NFL Buffalo BillsMiami Dolphins

Preview: Miami Dolphins at Buffalo Bills

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Miami Dolphins at Buffalo Bills...Game Preview

Miami Dolphins at Buffalo Bills...Game Preview
Kevin Hoffman-US PRESSWIRE

This Thursday the Miami Dolphins will be in prime time for the only time in 2012 as they travel to take on the Buffalo Bills. A win would put the 'Phins back at .500 while a loss would put Miami in 3rd place at best.

We know the Dolphins are coming off a beat-down at the hands of the Tennessee Titans, and Dolfans everywhere were ticked off about it. The truth is that teams that have rookie head coaches, with rookie defensive coordinators, plus offensive coordinators returning to the NFL after years away, plus a rookie QB, often struggle to be consistent and duds like last weekend will happen. Question is, what does the Miami response look like?

In this slideshow article we will look at the game preview.

Page 1 - where you are currently!

Page 2 - When Miami has the football.

Page 3 - When Buffalo has the football.

Page 4 - Special Teams.

Page 5 - Miscellaneous (turnovers + odds and ends).

Page 6 - Prediction, plus look at the importance of this game going forward.

In the last 4 years Miami is 6-2 in this series (including 2-0 last season). Miami has won the last 2 games in Buffalo.

Miami is looking to snap a 2-game skid, while Buffalo has lost 3-straight (Buffalo has lost 5 of their last 6 games).

Miami is 2-3 on the road, and their last 2 losses were each by just a field goal.

The Dolphins are 1-1 vs AFC East foes, while the Bills are 0-3.

The Bills have been outscored by a whopping 74 points in 2012 (5th worst in NFL).

Bills defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt was with Miami from 1994 to 2004. Miami was 42-31 with Wannstedt as the head coach.

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When Miami Has The Ball

When Miami Has The Ball
Kevin Hoffman-US PRESSWIRE

When the Dolphins have the football...

Ryan Tannehill has been good on the road. It did not start out that way as he tossed 3 INTs in his road debut, but since then just 2 INTs in his last 3 road games. The issue is he only has 2 road TDS all season too. The Bills have allowed 18 passing TDs (the worst in the NFL is 20 so Buffalo is right there) so we can look for a bounce-back game from RT this week (RT had 3 INTs on Sunday vs the Tennessee Titans).

Tannehill's top 4 passing yards games have all been on the road.

TDs through the air have been an issue for the 2012 'Phins. Brian Hartline is the only WR in the top-20 (other than Steve Smith, and you know he will get more) with just 1 TD catch. Davone Bess has 42 catches, and has been very good on 3rd down (17 3rd down catches) but he has as many TDs as you or I have (which is to say zero).

Dolfans had hoped that Jabar Gaffney would help, but in 95 plays he has just 4 catches.

One reason the passing game has been pedestrian is that the running game has been terrible. A rookie QB like Tannehill requires balance, plus any play-action is off the table because the Miami run game is doing nothing lately.

The Dolphins have not even had 100 team rushing yards in any game since week 3. In their past 6 games the 'Phins are averaging a mere 72 rushing yards per game (Reggie Bush just 42 yards per game). Bush actually grades negatively, as does the offensive-line. Mike Pouncey has been excellent, but that is the end of the list.

Jonathan Martin has struggled. He has allowed a whopping 3-times more QB hurries than any other Dolphins lineman. As for Tannehill's blindside, Jake Long has allowed 3-times more hits than any other o-lineman on the team.

For the Bills, Kyle Williams, Nick Barnett, and Mario Williams have been good vs the run, but that is the end of that list. Buffalo yields 5.5 yards per carry (worst in the NFL). Buffalo has allowed 16 rush TDs (worst in the NFL).

This Bills defense has the cure for what ails this struggling Miami offense.

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When Buffalo Has The Ball

When Buffalo Has The Ball
Richard Mackson-US PRESSWIRE

When the Bills have the football...

Ryan Fitzpatrick is 2-2 vs Miami. He has 5 TDs and 7 INTs vs Miami. He averages 248 pass yards in his career vs the Dolphins.

Ryan Fitzpatrick is 2-2 vs Miami. He has 5 TDs and 7 INTs vs Miami. He averages 248 pass yards in his career vs the Dolphins.

In 2012 Fitz has 5 TDs and 0 INTs in Buffalo's 3 wins, but in their 6 losses he has 12 TDs and 10 INTs. Fitz has only been sacked 3 times in Buffalo's wins.

Steve Johnson is the clear #1 WR on this team. He has been very good on 2nd and 3rd down. He will likely face Sean Smith, but the Miami secondary as a whole needs to get back to their strong play (and strong technique) from the beginning of the season.

Miami yields 278 pass yards per game (5th worst in NFL). Reshad Jones has been good, while Jimmy Wilson has really struggled. Kevin Burnett, Sean Smith, Chris Clemons, and Karlos Dansby all grade well against the pass, but pretty much every 'Phin needs to regroup when it comes to getting back to the technique that Joe Philbin and Kevin Coyle preach

Fred Jackson is OUT. That leaves C.J. Spiller who (believe it or not) is getting just 10 carries per game. Now some of that is splitting carries with Jackson, and some is that the Bills are bad so they are forced to abandoned game-plans early and are forced into throwing a lot.

Spiller can do it all. He ran for 100+ in weeks 1 and 2, and in the past 4 games he has been north of 100+ combined rushing and receiving yards. One concern is that Spiller has a mere 1 TD in his past 6 games.

