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Top 6 storylines to follow for Bills at Dolphins | Week 18

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We've made it to Week 18. Of course this one comes down to the AFC East crown. It's also win and in for Buffalo. Our guys are riding a four-game win streak and up for the challenge ahead.

There's a lot to look forward to before Sunday night's game so here are six storylines to get you ready.

1. The road to the playoffs

The Bills need one more win to secure a spot in the postseason. With a victory over the Dolphins, they'd be in the playoffs as the No. 2 seed. It would also be their fourth straight season earning the AFC East title.

Here are all the scenarios of how Buffalo can clinch a spot in the postseason.

Buffalo clinches AFC East division title with:

  1. BUF win over MIA

Buffalo clinches playoff berth with:

  1. BUF tie OR
  2. PIT loss or tie OR
  3. JAX loss or tie OR
  4. HOU-IND tie

The Steelers will head to Baltimore to face the Ravens for a 4:30 PM ET kick on Saturday. Jacksonville will travel to Nashville to play the Titans for a 1:00 PM ET kick on Sunday. And, the Colts will host the Texans on Saturday night for an 8:15 PM ET kick.

2. How good is Josh Allen against Miami?

If you had to pick one opponent that Josh Allen has played his best against, it's the Dolphins.

In his career, Josh Allen is 10-2 against Miami if you include the playoffs. The QB is 9-2 in the regular season against the Dolphins since coming into the NFL. In those 11 games, Allen has averaged 3.27 touchdowns per game, 273 passing yards per game, has only five interceptions and a 110.8 passer rating.

Since the start of the 2018 season, Allen's 34 total touchdowns thrown against Miami (including playoffs) are the most by any quarterback versus a single opponent. The QB also has multiple passing touchdowns in 12 consecutive games against the Dolphins which is the longest streak by a quarterback against one opponent in NFL history.

It's not just Allen who has posted these crazy numbers against the Dolphins. Buffalo's offense and defense have followed his lead. In 11 regular season games versus Miami since 2018, the Bills have averaged 34 points per game, 411.4 total yards per game and have scored touchdowns on 78.6% of their trips to the red zone. They also have a +8 turnover margin in those games.

On defense, the Bills have allowed just 19.5 points per game, a 34.1% conversion rate on third down, totaled 19 takeaways and averaged 3.2 sacks per game in those 11 contests.

Allen will need to continue to lead his team to having these performances because Miami's defense is allowing an average of 23.1 points per game (21st in the NFL), 398.6 total yards per game, 95.1 rushing yards per game (7th), 213.5 passing yards per game (12th), has 24 takeaways (tied for 12th), 53 sacks (t-3rd) and 123 quarterback hits (1st).

3. Why the defense is coming on strong

Over the last four games, Buffalo's defense has been on fire.

They've allowed an average of only 17.5 points per game (4th), 277 total yards per game (4th) and a 66.7 passer rating (3rd) over that span. They've also only allowed one passing touchdown, which is the least in the NFL in the last four games.

Sean McDermott thinks the defense has been playing this way due to their ability to work together.

"I think it's the rush and coverage working together and the communication that we're developing with the back seven," McDermott shared. "Making sure everyone's on the same page, everyone understands the vision for the game plan and the purpose and the theme that week. I credit those guys on the backend but also the front with their ability to rush the passer."

Assistant head coach and defensive line coach Eric Washington thinks he's seeing this level of play because the group believes in each other.

"The guys are competing with a lot of confidence," Washington said. "They're taking the defensive concepts we're calling and bringing those things to life…they're playing together. There's a lot of belief, there's a lot of communication."

Buffalo is also getting healthier on defense. Micah Hyde and DaQuan Jones returned to the lineup in Week 17 and no defensive players suffered any injuries in the last game.

They'll need to continue to affect the passer and keep the coverage tight in Week 18 because they're going up against a Miami offense that's one of the best in the league this season. The team is averaging 30.13 points per game (1st), 409.2 total yards per game (1st), 137.5 rushing yards per game (5th), 271.7 passing yards per game and are scoring touchdowns 64.9% of the time in the red zone (4th).

