By Abraham Gutierrez
The (8-6) Miami Dolphins were able to keep their playoff hopes alive with an improbable victory over the New England Patriots. Pending the result of Monday night’s game between the Baltimore Ravens and the Detroit Lions, Joe Philbin and company will enjoy a half game lead in the sixth and final spot over the defending Super Bowl champs.
This week, Miami faces another AFC East division rival looking to play the role of spoiler as the season winds down. With their playoff chances no longer a topic of conversation, the last-place (5-9) Buffalo Bills will try and sweep the season series from the Fins in a crucial matchup.
Ralph Wilson Stadium in Buffalo, New York, will be the site for this intradivisional showdown, scheduled to kickoff Sunday at 1 p.m. EST on CBS-4 (Miami).
The last time these teams faced each other dates back to an Oct. 20 meeting in South Florida. Despite not having EJ Manuel in the lineup, the scrappy Bills went into Sun Life Stadium and stunned Miami to the tune of 23-21.
Buffalo, who jumped out to a 14-0 lead and did not relinquish it, won the always-crucial turnover and time of possession battles. Miami would be wise not to underestimate these Bills for a second time, especially with Manuel back in the starting rotation.
Buffalo Bills on Offense
The Bills come in featuring a multi-dimensional attack predicated on running the football, running the football, and, running the football.
With Manuel back from a knee injury, this team is the fourth-best running squad in the entire league, averaging just over 138 rushing yards per game.
Their ability to pound the rock enables them to wear opposing defenses down, and much like in the first matchup against Miami, control time of possession.
The running back duo of C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson leads the way in rushing, combining for just under 1,500 yards and 9 scores, while Manuel is the third leading rusher with 186 yards on 53 carries and an additional two rushing touchdowns.
Through the air is where this team is most vulnerable, as the Bills offense ranks 29th in the NFL, averaging 192.3 yards per game. In his rookie campaign, Manuel has completed 180 of 306 pass attempts for 1,972 yards, 11 touchdowns and 9 interceptions for a quarterback rating of 77.7.
Other Bills Key Offensive Players:
- (WR) Steve Johnson: 52 receptions, 597 yards 3 TDs.
- (TE) Scott Chandler: 48 receptions, 569 yards, 2 TDs.
- (WR) Robert Woods: 36 receptions, 490 yards, 3 TDs.
- (WR) Marquise Goodwin: 16 receptions, 261 yards, 3 TDs.
- (WR) T.J. Graham: 18 receptions, 272 yards, TD.
Buffalo Bills on Defense
When searching for an explanation as to why the Bills own victories over potential playoff teams like the (10-4) Carolina Panthers, (7-6) Baltimore Ravens and (8-6) Miami Dolphins this season, defense is the answer.
And while this defensive unit doesn’t take over games or overpower opponents, they simply do enough to get the job done. They start Week 16 ranked sixth against the pass (219.1), 15th in total yards allowed (346.4), 18th in points per game (25.3) and 26th against the rush (127.3).
The last time these AFC East rivals met, the Bills resistance ranked 23rd in points allowed (26.2), 27th in total yards (395.0), 22nd defending the pass (270.8) and 28th stopping the run (124.2), which means defensive coordinator Mike Pettine has done a decent job.
This unit is led by 2-time Pro Bowler (DE) Mario Williams, who comes into this Week 15 showdown third in sacks (12). Other defensive players to look out for in this pivotal matchup include:
- (LB) Jerry Hughes: 44 tackles (30 solo), 9.0 sacks, 2 forced fumbles.
- (DT) Marcell Dareus: 63 tackles (42 solo), 8.0 sacks, forced fumble.
- (DT) Kyle Williams: 59 tackles (38 solo), 8.0 sacks, forced fumble.
- (LB) Manny Lawson: 66 tackles (47 solo), 4.0 sacks, forced fumble.
- (LB) Kiko Alonso: 137 tackles (78 solo), 2.0 sacks, forced fumble.
Dolphins vs Bills head-to-Head
With their win over the Fins in Week 7, Buffalo improved its overall mark to 41-57-1. Much like last season, the best the Dolphins can hope for is a split with their old division rivals, but will have to go into a frigid Ralph Wilson Stadium in order to accomplish it.
For more Dolphins news and updates, visit Dolphins Central.
Abe Gutierrez is a criminal justice admin whose love for sports led him to become a writer and editor. His expertise make him a valued addition to Examiner.com and its partners. His work can be found on Examiner.com. .