Miami allowed a 100+ rusher for the first time since week 2 of last season this past Sunday as Chris Johnson got to them. That game was not enough to knock Miami out of the top 5 and top 6 of all categories vs the rush. We know this rush-D is stout. Cameron Wake, Burnett, Jones, Dansby, Paul Soliai, Koa Misi, Jared Odrick, and Olivier Vernon all grade very well vs the run (plus Randy Starks is good too).

As for pass rush, Miami has a top-10 pass rush but have been very poor lately. Miami has just 2 total sacks the last 2 games (both losses). The Bills yielded just 8 sacks in October and November combined, but have already yielded 7 sacks in November. This past week was the first time in 5 weeks where Wake did not record a sack (he has 8.5 sacks in 2012 which currently ties him for 6th best in the NFL).

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Special Teams

Special Teams
Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE

The kicking game has similarities, and differences.

The Dolphins have Dan Carpenter. Carp is just 5 for 9 on kicks further than 40+ yards away, but they will run him out there to attempt long FGs as he has the leg for it. The Bills have Rian Lindell who is 8 for 8 on FGs shorter than 40 yards, and 2 for 2 on FGs over 40 (he has not attempted a FG over 50 yards so far). Lindell is accurate, but not a distance kicker. Neither kicker has missed an extra point.

Carp has a season long of 46 yards, while Lindell has a season long of 42 yards. Lindell has just 2 FG attempts (he is 2 for 2) in Buffalo's 3 wins. When the Bills are forced into FG attempts they lose the game.

The Bills have used a few punters. Their net average is 38 yards (29th in NFL). The Dolphins have Brandon Fields who averages a net of 43 yards per ount (#3 in NFL). Field position could be/should be advantage Miami.

Leodis McKelvin and Brad Smith are each averaging 29 yards on kickoff returns. McKelvin has a punt return for a TD, while Smith has a kick return for a TD. The 'Phins have Marcus Thigpen who gets 28 yards per kick return and he has 1 TD on a punt return. Bess is the fair catch guy. When the 'Phins just need a sure handed fair catch they call on Bess (12 fair catches and just 3 punt returns).

Both teams get a touchback on 4 of every 10 kickoffs.

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Odds and Ends

Odds and Ends
Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE

Dolphins at Bills...Miscellaneous...

The Bills are in the bottom 5 for throwing INTs. The last time Miami played a team ranked so poorly for throwing INTs was vs the Cincinnati Bengals and they had 2 INTs in that game. In the 4 games since that Cincy game Miami has amassed just 1 measly INT (yikes).

The Bills are -10 for turnovers. That is 3rd worst in the NFL, 2nd worst in the AFC. The 'Phins are -6 which is 4th worst in the AFC.

Tannehill has 0 INTs in Miami's 4 victories, and 9 INTs in Miami's 5 losses. The Bills are 3-1 when recording an INT, 0-5 when they do not.

Both Fitzpatrick and Tannehill are being intercepted the most when throwing to the right side.

Good news - Miami is the 6th best team on defense for stopping opponents on 3rd down. Bad news - they are on a long streak of regressing each week for this. Back to Good news - No team allows more 3rd down conversions than the Bills.

On offense the Bills convert an impressive 42% of 3rd downs (tied for #10) while Miami converts just 36% of their 3rd downs (#19 in NFL).

These are the 2 lowest scoring 4th quarter teams in the NFL.

Miami is in the top 10 for points allowed per game (20.7). Buffalo is dead last (31.7 points per game). As for offense the Dolphins average 19 points per game (7th worst) and Buffalo gets 23.4 points per game (#16 in NFL).

Only the Cleveland Browns and Jacksonville Jaguars have less 1st downs than Miami.

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Final Page...Prediction

Final Page...Prediction

We know a bounce-back effort is required on Thursday for Miami. A win would get them to 5-5 which is likely slightly ahead of most projections. It would put Miami at 2-1 in the division, and 4-4 in the AFC.

A loss would be 3 straight losses, plus things could go from bad to worse with the Seattle Seahawks, New England Patriots, and San Francisco 49ers on Miami's schedule the next 3 weeks. Yikes.

Miami is the #8 seed in the AFC currently (Buffalo is at #13). The #7 San Diego Chargers are in tough this weekend as they head to Denver to take on the hot Broncos. A win should put Miami in the #7 spot in the AFC.

Miami has scored the least points of any AFC East team, and has also yielded the fewest.

Miami wins when they get inspired play from offense, defense, and special teams. They are just not good enough to have one aspect misfiring but still win the game. The Bills are a NFL team so we know they are capable, but this team seems to have weaknesses that Miami can expose and ultimately get this win.

There is nothing I like in all of sports more than Miami beating Buffalo in Buffalo! Even in the early 90's when the Bills were representing the AFC in the Super Bowl annually it was still my fave thing to have the Dolphins win at Buffalo. The Bills play some home games right here in Toronto, and had one a few years ago vs Miami. The 'Phins won, which is great, but the taste of winning in Buffalo is awesome!

Jim Kelly vs Dan Marino...Big games from Thurman Thomas and Andre Reed...Bruce Smith missing out on sacks vs the quick release of Marino...Bryan Cox vs the city of Buffalo...Louis Oliver 100+ INT return for a TD...This rivalry has had some very fun moments and since this is the only prime-time game for each team this year I would anticipate we will see a fun game on Thursday night.

Miami will win this game.

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