Top 3 Individual Matchups
1 – Eric Wood vs. Paul Soliai –Coming off a poor performance last week, Miami's chief run stuffer will be motivated to slow down Buffalo's run game. Eric Wood along with some help at times will need to neutralize the powerful defensive tackle.
2 – Stephon Gilmore vs. Brian Hartline –Hartline is having a breakout season as he leads the team in receptions and receiving yards. Gilmore will need to hold the Dolphins top passing threat in check knowing he's Ryan Tannehill's favorite target.
3 – Scott Chandler vs. Chris Clemons –Chandler once again offers a distinct physical mismatch in the passing game and should be able to work the middle of the field for Ryan Fitzpatrick. Chris Clemons has made plays on the ball, but Chandler can wall off most defenders.
Top 2 Bills Advantages
Good advantage – Punt return –The Bills still sit atop the league in punt return average with Leodis McKelvin's 19.5 yards per return mark. Miami has a pretty solid special teams unit, but they're giving up almost a first down per return (9.2) good for only 17th in the league.
Best advantage – Big plays –Miami much like New England is susceptible to surrendering the big play in the passing game. The Dolphins rank 28th in the league in number of pass plays allowed of 20 yards or more. They've given up 37 in their first nine games. Buffalo's passing attack ranks 11th in the league in number of plays that have gone for 20 yards or more with 36 thus far this season.
Bills Number 1 Must
Run game –C.J. Spiller is going to need to be effective against Miami's top 10 run defense. That means getting positive four-yard gains as much as delivering a handful of big plays. Buffalo's ground game has to be more effective than Miami's to control the clock and limit the Dolphins number of possessions.
Bush numbers downReggie Bush got off to a hot start through the first three weeks of the 2012 campaign rushing for 302 yards on his first 50 carries (6.0 avg.). He was averaging 100 yard rushing per game. In that Week 3 game against the Jets, Bush sustained a knee injury, but did not miss any game time. Since then however, Bush's production has been ordinary. Averaging just 3.3 yards per carry, Bush has just 252 yards in his last six games on 76 carries.
In fact the Dolphins as a team have not rushed for 100 yards in a game since that Week 3 game against the Jets. Making matters worse were Bush's two lost fumbles over the past three games. His most recent fumble against the Titans last week got him benched for the last 23 minutes of the first half.
4th quarter bluesThe Dolphins have not been very successful closing out games at the end. Miami is 1-3 this season in games decided by three points or less. Part of the issues has been their inability to put up points in the fourth quarter. Miami has been outscored by almost a 2:1 margin in the final stanza. The Dolphins have managed just 31 total points in the fourth quarter this season, good for last in the league. Meanwhile they've given up 60. They've also been outscored 6-0 in overtime.
Run 'D' slippingAfter the first month of the season the Dolphins were the number one run defense in football allowing just under 57 yards rushing per game. While Miami is still a top 10 run defense (currently 6th), their effectiveness has slipped considerably. Over their last four games the Dolphins have given up 541 yards on 111 carries with their opponents averaging 4.87 per rush. That's more than double their yards per carry average allowed over the first four weeks (2.36). The 57 rushing yards per game they allowed in their first four games is a distant memory to the 135 rushing yards allowed per game average of their last four outings.
Special teams aggressiveThe Dolphins special teams units are much improved this season. Taking an aggressive approach has proven beneficial for Miami as they rank in the top 10 in punt return average, kick return average, net punting, field goal percentage against and kick coverage. Primary return man Marcus Thigpen has a 72-yard punt return for a touchdown to his credit this season as well as a 57-yard kick return.
Miami's special teams had a coming out party in their Week 8 rout of the Jets. Thigpen had his 57-yard kick return against New York, they blocked a field goal, recovered an onsides kick and had a blocked punt for a touchdown in a 30-9 victory.
Third down not for TannehillMost rookie signal callers struggle to execute on third downs when defenses are their most creative, but Dolphins rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill has really had problems executing thus far this season. Miami ranks a pedestrian 19th in third down conversion percentage, making good on just 36 percent of their third down opportunities. Tannehill, who ranks 32nd in the league in third down passing, has thrown six of his nine interceptions this season on third down and has a passer rating of 52.6. He's also the only starting quarterback in the league without a third down touchdown pass.
3rd and coming up shortDolphins head coach Joe Philbin has been critical of his team's inability to convert on 3rd-and-shorts. Miami ranks 22nd in the league in 3rd-and-shorts (3rd-and-1 or 3rd-and-2) converting just 52.8%, a low percentage for such situations. On 3rd-and-1 alone is even worse for the Dolphins. They rank 27th in 3rd-and-1 conversion percentage moving the sticks just half the time (9-18, 50%). It's part of the reason why the Dolphins are 25th in the league in time of possession (28:35).
Quote of the Week"We've all talked about it and just kind of looking ahead of us all the teams that were getting ready to play are kind of where we are. They're fighting to get in to the last spot or so. I think just kind of the general thought is that it only takes a spark to start a fire and that spark is winning one football game. If we win one, I think guys feel good about making a run here at the end of the year."
--DT Kyle Williams
Stat of the WeekBuffalo leads the AFC with a 5.3 yards per carry average in 2012 (242-1,288).
Milestones in reachJairus Byrd needs one more multi-interception game to become the third player in team history with five multi-pick games (Tom Janik – 6, Billy Atkins – 5).
Scott Chandler needs one touchdown catch to move into sole possession of fourth place in team history among tight ends.
Ryan Fitzpatrick (73) needs four touchdown passes to tie Jack Kemp (77) for 3rd-most in Bills history.
Final noteC.J. Spiller in his last meeting against Miami posted 167 total yards from scrimmage (91 rush, 76 receiving) and a touchdown rushing and receiving.