This Saturday the Miami Dolphins will face off against the Buffalo Bills in what could be the Dolphins ticket to the post-season. Miami has not won in Buffalo since 2011. While Joe Philbin was able to beat the Jets in New York three out of his four attempts, he could never get past the Bills in Orchard Park.
Most will point to the October game between the two clubs this past season as a barometer of what fans can expect but things were a bit different only two months ago and both teams will enter Saturday’s game a little different.
The last time the teams met Jay Ajayi rushed for 214 yards on 28 attempts and scored one touchdown. Ajayi hasn’t reached 100 yards in his last four games. In addition the Bills leading rusher for that game was Tyrod Taylor who ran for 35 yards and one score on seven attempts. Mike Gillislee was the 2nd leading rusher and LeSean McCoy ran only 8 times for 11 yards.
McCoy was nursing an injury at the time and missed most of the game because of it. The Dolphins will have to face McCoy at full strength. McCoy has rushed for over 100 yards three of the last four games. Albeit those games included two against the Browns (153) and Jacksonville (103). He rushed for 130 against the Raiders but failed to reach 50 yards against the Steelers.
Another key to Miami’s win over the Bills and Jay Ajayi’s 214 yard effort was the play of the offensive line. In October center Mike Pouncey was healthy and since Pouncey’s hip injury returned forcing him to miss games, Ajayi has not reached 100 yards. Pouncey is on IR and the Dolphins are using a combination of Kraig Urbik and Anthony Steen to replace him.
Both will face a very formidable test of the Bills front four.
Sammy Watkins was another no-show in October. The Bills top receiver missed a big block of games from week 4 to week 11 including the Dolphins game in Miami. Watkins is working his way back and has played the last four weeks catching 11 passes. The Dolphins will need to keep him in line. Watkins has a history of playing well against the Dolphins.
For Miami there will be no Ryan Tannehill. Tannehill was 15/25 for 204 yards and a touchdown in the first meeting. Ironically the last time the Dolphins beat the Bills in Buffalo it was Matt Moore who led the team to a victory. Moore will get a chance to extend his winning streak to two as well as his streak in Orchard Park to two as well.
Cameron Wake will be someone to watch this weekend as well. In all nine of the Dolphins wins this year, Wake has at least a half sack credited to him. He had 1.5 sacks credited against the Bills. In the Dolphins five losses this season, Wake has no sacks credited.
Weather will also be a lot different from the first go around. Miami hosted the Bills in 81 degree weather while Buffalo is expected to host the Dolphins on Saturday with a high of just 39.
What hasn’t changed is the nature of this rivalry. The Dolphins are never met with a large contingent of fans in Buffalo despite and attempt by a fan group to reproduce the success of DolfansNYC.com’s Metlife Takeover.
For the Dolphins playing in Buffalo is one of the most hostile environments that the team plays in and this weekend will not afford them any sort of comfort from a fan base that is dying to knock the Dolphins Cinderella season into the gutter.
Nothing would make the Bills players happier than to beat Miami this week. Adding to the fervor is the fate of Bills head coach Rex Ryan who seems to be on the hot seat although he is denying knowledge of his exit. The players do enjoy playing for Ryan and this weekend could become an opportunity to show ownership they want him to stay. A statement if you will.
In October the Bills rode a four game winning streak into Miami and the Dolphins ended it. Buffalo would lose four of the next six games after Miami including two in a row prior to beating the Browns last weekend. The Dolphins carry a two game streak into Buffalo.
The Dolphins want to make the post-season but they have to beat Buffalo to realistically have a shot. In a way this is how it is supposed to be written. As many fans have pointed out, the Dolphins have had success in New York so Miami beating the Jets is really nothing out of the ordinary. Beating the Bills in N.Y., well now that is a statement that this team is ready for the next step.