Sunday will be the 100th regular season meeting between the Miami Dolphins and the Buffalo Bills. Both teams enter this AFC East matchup with a 3-4 record and fighting to remain in the wild-card race.
After Dan Campbell won his first two games as the Dolphins’ interim head coach, the team came back down to Earth in their last game against the New England Patriots. Miami lost 36-7 last Thursday, as New England intercepted quarterback Ryan Tannehill twice.
Last week, Buffalo was on bye following its 34-31 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars in London on Oct. 25. The week off allowed players like quarterback Tyrod Taylor (knee) and running back Karlos Williams (concussion) to get healthy and back on the practice field.
In their first meeting this season, Buffalo embarrassed Miami 41-14 at Sun Life Stadium. The Dolphins hold a 58-44-1 all-time series advantage over the Bills.
Miami at Buffalo
Kickoff: 1 p.m. ET (Sunday)
Spread: Buffalo -3
Three Things to Watch
1. Dolphins’ offensive line
Once again this season, the Dolphins are dealing with another change to their offensive line rotation. Right tackle Ja’Wuan James has a toe injury and is reportedly out for 4-6 weeks.
Veteran Jason Fox will likely be the player called to take James’ place at right tackle. Center Mike Pouncey believes Fox will be up to the task.
“Jason (Fox) is going to do a good job filling in for Ja’Wuan,” said Pouncey. “Obviously when you lose a starter, there is always a little bit in your head because he doesn’t get that many reps when the season starts. Jason is fortunate to have those reps with Branden going down and all of our trust is in him.”
Fox and the rest of the Dolphins’ offensive line will have their work cut out for them as they will be lined up against one of the best defensive lines in the NFL.
Even though Buffalo only has 11 sacks this season, they have three Pro Bowlers up front in Mario Williams, Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus. While Jerry Hughes has yet to get invited to the Pro Bowl, he did have 10 sacks in each of the last two seasons.
2. Tyrod Taylor
After sitting on the sideline for two straight games because of a sprained MCL, Taylor is set to return against the Dolphins on Sunday. Miami knows firsthand how important Taylor is to the Bills’ offense.
In Week 3 against the Dolphins, Taylor threw for 277 yards and three touchdowns, posting a passer rating of 136.7. Not only will Miami have to worry about the passing ability of Taylor, but the defense also will have to worry about his mobility outside of the pocket.
“Well, as we saw in the first game, if you let him get out on the perimeter and he’s a problem because he can run the ball," Dolphins defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo said. "He’s elusive out on the perimeter and not just in our game, but in a number of games and when he’s in the pocket he can still stand in there and deliver it. You’ve got a mobile guy who can hurt you with his arm and his legs. We’ve got our hands full and he’s done a great job this year. We’ll be well aware of what he presents; the problems he presents and be in a position to hopefully do a good on him.”
With the Bills’ offense getting healthy, Taylor will have a full complement of weapons on Sunday. That could be bad news for the Dolphins’ defense.
3. Derrick Shelby
Not only did the Dolphins lose badly on national television last week, they lost their best pass rusher to a serious injury.
Defensive end Cameron Wake will miss the remainder of the season after tearing his Achilles. Prior to getting hurt, Wake had recorded seven sacks in less than three full games.
The player that will try to take Wake’s place is Derrick Shelby. The fourth-year veteran has 11 tackles and has yet to collect a sack this season. Anarumo said the team isn’t expecting Shelby to be like Wake.
"To say that you’re ever going to replace a Cam Wake, you know that’s not going to happen," Anarumo said. "He’s one of a kind and is a great player in this league for a long time. Edge rushers as we all know just don’t come around every day, the guys that we have stepping in Derrick Shelby and Chris McCain and (Terrence) Fede and obviously (Olivier Vernon) O.V. is going to be doing his thing, we’ve got a good group of guys that are talented people."
Wake was a big factor in the Dolphins’ wins against the Tennessee Titans and Houston Texans. It will be interesting to see how Miami’s defense does without its best pass rusher.
In the last 10 seasons, the Dolphins have won in Ralph Wilson Stadium just twice, with the last time being in 2011. While this game should be closer than their Week 3 matchup, the Bills should come out victorious for the second time this season.
Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill has been very inconsistent this season, as he has thrown nine interceptions on the season. Buffalo’s pass rush should be able to put pressure on him and force him to make mistakes.
Offensively, look for Buffalo to run the ball much like they did in the first meeting. In Week 3, the Bills rushed for 151 yards and LeSean McCoy wasn’t operating at 100 percent. Now that McCoy and Karlos Williams are both healthy, the Dolphins’ defense will get a heavy dose of both running backs.
Prediction: Bills 34, Dolphins 20
— Written by Antwan Staley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and has extensive experience covering Florida sports teams. Staley has written for Bleacher Report, Pro Player Insiders and is a reporter for Sports Talk Florida. Follow him on Twitter @antwanstaley.