Top 3 Individual Matchups
1 – Scott Chandler vs. Reshad Jones –Jones, who earned praise from Bills head coach Chan Gailey this week, helped to hold Chandler to just two catches for 30 yards in the first matchup. Chandler is nicked up, but eager to put up more production the second time around.* *
2 – Mario Williams vs. Nate Garner –With rookie Jonathan Martin forced to move to left tackle, fifth-year reserve Nate Garner has stepped in at right tackle. Garner is a better pass blocker than run blocker, but will have his hands full with Williams.
3 – Cordy Glenn vs. Cameron Wake –Wake had a sack and a pair of quarterback hits on Ryan Fitzpatrick in the first meeting. Glenn will have to be ready for Wake's full arsenal as he's already matched a career-high in sacks in a season with 14.
Top 2 Bills Advantages
Good advantage – Punt return –Even though the league's leading punt returner is out of this game (Leodis McKelvin) with a groin injury, Buffalo still has an edge here with one of the best punt return units in the NFL. Justin Rogers is a more than capable backup and the Dolphins are just 28th in the league in punt coverage.
Best advantage – Pass rush –The Bills were able to get consistent pressure on Ryan Tannehill logging three sacks and five quarterback hits in the first matchup with the Dolphins. Miami recently had to move rookie RT Jonathan Martin to left tackle to replace the injured Jake Long and put reserve guard Nate Garner at right tackle.
Bills Number 1 Must
Red zone touchdowns –Buffalo got lucky in the first meeting with the Dolphins holding on for a 19-14 victory after settling for four field goals on four red zone possessions in the first matchup between the two teams. That lack of success inside the 20-yard line is unlikely to produce another victory on the road at Miami.
No ClayDolphins FB/TE Charles Clay went on injured reserve this week meaning he won't be a part of Miami's passing game Sunday against the Bills. Clay hasn't been used as much in the Dolphins new offense, but was always capable of making plays against Buffalo. Last year's game in Miami Clay posted four catches for 69 yards and a touchdown in a lopsided win for the Dolphins.
WR shortage?The loss of Clay could be compounded by the back injuries suffered by receivers Brian Hartline and Davone Bess. Hartline practiced sparingly on Wednesday this week and Bess did not practice at all. They rank first and second on the Dolphins in receptions and receiving yards. If neither can go on Sunday, Miami would be left with just three healthy receivers in Marlon Moore, Armon Binns and rookie Rishard Mathews. Binns just joined the club a few weeks ago while Moore and Mathews have just six catches each this season for Miami.
Tannehill cuts turnoversAgainst the Bills in the first matchup between the two divisional rivals, Dolphins rookie QB Ryan Tannehill tossed a pair of interceptions. It was part of a three week stretch where the Texas A&M product tossed six picks in three games. But over his last against New England, San Francisco and Jacksonville, Tannehill has not thrown a single interception on his last 90 pass attempts, and is coming off a 22-28 passing performance for 220 yards and a pair of touchdown passes.
Takeaway troubleThe Dolphins rank 26th in pass defense and they have not helped to mask that ranking with takeaways. Entering the final two games of the regular season Miami has forced the second fewest turnovers in the league with just a dozen. They have the second fewest interceptions in the NFL (9) and the second fewest fumble recoveries in the league (3). It's part of the reason why they're ranked 28th in the league in takeaway-giveaway margin where they're a minus-12 on the season.
Red zone dominanceNo other defense in the NFL has been as effective as Miami's when it comes to defending their red zone. The Bills experienced that first hand when they went 0-4 in the red zone in the first meeting with the Dolphins. But Buffalo is not alone. Despite giving up the fourth-most red zone possessions in the league (49), the Dolphins have also given up the fifth-fewest touchdowns (19) this season. It translates into the lowest red zone touchdown percentage in the league with opponents managing just a 38.8% success rate against Miami this season.
A whale of a punterDolphins punter Brandon Fields has been seemingly punting the ball into orbit this season. Fields leads the league in gross punting average with a 50.6 average. He's also tied for third in the AFC and sixth in the NFL in net punting with an average of 41.4.
Quote of the Week"Playing for hope, for my teammates, for the fans, for them to see that there's still hope. We're not playing for the playoffs man, but you still turn on the channel and the Bills are still your team. You still can watch and say, 'That kid is still playing. That guy out there is playing.' So it's something to play for still, for the fans."
--WR Stevie Johnson
Stat of the WeekIn his last two games against Miami C.J. Spiller is averaging 148.5 yards from scrimmage (182 rushing, 115 receiving).
Milestones in reachScott Chandler needs eight receptions for his first 50-catch season, which would make him the third tight end in Bills history to do so.
Ryan Fitzpatrick needs three touchdown passes to surpass his career high of 24 (2011).
Stevie Johnson needs 109 receiving yards to post his third straight 1,000-yard season.
Final noteIn the first meeting with Miami the Bills defense set single-game season bests for fewest first downs allowed (16), total net yards allowed (184), passing yards allowed (124) and average yards per carry allowed (2.5).