Miami Dolphins at Buffalo Bills
Ralph Wilson Stadium – Orchard Park, New York
Sunday, December 22, 2013, 1:00 pm Eastern, TV: CBS, NFL Sunday Ticket
Opening Line: Miami -2 1/2
Current Line: Miami -2 1/2 (-115)
Opening Total: 43
Current Total: 42 1/2
Opening Money Line: Dolphins -135 / Bills +115
Current Money Line: Dolphins -140 / Bills +120
The 8-6 Miami Dolphins are currently tied with the Baltimore Ravens for the last wild card spot in the AFC playoffs. Baltimore holds the tiebreaker though because they beat Miami 26-23 earlier in the season. The 7-7 San Diego Chargers and 6-8 Pittsburgh Steelers & New York Jets are also still alive for the playoffs, but they need some help. Miami is 2 games behind the 10-4 New England Patriots for the AFC East division, and needs the Patriots to lose their last two games and Miami would have to win out. The Patriots travel to the Ravens Sunday, so the Dolphins will get some help either way.
Basically, either for the division or the wild card, Miami has to win out. It starts Sunday as the Dolphins travel to frigid Buffalo to take on the 5-9 Buffalo Bills, before hosting the Jets next week. Buffalo was eliminated from playoff contention last week despite winning at Jacksonville. The Bills can only play spoiler as they host the Dolphins and travel to the Patriots next week.
Since 2001, Buffalo leads the series 13-12 against Miami. The Bills won earlier in the season in Miami 23-21. The loss was part of a four game losing streak for the Dolphins. Buffalo took an early 14-0 lead, but Miami would take a 21-17 lead into the fourth quarter. Buffalo Defensive end Mario Williams forced a sack and a fumble at the Dolphin’s 34 to set up the go ahead field goal with 33 seconds left. It was one of 3 turnovers for the Dolphins. Miami was unable to get past their own 46 on their last drive before time ran out.
Miami is coached by Joe Philbin. The Dolphins opened the season 3-0 before losing 4 straight games. Miami has gone 5-2 since then, including 3 straight wins. The Dolphins have road wins at the Cleveland Browns 23-10, Indianapolis Colts 24-20, Jets 23-3, and Steelers 34-28, along with home wins over the Atlanta Falcons 27-23, Cincinnati Bengals 22-20 in overtime, Chargers 20-16, and last week against the Patriots 24-20. Miami has road losses at the New Orleans Saints 38-17, Patriots 27-17, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers 22-19, along with home losses to the Ravens, Bills, and Carolina Panthers 20-16. The Dolphins are 9-5 ATS and the total is 7-6-1 ATS this season. Miami was a 2.5 point favorite against the Patriots and the total was 46.5.
Miami is outscoring teams 22-21 this season. The Dolphins are #21 in scoring and #9 in points allowed. The Dolphins are averaging 329.1 yards per game including 233.9 passing and 95.3 rushing yards. Miami is #17 in passing, #24 in rushing and #24 in total offense. On defense, the Dolphins are allowing 356.1 yards per game including 238.9 passing and 117.2 rushing. Miami is #16 in pass defense, #22 against the rush, and #17 in total defense. The Dolphins are +2 in turnovers. Miami is 71/200 on third and fourth down conversions and opponents are 86/219. The Dolphins have forced 41 sacks but allowed 51 this season. Miami has 2 defensive touchdowns and has allowed 2 this season. The Dolphins average 37 penalty yards per game and opponents average 49.
Quarterback Ryan Tannehill has completed 62.4% of his passes for 3,627 yards with 23 touchdowns and 14 interceptions, and he also has 38 carries for 219 yards and a touchdown. He has taken every snap this season despite being sacked 51 times this season. That isn’t even counting all the hits and knockdowns he has taken. The offensive line is missing three starters including Jonathan Martin and Richie Incognito. The beleaguered offensive line took another hit when tackle Will Yeatman was lost for the year with a torn ACL.
Running back Lamar Miller has 157 carries for 628 yards with and 2 touchdowns along with 25 catches for 166 yards. Daniel Thomas has 98 carries for 400 yards and 4 touchdowns, along with 14 catches for 60 yards and 2 touchdowns. No other back has more than 6 carries this season for Miami.
Receiver Brian Hartline has 72 catches for 925 yards and 4 touchdowns. Mike Wallace has 64 catches for 867 yards and 4 touchdowns, plus 33 rushing yards. Tight end Charles Clay has 61 catches for 684 yards and 6 touchdowns, and also has a rushing touchdown. Brandon Gibson had 30 catches for 326 yards and 3 touchdowns but is out for the season with a knee injury. Rishard Matthews has 36 catches, 381 yards and 2 touchdowns. Six defensive players are listed on the injury report including 5 cornerbacks.
