The Buffalo Bills are entering the playoffs in a pretty good spot this season. They wrapped up the top spot in the AFC East for the third straight season, and will enter the playoffs as the second seed in the AFC. Winning the top seed in the AFC certainly would have been nice, but Buffalo will be content with their standing in the playoff bracket as the postseason kicks off.

Even better for the Bills is that they have drawn a wildly favorable matchup in the Wild Card round against the Miami Dolphins. The Dolphins would have been a difficult matchup, but they are without Tua Tagovailoa as he remains in the concussion protocol, meaning that Miami will pose far less of a threat than they typically would against Buffalo here.

Still, you can’t take anyone lightly in the playoffs, and the Bills are going to have to do everything in their power to put the Dolphins to rest here. After all, Miami did beat them back in Week 3, so they may know the formula to beating the Bills. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the Bills X-Factor who could help send the Dolphins packing if he puts together a big game in this one.

Bills X-Factor vs. Dolphins: Matt Milano

It seems pretty simple on paper; if Josh Allen has a big day, the Bills will likely win this game. That’s not incorrect by any stretch of the imagination, but it isn’t exactly as simple as that. Buffalo’s offense is going to produce one way or another, but the defense is going to have to deal with the Dolphins offense that has become a bit of a wild card entering the playoffs.

Skylar Thompson will at least be starting this game for the Dolphins, which isn’t really a good sign for them, but you can’t really relax because Miami has the dynamic duo of Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle wreaking havoc at wide receiver. Thompson has struggled to consistently get these guys the ball this season, but they are both one big play away from changing the course of a game.

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It may not seem like it, but that makes Matt Milano the biggest X-Factor for the Bills in this game. Milano is coming off easily the best season of his career, and ended up being selected to the first team All-Pro squad. Milano has quietly become one of the top all-around linebackers in the game, and he’s going to have to control the field for Buffalo in this game.

Now let’s get the obvious out of the way; there’s a very good chance that Buffalo will manage to win this game regardless of what Milano does. Their offense is one of the best in the league, and even if their defense has a subpar day, it shouldn’t really matter if Thompson is playing for Miami.

With Thompson under center, the Dolphins are going to work on making his life as easy as possible. Establishing the run game with Jeff Wilson Jr. will be crucial, but getting Hill and Waddle involved will also be huge. That puts a lot of pressure on Milano, who is at the center of everything the Bills do on defense.

Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel likely isn’t going to be drawing up plays that end up with Hill or Waddle on the receiving end of a 50-yard bomb from Thompson. Chances are, many of the passing plays will result in Thompson throwing the ball within ten yards, and over the middle of the field, which is where Milano often sits in coverage.

Milano is going to have to be a disruptor in the middle of the field in this game. If he can help keep Hill and Waddle quiet, the Dolphins will have no shot. When it comes to the ground game, Milano is also going to have to be one of the teams top run stuffers, and he may even be tasked with man-marking tight end Mike Gesicki at times in this game too.

It seems like Milano has a full plate in this game, and that’s because he does. But this is what he has been doing all season long. There’s a reason why he found his way onto the All-Pro squad, and it’s because he’s been a one-man wrecking crew at the center of the Bills defense all season long. With the secondary beat up, Milano is going to need to take on a bigger role, and if he can have a big game here, it bodes well for his chances of continuing to do so throughout the remainder of the postseason for Buffalo.