This Sunday, the Buffalo Bills (5-9) take on the Miami Dolphins (6-8) in Miami at Sun Life Stadium. The Bills were blown out in an embarrassing 50-17 loss to the Seattle Seahawks in the annual Toronto Series, while the Dolphins are coming off of a 24-3 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Bills have nothing but pride to play for at this point in the season, but they still have an opportunity to finish with a 3-3 division record, with the last remaining games against the Dolphins and the New York Jets.
Bills Pass Offense Vs. Dolphins Pass Defense
The Bills passing attack has gotten even worse over the past few weeks, and the team is ranked 25th in the National Football League in that category, averaging just 201.2 pass yards per game. Ryan Fitzpatrick is 65 yards away from his third consecutive 3,000 yard campaign, while throwing 22 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. The Bills will be without wide receiver Donald Jones, who was placed on season-ending Injured Reserve earlier in the week, and Marcus Easley is expected to miss this game with a hamstring injury. This leaves the Bills with rookie T.J. Graham, who has just 27 catches for 268 yards and a touchdown on the year. Graham dropped four passes in last week’s game against Seattle.
As bad as the Bills are at passing the ball, the Dolphins may be equally bad defending the pass. They are allowing 247.9 pass yards per game on defense, good for 26th in the league. Their secondary has been in shambles throughout the year, as cornerback Sean Smith is the only real standout. They have two talented safeties in Reshad Jones and Chris Clemons, but that rarely has translated to success in the back end of the defense, despite a strong pass rush led by Cameron Wake.
Bills Rush Offense Vs. Dolphins Pass Rush
This will be a matchup to keep an eye on during Sunday’s contest. The Bills have the leagues sixth ranked rush offense, a unit that averages 139.6 yards per game, while Miami’s defense allows just 100.9 yards per game on the ground, good for eighth in football. C.J. Spiller became the fastest running back since the NFL-AFL merger to reach 1,000 yards, and has 1,047 on just 161 carries, an average of 6.5 yards per carry, while scoring six touchdowns. With fellow running back Fred Jackson on Injured Reserve, Spiller will again carry the load, with backup Tashard Choice spelling him.
The Dolphins have a bulky defensive line, anchored by defensive tackles Randy Starts and Paul Soliai, with a big 300+ pound run stopper in Jared Odrick. As big as Odrick is, he is also effective while rushing the passer, as noted by his five sacks. Middle linebacker Karlos Dansby is also a force against the run, having racked up 111 tackles, six of which coming for a loss this year.
Dolphins Pass Offense Vs. Bills Pass Defense
Led by rookie quarterback, Ryan Tannehill, the Dolphins, like Buffalo, is terrible in the pass game. Ranked 23rd in pass offense, Miami is averaging just 203.9 yards per game through the air. Ryan Tannehill has been one of the least productive quarterbacks out of the great 2012 rookie quarterback class, completing just 58.7% of his passes for 2,929 yards, throwing 10 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He does have underrated mobility, but that hasn’t translated to big plays. At his disposal are Brian Hartline and Davone Bess, two complementary wideouts acting as feature receiving options. Both are small, quick targets that can move the chains, but don’t add big-time plays. Tight end Anthony Fasano is Tannehill’s favorite target in the redzone, scoring five touchdowns on 36 catches for 289 yards.
Dolphins Rush Offense Vs. Bills Rush Defense
The Dolphins like to rely on the run game, but with Reggie Bush’s limited stature, that attack is average at best. The team averages 112. 4 rush yards per game, 16th in the National Football League. Daniel Thomas, the Dolphins’ power and goal line back, was placed on season-ending Injured Reserve earlier in the week, which pushes rookie back Lamar Miller into a bigger role. Miller was a very productive running back for the University Of Miami, where he rushed for 1,918 yards while averaging 5.7 yards per carry in two years, and one as a true starter. Bush is on his way to his second consecutive 1,000 yard season, the only two of his career, having gained 895 yards on 200 carries, scoring five touchdowns.
The Bills’ rush offense was miserable against the Seahawks, allowing 270 yards to Marshawn Lynch and Russell Wilson. The Bills’ defensive unit allows a terrible 144.1 yards per game on the ground, good for 30th in the NFL.
Dolphins WR Brian Hartline Vs. Bills CB Stephon Gilmore
Bills’ rookie cornerback Stephon Gilmore has been a bright spot for the Buffalo defense this year, as the No. 10 overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft has shown big improvements week in and week out in his coverage ability. He has been given the task of covering opposing team’s No. 1 receiver, and has performed well. This week, he sees Brian Hartline for the second time of the year. In the first matchup, Hartline caught just four passes for 49 yards. On the year, Hartline has caught 67 passes for 1,002 yards, and just one touchdown. Gilmore is bigger than Hartline, and has the physicality to jam him at the line of scrimmage in press man coverage, and the speed to cover him in zone. For the year, Gilmore has defended 16 passes, ranked seventh in the entire National Football League.
Dolphins RT Nate Garner Vs. Bills DE Mario Williams
With franchise left tackle Jake Long being placed on Injured Reserve, rookie tackle Jonathan Martin will move from right tackle to left tackle, and Nate Garner will man the right side of the offensive line. Both tackles have placed pretty badly this year, and Mario Williams’ pass rush should return to form again this week. Mario had a miserable outing against Seattle, but has an opportunity to bounce back against an inadequate tackle in Miami. Williams has recorded 10.5 sacks and two forced fumbles this year.
Dolphins SLB Koa Misi Vs. Bills TE Scott Chandler
Buffalo Bills’ tight end Scott Chandler is having one of the best seasons a Bills’ tight end has ever had. He has caught 42 passes for 546 yards, scoring six touchdowns. 35 of his 42 receptions have gone for first downs, a rate of 83%. Dolphins’ linebacker Koa Misi will have to contain the 6’7″ Chandler in coverage, as he will probably have an improved role this week, with the lack of active receiving weapons on the roster. Misi is a big strong side linebacker, and his skill set is favored towards stopping the run, rather than playing pass coverage. On the year, Misi has 64 tackles and three forced fumbles.
Bills WR Stevie Johnson Vs. Dolphins CB Sean Smith
Stevie Johnson is becoming a truly excellent wide receiver, not only for the Buffalo Bills, but for the NFL. He has exceptional route running ability, and his hands are becoming more and more reliable. On the year he has caught 69 passes for 891 yards, finding the endzone six times. He is 109 yards away from his third straight 1,000 yard season, the most in Bills’ history. Sean Smith is a solid cornerback with great size at 6’3″, and has decent ball skills. He has defended 12 passes this year, with two interceptions and two forced fumbles. Johnson has had his way with opposing cornerbacks this year, as he has often been isolated to gain man-to-man coverage, and will present a big challenge for Smith, especially on the quick in routes Buffalo likes to run.
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