Buffalo is coached by Doug Marrone. The Bills have home wins over the Carolina Panthers 24-23, Baltimore Ravens 23-20, and New York Jets 37-14, along with road wins at the Miami Dolphins 23-21 and last week at the Jacksonville Jaguars 27-20. Buffalo has road losses at the Jets 27-20, Cleveland Browns 37-24, New Orleans Saints 35-17, Pittsburgh Steelers 23-10, and at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 27-6. The Bills have home losses to the New England Patriots 23-21, Cincinnati Bengals 27-24 in overtime, Kansas City Chiefs 23-13, and Atlanta Falcons 34-31 in overtime (in Toronto). By a strange schedule quirk, Buffalo is playing all three Florida teams in consecutive weeks as they traveled to the Buccaneers and Jaguars the last two weeks. The Bills are 7-7 ATS and the total is 9-5 this season. The Bills were 4 point favorites at Jacksonville last week and the total was 43.
Buffalo is being outscored 25-21 this season. The Bills are #18 in points allowed and #24 in scoring. Buffalo is averaging 330.5 yards per game on offense, including 192.3 passing and 138.2 rushing yards. The Bills are #4 in rushing, #29 in passing and #23 in total offense. On defense, Buffalo is allowing 346.4 total yards per game including 219.1 passing and 127.3 rushing yards. The Bills are #6 in pass defense, #26 against the rush, and #15 in total defense. Buffalo is even in turnovers. The Bills are 76/223 on third and fourth down conversions and opponents are 89/227. Buffalo has forced 49 sacks and allowed 43 this season. The Bills have three defensive touchdowns and have allowed four defensive/special teams touchdowns. Buffalo averages 62 penalty yards per game and opponents average 62.
Buffalo has used 3 quarterbacks this season. Rookie E.J. Manuel has completed 58.8% of his passes for 1,972 yards with 11 touchdowns and 9 interceptions, along with 53 carries for 186 yards and 2 touchdowns. He has been sacked 28 times this season. Manuel is out Sunday with a knee injury and Thad Lewis will start in his place. Lewis started a few games earlier in the season when Manuel was out with a knee injury. Lewis has completed 60.2% of his passes for 652 yards with 3 touchdowns and 2 interceptions, along with 35 rushing yards and a touchdown. Jeff Tuel has thrown for 309 yards with a touchdown and 3 interceptions, along with 17 rushing yards.
Running back C.J. Spiller has 162 carries for 745 yards and 2 touchdowns, along with 25 catches for 131 yards. Fred Jackson has 174 carries for 725 yards and 7 touchdowns, along with 42 catches for 327 yards and a touchdown. He is probable with injured ribs. Tashard Choice will also get some carries and catches.
Receiver Steve Johnson has 52 catches, 597 yards and 3 touchdowns. He will miss Sunday’s game due to a death in his family. Tight end Scott Chandler has 48 catches, 569 yards and 2 touchdowns. Robert Woods has 36 catches for 590 yards and 3 touchdowns. T.J. Graham has 18 catches for 272 yards and a touchdown. Marquise Goodwin has 16 catches, 261 yards and 3 touchdowns. He is probable with a knee injury. Six defensive players are listed on the injury report for Buffalo.
Miami is 5-0 ATS overall and against AFC teams, 4-0 after a cover, 5-1 after rushing for 90 yards or less, and in December, 4-1 after gaining more than 350 total yards and passing for more than 250 yards, 17-5 after allowing more than 350 total yards, 6-2 after a straight up win, 5-2 against teams with losing records, and 0-4-1 against teams with losing home records. The favorite is 4-1 ATS in the last five in this series.
Buffalo is 5-1 ATS after allowing more than 150 rushing yards, 4-1 against AFC East teams, 6-2 at home and on turf, 7-3 after accumulating 350 total yards or more, 8-18 after allowing 350 yards or more, 2-5 in Week 16, in December and overall, 9-24-2 against teams with winning road records, 5-15-1 after a cover, 6-21-1 after a straight up win.
If the Dolphins are true playoff contenders, then this is a game they should win. The Bills are without their starting quarterback and top receiver. The Bills were eliminated from playoff contention last week. Frankly, if Miami loses this game even on the road, they don’t deserve to go to the playoffs anyway. Miami wins, but buffalo keeps it close.