Who: Miami Dolphins (8-6)
When: Sunday Dec. 22, 1:00 p.m. EST
Where: Ralph Wilson Stadium, Buffalo, NY
The Line: Miami (-3.5)
Buffalo Bills Offense vs. Dolphins Defense
The last time out the Dolphins held the Bills to just 268 total yards, but the Bills walked out of Miami with a 23-21 win. They’ve been more and more stout as they’ve gone on, allowing just 18.4 points per game over their last seven outings.
In terms of simple rankings, the Dolphins don’t jump out. They’re 16th against the pass and 22nd against the run, but their pass rush has come alive and helped limit their opponents of late. Led by a career year out of Olivier Vernon (11.5 sacks) and the usually dependable Cameron Wake (8.5 sacks), this is a team capable of getting after the quarterback as their 41.0 total sacks would attest to.
If they can get a handle on the run and tee off on the quarterback, they are dangerous. Making them respect the run will be huge for the Bills if they want to play the role of spoiler on Sunday.
Additionally, the Bills will be without E.J. Manuel (sprained knee) and Stevie Johnson (death in the family) on Sunday, so they’ll probably put extra emphasis on getting the running game going.
Key: Getting the Passing Game Going vs. Sack Death
Bills Defense vs. Dolphins Offense
The Dolphins have been hot of late, winning five of their last seven and dropping close decisions to Tampa and Carolina along the way. They’ve played themselves into the mix as favorites for the coveted second AFC Wild Card spot and control their own destiny.
Leading the way has been Ryan Tannehill. Over his last three games, he has 843 yards passing, eight touchdowns and just two interceptions. He’s had to be good since the running game has been suspect – Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas have combined for just a shade over 1,000 yards and six touchdowns this year.
Tannehill has his three primary targets: Brian Hartline, Mike Wallace and Charles Clay. The trio has combined for 197 catches (led by Hartline’s 72), 2,476 yards and 14 touchdowns. Wallace is the deep threat, Hartline the dependable possession guy and Clay is the emerging playmaker at tight end.
The Bills will need to utilize their pass rush once more and get in Tannehill’s face if they want to cool him off.
Key: Pass Rush vs. Forcing Bad Decisions
The Bills defense has a habit of making backs look good; look for one of Thomas and Miller to near 100 yards.
Miami’s defense has been good of late; whoever starts at QB will eat turf a fair amount of the day.
This will be one of those games where the running game disappears entirely.
The Bills break their single-season sack total by adding another four to the total.
Prediction: 21-13 Miami