Many NFL fans would not expect a week 11 matchup between the 5-4 Buffalo Bills and 2-7 Miami Dolphins to mean much. But now a sense of urgency pervades the game this Sunday at Sunlife Stadium.
The Dolphins are out to show they’re not the laughing stock of the NFL. After a horrendous start to the year they’ve won their last two games in convincing fashion.
Buffalo, on the other hand, is desperate to show the world they are not a fluke but a legitimate playoff contender. With the Bills playoff future hanging in the balance, and the Dolphins finally finding their rhythm, we can expect to see an emotionally charged matchup sure to be worth watching.
The Buffalo Bills are playing for their playoff lives. After a 5-2 start fans were hoping the 11- year playoff draught would soon be over. But the Bills lost their last two games to the Jets and Cowboys by a combined score of 71 to 18. The high powered Bills offense has stalled, with franchise quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick throwing seven touchdowns and nine interceptions in his past five games. Buffalo’s short, quick, and decisive pass offense has been negated in recent weeks, leaving Head Coach Chan Gailey and Fitzpatrick looking for answers. Fitzpatrick will certainly try and get the offense back on track this week against the Dolphins 25th ranked pass defense, which allows an average of 256 yards a game.
The struggling Buffalo defense has not given Bills fans much faith in their playoff chances either. With the loss of pro-bowl nose tackle Kyle Williams, rookie defensive lineman Marcell Dareus will have to step up and help create a pass rush, which Buffalo has been missing most of the season. If Dareus is effective, he should be able to free up linebackers Nick Barnett and Kelvin Sheppard to shut down the Dolphins run game. The lack of the Bills pass rush has not only hurt them on the ground, but in the secondary as well.
Cornerbacks Leodis McKelvin, Terrence McGee and Drayton Florence have been struggling to play the ball in coverage all year, and have been apt to give up the big play. With Brandon Marshall and a talented Dolphins receiving core ahead, the Bills corners will have their work cut out for them.
When asked if the recent lopsided defeats have shaken his team’s confidence, Buffalo’s Coach Gailey had this to say. “Yes, it can happen. We have made progress. But you can’t play like this and see it, or feel it. We’re more a pretender than a contender right now.”
Meanwhile, the Miami Dolphins find themselves on a two- game winning streak after starting the season 0-7. Impressive wins over the 3-6 Redskins and 4-5 Chiefs (who Buffalo also defeated earlier this year) have lifted the Dolphins out of the NFL cellar.
The Dolphins are also seeing production from their key offseason acquisition Reggie Bush. The explosive and dynamic running back has often struggled throughout his career in the pros, but may have finally found his niche. Miami Head Coach Tony Sparano has repeatedly stated throughout the season that they need to get Bush the ball more, and it’s finally starting to pay off. Bush has rushed for 139 yards and three touchdowns during Miami’s two wins, and has also been a big play threat in the receiving game.
“It’s been a tough couple years.” Bush said, referring to his NFL career thus far. “My past team, I wasn’t able to run the ball much,” he said, alluding to his time with the New Orleans Saints. “It feels good to be able to come down here and achieve some of the success were achieving. Not just me, but as a team.” Bush is averaging 4.6 yards per carry, a career high, and is just 108 yards shy of surpassing his highest single season rushing total of 581 yards.
Sunday’s game, in large part, will be decided by who can execute effectively on offense. With both teams having plenty of weapons, look for the Bills to get receivers Stevie Johnson and David Nelson involved early and often in the short passing game, which will open running lanes for star running back Fred Jackson.
Miami will certainly try to exploit the Bills weak secondary by getting the ball to big- play receiver Brandon Marshall. Bush will see the bulk of Miami’s carries and will be a factor in the pass game out of the backfield. The Dolphins will try to establish Bush as a threat early and often, in an effort to keep the Bills defense guessing. Buffalo will definitely have to contain Bush if they hope to come away with a victory and get closer to living their playoff dream.
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