Dolphins vs. Bills: NFL Week 16 Preview

Timothy T. Ludwig-US PRESSWIRE

@craigballard77

This week the Miami Dolphins will play their final home game of the 2012 NFL season. (for tidbits and picks for all 16 games this week click here). This team is still mathematically in the hunt for the playoffs, but A) massive long-shot and B) even if they do find a way to beat the long odds and make the playoffs they would be on the road for any/all playoff games so this is definitely the final game for the team in front of the ‘Phins phaithful.

In 2002 Miami went 7-1 at home, but since then they have been poor. From 2003 through 2011 Miami went just 31-41 at home. This season they sit at 4-3 so they have a chance for a rare 5-3 home record. In 2005 and 2008 Miami went 5-3 at home and those are (by far) their best home seasons lately. In 2010 and 2011 Miami had just five home wins combined.

In the past 10 seasons the Dolphins are 5-5 vs the Buffalo Bills for games played in Miami. Three of the last four games played between these two in Miami have been Dolphins victories.

The Bills beat Miami 19-14 in week 11. In that game Ryan Tannehill was just 14 for 28 for a measly 141 yards (career-low) with one touchdown and two interceptions. Tanny has just six touchdowns, and five interceptions at home.

A concern is that Tannehill has zero 1st quarter touchdown passes in 2012. We have seen him take the game-plan and engineer a touchdown zero times this entire season (yikes). Only six teams allow more 1st quarter points than Buffalo so I hope to see some steps forward in this area from Tanny in this game.

The Bills defense is terrible on 3rd downs so this should be a game where Tannehill can move the chains all day.

There is only one team in the NFL that gets into the red-zone less than the Dolphins (Jacksonville Jaguars). Miami gets into the red-zone just 2.4 times per game, but in this game I anticipate they will double that. Red-zone means Anthony Fasano. Miami is 15-6 when Fasano catches a touchdown pass (4-1 this season).

Davone Bess will miss his second straight game (after playing in 77 straight) and there is even a chance that Brian Hartline may miss this game too (article on Hartline playing in this game is here). The talent cupboard for wide receivers is bare once you get past those two. If both of these guys do miss this game then we will see even more of an emphasis on Reggie Bush.

As a Dolphin Bush has played the Bills three times. Two of those were stinkers, and one was a video game. In two games he has combined for 52 yards on 25 carries (2.1 yards per carry…yikes) but in week 16 of 2011 Bush went off for 203 yards in a Dolphins 30-23 win at Buffalo.

Bush opened 2012 with back-to-back 100+ yards from scrimmage games. He did not eclipse 100 again until week 14, but he did get 100+ again in week 15 so we see a hot Bush currently. Daniel Thomas is done for the season so we will see even more opportunities for Bush to finish 2012 strong (article on Daniel Thomas out for the season is here). The Bills are the worst rush defense in the NFL so Bush and Lamar Miller should be in for big days. Miami achieved just 60 rushing yards in that week 11 game, but the Bills really are terrible vs the run and they should double that 60 in this game.

When Miami establishes their running game that opens up play-action options for Tannehill. We have seen that Tanny can be very effective when he is on the move so having the run game click so that play-action is set up would be a huge asset for this offense. The run game has been inconsistent so the play-action opportunities have been few and far between, but in this game I would anticipate opportunities for more creative play-calling than we have seen from Mike Sherman.

A concern for Miami is their pass defense. They are ranked 26th vs the pass, and they have a putrid two interceptions over their last nine games (yikes). Ryan Fitzpatrick has just one interception in Buffalo’s five wins. When the Bills do not turn over the football they actually win games. Most would say that Miami is slightly ahead of most expectations, but getting swept by the Bills would be a certain blow. Miami will need to create turnovers in this game to get their 7th win of the season.

C.J. Spiller has a gaudy 7.8 yards per carry on the road, but he has found the house just twice on the road. Stevie Johnson has also found the end-zone just twice on the road in 2012. For the Bills to get this win they will need a combined two touchdowns from these two guys. To be honest they may need three or more as I anticipate a very spirited effort from the Dolphins in this game (last home game, plus division foe who they are looking for revenge against).

The Miami pass rush needs to be better in this game. They are top-5 for sacks, but only have 14 at home. Cameron Wake has 14.5 sacks on the season (4th best in NFL) but only 4.0 of those have come at Sun Life Stadium.

If Miami’s banged-up offensive line can keep Tannehill upright then I think he can respond in this game from his career-worst game he had vs the Bills a few weeks ago. Tanny averages just 206 passing yards at home, but I think he will beat his career-high of 253 passing yards in this game (that is his best at home, on the road he has two games better than that). There are injuries on this Dolphins team, but they are aware the fan-base is avoiding home games like crazy and they are upset with the lack of success the team has had in the 2000′s. A home win vs the hated Bills will send the team into the off-season with a 5-3 home record and they would surely be feeling like their arrow is pointing up.

Dan Carpenter is OUT. Nate Kaeding is IN (article on Carpenter and his future with the Dolphins is here).

Miami averages 20 points per game at home. They will score in the mid-to-high 20s in this game vs a shoddy Bills defense. Miami will win this game.

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