Their go-to guy in Tyreek Hill has 112 receptions (t-2nd) for 1,717 receiving yards (1st) and has 12 receiving touchdowns (2nd) this season. Since becoming a Dolphin, Hill has averaged 53.3 receiving yards per game and has only one touchdown in three regular season games played against Buffalo.

4. The injury bug in Miami

The Miami Dolphins have had several significant injuries over the course of the last few weeks, including Week 17.

LB Bradley Chubb exited Sunday's game against the Ravens in the fourth quarter with a non-contact leg injury. Miami head coach Mike McDaniel announced on Monday afternoon that Chubb suffered a torn ACL and will be out for the rest of the season. Chubb was leading Miami's defense with 11 sacks this season.

"It's a big loss for the team and the locker room," McDaniel told the media.

The Dolphins are already down one standout pass rusher and Chubb's injury just adds to that list. Linebacker Jaelan Phillips suffered an Achilles injury in Week 12 that required surgery and ended his third NFL season early.

QB Tua Tagovailoa also suffered a shoulder injury during the Ravens game, but it seems to be not too serious.

"I'm not really worried about it," McDaniel said of his belief in Tagovailoa's ability to fight and work through it. "Just (with) where he is at in the season, and how crazy competitive he is."

Starting cornerback Xavien Howard was carted off the field on Sunday due to a foot injury. McDaniel does not think Howard will be available for Week 18.

"I am not anticipating this week at all," McDaniel said of Howard's availability to play.

Running back Raheem Mostert missed Week 17's game against the Ravens due to an ankle injury. His status for this week's game is unknown at this point. Wide receiver Jaylen Waddle was not available for Sunday's game against Baltimore due to an ankle injury that he suffered in Week 16. His status for this Sunday is also unknown.

Starting right guard Robert Hunt also did not play in Week 17 due to a hamstring injury. The RG has missed the last four games.

"I think we'll find out with the practice week," McDaniel said of Hunt's status. "I think he's going to get the uptick that's on schedule. I think he's really eager to take the next step. I anticipate a lot more reps coming his way. If there's no setbacks at all, I'm fairly optimistic that we'll see him very soon."

Starting linebacker Jerome Baker has also missed the last four games due to being placed on Injured Reserve with a knee injury. McDaniel thinks his practice window to return to the active roster could begin soon.

"Jerome has been doing well so we'll see how the work goes with the training staff up until the practice week," McDaniel said. "I'm optimistic that that window will begin here soon."

5. A homecoming game for several players and coaches

Several players and coaches will have a homecoming game on Sunday night as multiple members of the team have ties to Miami.

Interim offensive coordinator Joe Brady is from Pembroke Pines, FL which is about a 10 miles away from Hard Rock Stadium. Brady said he's quite familiar with the stadium but doesn't want that to take away from the task at hand.

"I obviously grew up attending those football games and spent a lot of time in that stadium," Brady shared. "But we have a great opportunity for us this week, and so my focus is strictly on that and not really trying to get caught up into anything else other than how can we find a way to get this win this week."

Long snapper Reid Ferguson's brother Blake Ferguson is the long snapper for Miami, so the two brothers will reunite under the lights on Sunday. They are the only brothers to be long snappers in NFL history.

Defensive end Greg Rousseau grew up about 30 minutes away from Hard Rock and played collegiately at the University of Miami. Running back James Cook also grew up in Miami and attended Miami Central High School.

Wide receiver Trent Sherfield (2022), defensive tackle Jordan Phillips (2015-2018) and defensive end Shaq Lawson (2020) all spent time playing for the Dolphins.

Senior offensive assistant Mike Shula, the son of HOF coach Don Shula, worked for the Dolphins as a coaches assistant from 1991-1992.

6. The Bills Mafia Effect

Bills Mafia, your help is needed on Sunday night at approximately 8:20 PM ET in Miami.

We need Bills fans to show up in droves to support their team. Players and coaches know just how helpful fans can be when an opposing offense is on the field, and they want to see that on Sunday night.

Sean McDermott is expecting to see a lot of blue and red in the stands this weekend.

"They do travel, and we're going to need them to travel," McDermott said. "It's going to be a great atmosphere on Sunday night down there in Miami. We're going to need all the fans we can get down there."

The energy Bills Mafia provides also helps set the tone for our players the moment they hit the field. We can't wait to see and hear you in Hard Rock Stadium on Sunday night.

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