MIAMI (AP) – It’s unlikely at this point, but the Miami Dolphins at least have a slight chance to earn a postseason spot.
The Buffalo Bills’ playoff drought continues.
Miami closes out its home schedule Sunday against a Bills team trying to salvage the final two games of another losing season.
Despite dropping five of six prior to last Sunday’s 24-3 victory over Jacksonville, the Dolphins (6-8) are still in playoff contention. For them to have any chance of reaching the postseason for just the second time in 11 seasons, they’ll have to take care of business against the Bills (5-9) and defeat AFC East champion New England the following Sunday.
Miami also needs Cincinnati to close 0-2, Pittsburgh to lose to Cleveland and the New York Jets to lose once. If all of that happens, the Dolphins would end up tied with the Bengals and Steelers and make the playoffs by virtue of a tiebreaker.
“It’s a crazy league,” said rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill, whose 123.2 passer rating last Sunday was a season high. “You see a strange situation every year. Anything can happen. We’ve just got to keep plugging away.”
Any chance the Bills had of ending their league-high 12-year playoff drought ended in Toronto last Sunday when they were routed 50-17 by Seattle.
Buffalo will finish with a losing record for an eighth consecutive season.
“We all understand the situation we’re in right now,” said Ryan Fitzpatrick, who was intercepted twice and lost a fumble on the team’s first three possessions. “And I think we all understand the importance of these last two games in terms of effort and the product that we put on the field to show that we have made progress and there is hope with the guys that we have in this locker room.”
Although now would seem to be the perfect time to give less experienced players more game reps, coach Chan Gailey has no plans on changing the lineup. His job – and Fitzpatrick’s – could hinge on how they finish.
“The focus is to win,” Gailey said. “We’re going to put the players on the field that help us win games. That’s the responsibility of an organization, and for me in particular.”
If the Bills are going to leave Miami with a win and sweep the season series for the first time since 2007, they will likely need their defense to step up. Buffalo, which yielded a season-low 184 yards in a 19-14 win over the Dolphins on Nov. 15, has become the eighth NFL team – and first since the 1986 Jets – to allow 45 points four times in one season.
The Bills are giving up 28.7 points per game – tied for the most in the NFL.
“Just giving up too many big plays, simple as that,” linebacker Kelvin Sheppard said. “We didn’t get the results that we were expecting or everyone else was expecting.”
That group will face a Dolphins offense coming off one of its better efforts of the season. After totaling 29 points while losing its previous two games, Miami recorded a season-best 26 first downs against the Jaguars. The Dolphins’ first four drives of the second half went 76, 60, 64 and 85 yards.
“It feels good to go out and execute the game plan, have some fun, have some long sustained drives and convert third downs (6 for 11),” said Tannehill, who threw for 220 yards and ran for 52. “It was a lot of fun.”
The Dolphins could put themselves in good position to win two in a row if Reggie Bush can find some more running lanes. His 104 yards last Sunday was his first 100-yard effort since Week 2.
“These are the types of games we need to have more of,” said Bush, who is 105 yards shy of a second consecutive 1,000-yard season.
Buffalo’s C.J. Spiller, who reached that plateau for the first time last Sunday with 103 yards, ran for 91 and caught three passes for 39 yards in last month’s meeting.
Stevie Johnson, who had team highs with six receptions and 79 yards in that game for the Bills, is 109 shy of extending his franchise record with a third consecutive 1,000-yard season.
“It’s the motivation for now,” Johnson told the Bills’ official website. “First it was get to the playoffs, now since that’s out of the picture. Now it’s two things really, playing for my coaches, playing for my teammates and a thousand yards. Being the only receiver to have three straight 1,000-yard seasons would be cool. That’s what it’s come to.”
Miami has won three of four at home over Buffalo, which has dropped nine consecutive road games after October since a 17-14 win over the Dolphins on Dec. 19, 2010.
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