Reporting Tim Kephart
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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The Miami Dolphins season may be in the balance Thursday night when the team plays the Buffalo Bills in Buffalo. The Dolphins are clinging to playoff hopes and can’t afford another division loss this late in the season.
Overall, Miami is 4-5 on the season and two games back of the AFC East leading New England Patriots. Buffalo is right behind the Dolphins with a 3-6 record, three games behind the Patriots.
The game will feature two defenses looking for an identity. The Dolphins went from a run-stuffing, tough as nails unit to getting run over by the Tennessee Titans last week. The Bills have been a mess on defense all season long.
The Bills will be without Chris Kelsay and Mark Anderson against the Dolphins and Marcell Dareus and Mario Williams have been dealing with nagging injuries and are listed as probable for the game.
The Bills spent big in free agency and the NFL Draft to put together the defense. The Bills have spent a first round draft pick on cornerback Leodis McKelvin, defensive tackle Marcell Dareus, and cornerback Stephon Gilmore last season.
Buffalo also gave Williams one of the richest contracts for a defensive player in league history to get him to sign as a free agent. But Williams has contributed just 21 total tackles and 4.5 sacks to the defensive effort in 2012.
Overall, the Bills rank dead last in points allowed and next to last in yards allowed this season. The Bills’ rushing defense is especially porous ranking last in yards allowed, touchdowns allowed, and yards allowed per rushing attempt, according to pro-football-reference.com.
The Dolphins will likely be looking to reestablish the running game that completely disappeared against the Titans. Fins running back Reggie Bush apologized to fans for his benching and poor play the past few weeks and vowed to get things going against the Bills.
Miami’s problem has been they haven’t been able to push the run early because many times they have been playing from behind. But if the Dolphins can stick with the run, and the team has a talented running back corps, it will ease the burden on quarterback Ryan Tannehil.
Tannehill struggled against the Titans last week trying to lead his team back from a multi-touchdown deficit. Overall, Tannehill has directed the offense to a ranking of 25th in the league in points scored and 26th in the league in yards gained.
Tannehill’s struggled with turnovers this season, but is still completing nearly 60 percent of his passes on the season. Tannehill has thrown for 1,979 yards, 5 touchdowns, and 9 interceptions on the season.
When Buffalo tries to mount an offense, it will be facing a Dolphins defense ranked eighth in points allowed and 22nd in yards allowed, according to pro-football-refernce.com. But, Miami’s defense has been torched in recent weeks.
Indianapolis Colts rookie quarterback Andrew Luck threw for more than 400 yards against the Dolphins two weeks ago and last week, Titans running back Chris Johnson became the first running back to go for more than 100 yards in a game against the Dolphins in the last 22 games.
Obviously, something will have to give and if the Dolphins can pull off the victory, they will even their record and keep pace in the AFC for a possible wild card berth. A loss will put the Dolphins playoff hopes in serious doubt.
Buffalo and Miami will kick off around 8:20 p.m. and the game can be seen on the NFL Network.