multi-receiver offense in recent seasons, winning five consecutive games in the series. The matchup between Pro Bowl corner Darrelle Revis and Bills No. 1 receiver Steve Johnson, if healthy, will be huge. Johnson has done well against Revis in the past but is nursing a groin injury. Johnson said he expects to play but is listed as questionable. Meanwhile, Revis will be motivated to start the season strong.
Fitzpatrick crossroads: Buffalo quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick enters a pivotal year in his career. The Bills will go as far as Fitzpatrick takes them this season. He is one of the streakiest quarterbacks in the NFL. At his best, Fitzpatrick can get hot and beat any team. But at his worst, he's prone to multiple turnovers that are difficult to overcome. Fitzpatrick has worked on fundamentals and consistency, and he will need it on the road against the Jets' excellent defense.