A 44-7 shellacking at the hands of the Dallas Cowboys has the Buffalo Bills playoff hopes looking grim after a 4-1 start and finds them 5-4, in a freefall. A Buffalo offense that averaged more than 30 points a game during the team's 5-2 start has averaged only 9 in back-to-back loses. The Bills managed only 287 total yards in a 27-11 home setback to the New York Jets in Week 9 before gaining only 271 in the week 10 debacle in Dallas. Buffalo has also turned the ball over a combined seven times in those two defeats.
Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick has thrown five interceptions and managed only 337 passing yards in those losses. The Bills are clearly looking at this game in Miami to get back on track to the playoffs. They are 1 and 1 in the division, coming back to beat the Patriots 34-31 in week 3 and losing to the Jets. This is a must win game if Buffalo is to regain momentum in the closing stretch of the season.
The Dolphins are riding a two game winning streak, and after averaging just 13 points through 7 weeks, Miami averaged 26 in those two victories. The defense that was giving up 23 points a game through 7 weeks has allowed an average of just 6 the past two weeks. Matt Moore has sparked the offense and Carlos Dansby has made a huge impact on the defense after taking over the play calling duties from Kevin Burnett. These are two teams going in opposite directions.
The playoffs have already begun for the Dolphins; a single loss now will virtually remove Miami from any hope of the post-season. A game that will mean little around the NFL has huge implications for these two teams. For the Dolphins to win they must understand, this and every game after is sudden death. The Bills season is also riding on beating a team they are supposed to defeat if they are playoff caliber. Both teams should come out of the gate looking to make a statement with their seasons riding in the balance.
Three weeks ago, the Dolphins were a running joke around the NFL after a local reporter coined the phrase, Suck for Luck. Sunday, the Bills know they will be playing a team with renewed confidence. The Dolphins must continue to spread the ball around and not revert to a predictable offense that runs on 1st down every series. By pulling the Bills out of the box early the Dolphins can open up both the running and passing game. Getting into unfavorable down and distance situations will allow the Bills to pressure the passer and create turnovers. Spreading the offense early and throwing safe passes will force the Bills to defend the entire field and open up opportunities for the inside running game.
On defense, the Dolphins must take away the pre-snap read, forcing Ryan Fitzgerald out of easy pass and catch opportunities. The extra second it takes the Buffalo QB to find a receiver will unleash Cameron Wake and Jason Taylor. Dansby and Burnett must continue the great coverage they have shown on TEs the past two weeks. By dropping a little deeper in coverage, they have kept the TEs in front of them and made the plays they were not making earlier in the season. Tyrone Culver has stabilized the secondary and while the coaching staff continues to work Reshad Jones into the defense, these players must not allow receivers to get behind them and make sure tackles at the second level.
The Dolphins were finally able to overcome a 7 game home losing streak by beating the Redskins. During the streak, they played emotionless football at home, to maintain the momentum they must play like their season is on the line. Confidence and emotion are the keys to a Miami victory. They must not allow an early setback to break the confidence they have built in two consecutive victories. The Dolphins can win this game if they believe in themselves on defense and do not become predictable on offense.
Miami 31 – Buffalo 10