DAVIE (CBSMiami/AP) — Coming off of a heartbreaking loss to the Detroit Lions on Sunday the Miami Dolphins are hoping to get back to the winning ways that had many around the NFL viewing the team as a serious playoff contender.
If the Dolphins want to start looking like a playoff team, they might want to show they can beat the Buffalo Bills.
The Dolphins have lost to their AFC East rivals three times in a row, and need to end that streak Thursday night to avoid falling far back in the race for a playoff berth.
“It’s an AFC East game, and it’s already in the middle of November — hard to believe — and we’re playing at home,” coach Joe Philbin said Monday. “Those are three things that are really, really big.”
A last-minute loss Sunday at Detroit left the Dolphins (5-4) with little margin for further missteps. Ten teams are seeded ahead of them in the race for six AFC playoff spots, including the Bills (5-4), who enjoy an edge because they beat Miami 29-10 in Week 2.
With 11 teams in the conference above .500, at least 10 victories will likely be required to make the playoffs. That means the Dolphins would need to win five of their remaining seven games, and they still face games against two first-place teams in cold-weather cities, Denver and New England.
A win Thursday would make the path to the playoffs slightly less daunting.
“If we take care of business there, some of that other stuff will take care of itself,” Philbin said.
But Buffalo has so dominated Miami in the past two seasons that after the most recent meeting, Dolphins linebacker Philip Wheeler said, “The Bills are built to beat us.”
For starters, Miami has had a tough time blocking Buffalo. That task figures to become even more difficult with the loss of Dolphins left tackle Branden Albert, who suffered a season-ending right knee injury at Detroit.
Albert has been perhaps the Dolphins’ best offensive player this year. They might also be without left guard Daryn Colledge, who has been sidelined the past two weeks because of a back injury.
Rookie Ju’Wuan James will move from right to left tackle and be responsible for Ryan Tannehill’s blind side while facing one of the NFL’s most formidable defensive fronts. The Bills lead the NFL with 34 sacks, including four in their September victory over Miami, and six in Sunday’s loss to Kansas City.
The Dolphins’ losing streak against Buffalo includes a dismal defeat last December when a victory would have clinched a playoff berth. Instead Miami missed the postseason for the fifth year in a row.
One challenge this week for Miami will be to get the ground game going again. The Dolphins have averaged only 3.4 yards per carry in the past two weeks, and netted a season-low 50 yards rushing Sunday.
Lamar Miller, nursing a left shoulder injury, was limited Sunday to 10 yards on four carries, both season lows. Tannehill, who had been averaging 31 yards rushing per game and 7.8 per attempt, carried only twice for no yards.
“We have to block better. We’ve got to run the ball better,” Philbin said. “I want to see us have more production, for sure.”
Watch Miami take on the Buffalo Bills this Thursday at 8 p.m. on CBS4, your official Dolphins station!
(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
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