Miami Dolphins (9-5) @ Buffalo Bills (7-7)
Saturday December 24, 1:00 PM EST – New Era Stadium, Orchard Park, NY
Betting Line: Dolphins +3.5
Here we are again, Dol-fans. You probably have some sort of family gathering to attend, gifts to open, a massive dinner to enjoy with your loved ones – and yet, all you can think about is a potentially franchise altering football game for our beloved Dolphins.
We’ve been here before. 2013, week 16, a victory over the Bills would catapult the road team into the post-season for the second time since 2001. Just like three years ago, the Dolphins will likely get a mulligan in week 17, but a Patriots team hungry for home-field advantage figures to be a much more daunting task.
Adding fuel to the flame is NFL’s most unwarranted boisterous coach rallying his ragtag group of mediocre players into a frenzy. Bills slot corner, the aptly named Nickell Robey-Coleman, began the war of words on Wednesday with his comment about Jarvis Landry.
We can debate the legality of Landry’s hit that likely ended Aaron Williams career, but the fact remains the man known as “Juice,” was simply trying to make a play for his team.
So when Robey-Coleman says, and I’m paraphrasing here, that Landry “better keep his head on a swivel,” you just hope that the officials are aware of the Bills intent to intentionally injure the Dolphins star receiver.
Rex Ryan teams are big on giving the opposition bulletin- board material. I guess they need something to rest their laurels on since they will be enjoying the post-season from their sofa for the 17th consecutive season. It also marks the sixth straight year for the former lap-band procedure recipient himself, Ryan, will be more consumed by buffalo wings come January than he will be working out a game plan.
If I haven’t succeeded in defining my disdain for this coach and this team already, I’ll make it apparent for you. Fuck the Buffalo Bills and everything their team, under this coach, stands for. In the 2012 meeting with the Jets, Ryan and his team suggested putting a little “hot sauce” on Reggie Bush who was dealing with a lower leg injury prior to that game.
A win for the Dolphins puts the proverbial foot (don’t get too excited, Rex) in that walking tub of goo’s mouth, it all but solidifies a playoff berth for the Dolphins, and likely sends the aforementioned fat ass to the unemployment line.
Let’s go Dolphins!
Dolphins Offense vs. Buffalo Defense:
Last week, I thought the ground game would be the focal point of a victory over the Jets. Despite Matt Moore’s quality performance, there are still things that transpired in that game that give me pause. A couple of fluttering passes that were either intercepted or should have been picked off could be much more disastrous in Orchard Park.
The Bills secondary is much more opportunistic and figure to play with more energy. Stephon Gilmore figures to draw the boundary action against a mixture of Kenny Stills and Devante Parker. He’s liable to double moves, so expect the shot plays to come when he draws Stills.
Robey-Coleman will draw Jarvis Landry and that’s where the Dolphins will make their money in the passing game. Landry has been among the most efficient slot receivers in the NFL this season and Robey-Coleman can struggle with the jitterbug style and sheer strength of Landry.
Dion Sims emergence has been a welcomed addition to the passing game and you might see more of both he and Marqueis Gray against a group of aging linebackers that can be susceptible to pulling their trigger pre-maturely on play action passing.
The offensive line needs to bring its A-game against a pass rushing group that has slowed of late. Lorenzo Alexander has cooled off substantially since his revival tour but rookie Shaq Lawson has, “earned more playing time,” in the words of Rex Ryan.
The individual match-ups aren’t what will be problematic for the Dolphins. It’ll be the constant blitzing that could give Moore some issues. He handled the protection calls exceptionally in his first start, but Ryan will certainly throw a variety of different looks at the veteran passer.
Kyle Williams is one of the best run defending nose-tackles in football and he has not practiced at all this week so his status remains up in the air. Whether it’s Williams or Adolphus Washington, Kraig Urbik figures to hold up better than Anthony Steen did against power at center.
Jay Ajayi needs to be more decisive in this game and break the tackles at the second level just like he did in the first meeting between these two teams. His ability to keep the Dolphins in short yardage and another perfect red-zone performance is what Miami needs to score over 20 points (which should be enough to get to 10 wins.)
Dolphins Defense vs. Bills Offense:
Tyrod Taylor does two things that could prevent the Dolphins from securing the organization’s biggest win since the 2008 win over the Jets in week 17. He creates yards with his legs and doesn’t turn the ball over.
The Miami defense (16 interceptions and nine fumble recoveries) are best when they are creating turnovers. The Dolphin defense has been more of a bend but don’t break unit this season, but they will need to be dominant to compete in less than ideal conditions.
Taylor’s offensive line has questions with the already embattled Jordan Mills not having a full week of practice. Cameron Wake has beaten up on the Bill and former Bear in his career and there’s no reason to think Wake won’t continue his sensational comeback season. Left tackle Cordy Glenn has dealt with injuries this year and center Eric Wood has been on the IR since the Seattle game.
Will Mario Williams show up in this game? I don’t even really care if this is a revenge game, he hasn’t earned reps over Jason Jones and Andrew Branch on that side which has another favorable match-up.
The guy that could ruin the Dolphins up front is a former Dolphin. Richie Incognito is having a tremendous season. He has been LeSean McCoy’s personal escort on a number of big runs this year.
McCoy was limited by a hamstring injury in the first meeting rushing for just 11 yards on eight carries. He has been a big play back and the engine that the drives this Buffalo offense. If Miami can limit him and force the Bills into 3rd down and long, they will not have any success offensively.
Charles Clay worries me a bit even though most of his Bills career has been quiet. He matches up well physically against the Miami linebackers and always figures to be a part of the game plan against his former team.
A quality pass rush and an eye on Taylor breaking the pocket could make the Bills one dimensional. Even then, McCoy can beat you by himself so limiting the run game in general will be important.
The Bills season has no meaning just like it always does at this point of the year. Rex Ryan lives to spoil other team’s playoff hopes. There’s also the bad blood from the hit Landry put on Aaron Williams that will almost certainly be the focal point of some chippiness in this game.
The Dolphins have everything to play for and acquitted themselves last week when a win was a must. Winning this game will almost certainly put the Dolphins in the post-season for the first time since 2008. Adam Gase has generated a different buzz around this team.
The Dolphins are on a regular week (playing last Saturday and now this Saturday) while the Bills are working on a short week, albeit just six days, but still a short week.
In a game of this magnitude, I’m more inclined to take the better coach. The Dolphins really began to figure out the Bills defense in the second half of the last contest.
I expect Jay Ajayi to eclipse 100 yards against the 27th ranked run defense and for the Dolphins to break out the Champaign on Christmas.