Dolphins vs. Bills NFL Week 16: Prediction Time
USA Today: 6-of-7 picked Dolphins
ESPN: 11-of-13 picked Dolphins
CBS Sports: 5-of-8 picked Dolphins
NFL Playbook 3-of-3 picked Dolphins
With four wins over the last five weeks, the Dolphins have certainly righted their ship after a roller-coaster ride during the first nine games of the season. Previous inconsistency has been replaced with a sustainable model of success. Miami is running the ball more effectively and protecting Ryan Tannehill more reliably, and the second-year passer is making big throws in big moments. Defensively, the Dolphins are still leaky in some areas, but their ability to bend but not break and force crucial takeaways is propelling the unit to playoff-caliber status.
Speaking of the playoffs, a win over the Bills on Sunday would move the Dolphins one step closer to qualifying for the franchise’s first postseason berth in five years. The 5-9 Bills don’t look to be too threatening at first glace, but look closer and you’ll see a team that poses problems for the Dolphins. Nevermind Buffalo’s 23-21 triumph at Sun Life Stadium in October; Doug Marrone‘s club excels in areas Miami struggles with.
The Bills’ defense has sacked opposing quarterback more than any other unit in 2013, while the Dolphins’ offense has conceded a league-high 51 sacks. Led by C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson, only three teams in the entire NFL average more rushing yards per game than the Bills do and because of shaky play at the linebacker position, the Dolphins only rank 22nd in defending the run despite a formidable defensive line. If the Bills harass Tannehill defensively and run the ball down the Dolphins’ throats on the offensive end, they’ll have a great opportunity to play the role of spoilers by potentially knocking their rivals out of playoff contention.
Given everything mentioned above, Dolphins fans should certainly feel nervous heading into this game. But Miami has been seemingly improving every week, and I think it takes another leap in the right direction on Sunday. I see the Dolphins employing a balanced offensive attack and moving the ball efficiently throughout. I see their defense stacking the box to stop the Bills’ running game and Buffalo’s backup quarterback Thad Lewis making a couple key mistakes he’s due for. I see a confident Tannehill getting the football out his hands quickly to negate the Bills’ lethal rush and leading an impressive fourth-quarter touchdown drive that gives the Dolphins a comfortable two-score lead for good.
This game is certainly capable of becoming a proverbial trap game for the Dolphins. They’re riding a title wave of emotions after dethroning the New England Patriots for one day in front of a raucous home crowd. Teams under similar circumstances have played as if they were going through the motions the following week many times in the past. But something feels different about these Dolphins and the run they’re on. Something tells me they’re in the midst of a breakthrough that’s too significant for the Bills to spoil. Miami gets the job done.
THE PICK: Miami 23, Buffalo 13.
Cody Strahm is a Miami Dolphins contributor for Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter @CodyJStrahm.