ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) Bills defensive tackle Kyle Williams has enough to worry about in preparing to face the Miami Dolphins on Sunday than considering whether Buffalo’s home finale might be his last game at New Era Field.
”I don’t think about it just because of it’s a distraction for me mentally,” the 12-year veteran said.
Buffalo’s longest-serving active player and inspirational leader is in the final year of his contract and briefly considered retiring after last season before being coaxed back by new coach Sean McDermott.
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”I’m not going to make it about me, and I’m not going to think about it in those terms,” Williams added. ”There’s enough trouble in the day of getting ready for the Dolphins and trying to finish this strong and get to where we want to go.”
He is, of course, referring to the playoffs, a place the Bills haven’t reached in the previous 17 seasons – the longest active streak in North America’s four major professional sports.
The Bills (7-6) are in the thick of a convoluted AFC playoff picture , though can miss out even if they win their final three games.
Buffalo has won two of the past three, including braving a lake-effect snowstorm to pull out a 13-7 overtime victory against Indianapolis last weekend.
By comparison, the Dolphins (6-7) have even less margin for error in their bid to reach the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the first time since a five-year run from 1997-2001.
Their year has been undone by a season-ending injury to starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill in early August; Hurricane Irma playing havoc with their schedule; and a five-game skid following their 4-2 start.
Miami has won its last two, including a 27-20 victory over New England on Monday night.
Coach Adam Gase’s message is to focus solely on Buffalo.
”We’re at the point of the season right now where if you worry about anything else, that’s where you get in trouble,” Gase said. ”For us, we’ve had a lot of ups and downs to where the last two games we’ve played better.”
The Dolphins’ offense has found balance under quarterback Jay Cutler and running back Kenyan Drake , who has combined for 234 yards rushing and 100 yards receiving in his past two games.
Their defense has re-asserted itself by forcing seven turnovers in the past three games, and limiting its past two opponents to converting 1 of 24 third-down chances.
Some things to watch out for, with the AFC East rivals to meet again in two weeks:
MCCOY’S 10K CHASE: Bills running back LeSean McCoy is 39 yards rushing short of becoming the 30th NFL player to reach 10,000.
He’s coming off a season-high 156 yards rushing against Indianapolis, and sealed the win by scoring on a 21-yard run with 1:33 left. Though the Dolphins limited New England to 25 yards rushing, they have allowed 100 yards or more six times this season.
The key, McCoy said, is getting off to a fast start.
”There are times where they get out of place or there’s time’s when if the game’s not going well for them, there’s some plays they take off,” he said. ”But when they’re rolling, they’re rolling.”
WEATHER OR NOT: Asked what he could gather from watching film of the Bills play in near white-out conditions, Gase laughed and said: ”Nothing. And `Shady’ McCoy is really good.”
There’s no snow in the forecast for Sunday, though the high is projected to be 30 degrees.
”It’s all about mindset,” Gase said of the elements. ”If you’re going to worry about it, then it’s going to become a factor.”
SLOW STARTS: Gase blamed himself for a slow-starting offense that has scored the opening points just four times – all wins. He said the lack of early production has made it difficult for his defense to play aggressively.
”I think the frustration probably is more on myself,” he said. ”Being the guy that’s running the offense, I feel like I haven’t helped the defense enough.”
QUARTERBACK SHUFFLE: Tyrod Taylor is expected to return as Bills starter after missing last week’s game with a bruised left knee. Rookie backup Nathan Peterman’s status is uncertain after being evaluated for a concussion sustained against Indianapolis.
Taylor has eight touchdowns, no interceptions and 151 yards rushing and a touchdown in four career games against Miami.
DYNAMIC DRAKE: With 114 yards rushing and 79 receiving against the Patriots, Drake became the third Dolphins player to top 100 yards rushing and 75 receiving. He’ll face a defense that has allowed 140 or more yards rushing in five of its past six games.
Two fumbles this season have been the biggest negative.
”I try to go out there with a level of arrogance,” Drake said. ”Regardless if I fumble, I’m going to go out there and prove that I can be a topnotch player.”
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