By Abraham Gutierrez
Coming off a huge win over the defending Super Bowl champs, the Miami Dolphins look to keep the momentum going when they visit the Buffalo Bills in Week 15. New Era Field in Orchard Park, New York will be filled to capacity for the first of two meetings during a two-week span between these bitter foes.
The 107th clash between Miami and Buffalo is scheduled for Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m. ET and it will be broadcast live on CBS. The last time they met dates back to Week 16 of last season, when the Dolphins defeated the Bills in overtime by a final score of 34-31 in Orchard Park.
The win extended Miami’s lead to 60-45-1 in the overall head-to-head series against Buffalo. The Dolphins come in riding a 2-game win streak, but are just 3-5 against the Bills in their past eight meetings.
Bills 2017 NFL Record: 7-6
The 22nd coach in franchise history, Sean McDermott enters his 19th NFL season looking to end an 18-year playoff drought in his first campaign as Bills head coach. If the NFL playoffs started today, Buffalo would punch its ticket into the tournament as the sixth seed.
In 13 games thus far this season, the Bills are second in the AFC East, 5-2 at home, 2-4 on the road, 1-2 against division rivals, 5-4 when facing intraconference AFC foes, 2-2 versus the NFC conference and 2-3 in their last five games played.
Last week, under eight inches of snow, Buffalo came away with a much-needed, 13-7 overtime win over the Indianapolis Colts. Rookie quarterback Nathan Peterman started in place of the injured Tyrod Taylor (knee) for the second time this season, and completed 5-of-10 passes for 57 yards, a touchdown and no picks to earn a 100.8 passer rating.
Bills on Offense
In his first season as Bills offensive coordinator, Rick Dennison leads a unit that’s ranked among the worst in the league in all but one category. Under the supervision of the three-time Super Bowl champ (as a member of the Denver Broncos), Buffalo’s offense ranks sixth in the league in rushing yards (130.1), 23rd in points (18.5), 26th in total yards (298.2) and 31st in passing yards per game (168.1).
Given those statistics, it’s no secret that Buffalo will rely heavily on its running game. Their ground-and-pound approach is anchored by running backs LeSean McCoy (239 carries, 1007 yards, 5 TDs) and Mike Tolbert (56 carries, 211 yards, TD), as well as versatile signal-caller Tyrod Taylor (69 carries, 334 yards, 3 TDs).
Bills on Defense
Former Minnesota Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier is in his first year as the Bills defensive coordinator. Under his tutelage, Buffalo’s defense ranks 16th in points per game (22.3), 17th in passing yards (227.5), 23rd in total yards (351.2) and 27th in rushing yards allowed (123.7).
Defensive leaders for this unit include middle linebacker Preston Brown (107 tackles: 59 total, 48 assist), free safety Jordan Poyer (81 tackles: 57 total, 24 assist, 2.0 sacks) and strong safety Micah Hyde (65 tackles: 54 total, 11 assist) in the tackles department.
Meanwhile, sacks leaders in this unit consist of defensive ends Shaq Lawson (33 tackles, 4.0 sacks, 1 forced-fumble) and Jerry Hughes (37 tackles, 3.0 sacks, forced-fumble), and outside linebacker Lorenzo Alexander (65 tackles, 3.0 sacks, 3 forced-fumbles).
Bills Players to Watch: LeSean McCoy, Micah Hyde
With starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor’s status up in the air, the Bills offensive player to watch is none other than veteran running back and the club’s leader in receptions, LeSean McCoy. The 5-time Pro Bowler is coming off a monster game last week, torching the Colts defense to the tune of 156 yards on 32 carries and a score. McCoy is also fifth in the National Football League in total rushing yards (1,007) and leads the team in receptions with 48 grabs for 304 yards and a score.
On the opposite side of the rock, Fins quarterback Jay Cutler must account for strong safety Micah Hyde at all times. The fifth-year player out of Iowa leads the team in interceptions with five, which is good enough for third-best (tie) in the NFL. Given the fact that his last pick came in Week 8 against the Oakland Raiders, Hyde will be trying to add to that total at Miami’s expense.
With Taylor’s status for Sunday’s game uncertain, NFL Week 15 oddsmakers have yet to release point spreads for this contest. From Miami’s standpoint, game planning to stop the run and forcing Buffalo to become one-dimensional has to be among the top priorities for Adam Gase and his coaching staff. The Dolphins’ defense is currently 15th in the league in rushing yards per game, yielding almost 110 yards per contest.