Top 3 Individual Matchups
2 – Stevie Johnson vs. Sean Smith - Johnson was held to just two receptions for 16 yards in the first meeting, but is determined to redeem himself Sunday. The Bills top wideout comes in hot with 17 receptions for 243 yards and two touchdowns in his last three games.
Top 2 Bills Advantages
Good advantage – Kick coverage – Miami’s kick return unit ranks in the top 10 (9th), but Buffalo’s kick coverage is even better than that ranking fourth in the league. The Bills have been a top five cover unit all season. They’ll need to be on point Sunday to give the Dolphins long fields to drive.
Best advantage - Pass protection – Despite all the shuffling that the Bills have had to endure up front, their pass protection has held up well this season. Buffalo has allowed a league low 17 sacks this year, and though they gave up a pair to Miami in the first meeting, the Bills passing game should be able to function.
Bills Number 1 Must
Takeaways – Buffalo has had trouble with their consistency on both offense and defense on their current six-game losing streak. Takeaways are the only thing that can overcome inconsistent play, providing more chances for the offense to score points. The Bills need to be at least a plus-2 in this game to post a much needed victory. They have 12 interceptions in six home games thus far this season.
Moore expected to start
Earlier in the week there was the chance that former Bills number one pick J.P. Losman could be starting under center for the Dolphins on Sunday. Starting QB Matt Moore was knocked out of last week’s game with a head injury that included neck spasms and did not practice on Wednesday. He returned to the practice field on Thursday however, and all signs point to him starting. Moore was 14-20 passing for 160 yards and three touchdowns in the first meeting with Buffalo.
Bowles steps in
The Dolphins fired head coach Tony Sparano on Monday. Appointed to the interim head job was Assistant head coach/secondary coach Todd Bowles. Bowles, who was close friends with Sparano, intends to stay the course with the coaching philosophy that was already in place.
“I expect them to play hard,” said Bowles of his players. “I expect them to be tough. This late in the season it’s 13 weeks you’re not going to instill a different coaching philosophy but three weeks left in the season. We have a pretty good thing going in. Just going to play smarter, play together and try to play cohesive football and try to win a ball game.”
A title like this usually is in reference to Miami’s pass rush. Unfortunately for the Dolphins it’s about the failures of their offensive line. Miami has allowed 44 sacks this season, including nine last week in a loss to the Eagles. That’s second most in the league to only St. Louis (46).
Matt Moore was sacked four times getting injured on the last knockdown. J.P. Losman came on in relief and was sacked five times including one for a safety.
With Pro Bowl left tackle Jake Long nursing a back injury suffered last week and RG Vernon Carey dealing with an ankle injury the situation may be even worse this week against Buffalo. Long was back practicing Thursday. John Jerry is the projected starter at left tackle if Long can’t for some reason cannot go. Jerry is also Carey’s backup at right guard.
Bush still rolling
Reggie Bush has had a very productive season in his first year with the Dolphins. The running back already has a career best 770 rushing yards this season averaging 4.6 per carry. His yards per carry average is even better on the road at 5.1 per rush. He posted his third 100-yard rushing effort of the season last week against the Eagles (103) and has a rushing touchdown in five of his last six games. One of those touchdowns came in the first meeting with the Bills.
Third down defense
Miami is only in the middle of the pack when it comes to sacks (14th), but their third down defense has been solid all season long. Allowing third down conversions just over 34 percent of the time (34.4) the Dolphins rank ninth in third down defense. Their best day of the season came against the Bills in their first meeting as Buffalo did not have a single conversion on 12 attempts (0-12).
The Friday prior to the Bills first meeting with the Dolphins kicker Dan Carpenter was unavailable for Miami. He suffered a groin injury late in the week and was replaced by veteran Shayne Graham just a day before the game. Carpenter missed two games, but returned in Week 13 for the Dolphins. He’s been 3-4 kicking since he returned with his only miss coming from 55 yards out.
Quote of the Week
“I think the guys are going to prepare hard this week and go out there on Sunday and try to redeem ourselves from that first game. Ultimately we can talk all we want about it throughout the week, but we know that Sunday when you strap on the head gear you better tighten the chin strap a little tighter and make sure your mouthpiece is in because we have nothing to lose.”
Stat of the Week
On their current six-game losing streak the Bills are a minus-9 in the takeaway-giveaway department with five takeaways and 14 turnovers.
Milestones in reach
The Dolphins have a 1-5 record on the road this season.