Miami Dolphins-Buffalo Bills Preview: Circling the Wagons

What to watch for as the Dolphins visit the Bills

By David Hill
|  Thursday, Nov 15, 2012  |  Updated 5:09 PM EDT
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The Miami Dolphins hope to replace the stench from Sunday's blowout loss to Tennessee with the smell of victory against division rival Buffalo on Thursday night.

"I don't think by any means are we ready to shut this thing down," Tannehill said. "Our guys are resilient. We're realists. We know we didn't play well. We know we didn't perform like we're capable of. But we're ready to move forward."

Win, and the Dolphins can keep pace with the division leading Patriots, who are 6-3. Lose, and their playoff hopes are all the more slim ahead of a crucial stretch that includes four games against teams with winning records in the final six weeks of the season.

Dolphins' Playoff Hopes Alive at Midseason

When the Dolphins have the ball: Last week the Dolphins vowed to return to their power running game against Tennessee, but once they fell behind by double digits, they had to resort to a pass-happy attack. Buffalo has the worst run defense in the NFL, though, giving up 164 yards per game and 5.5 per carry. The Bills have also given up more rushing touchdowns than any other team.

Dolphins RB Reggie Bush is supposedly out of coach Joe Philbin's doghouse. Last year he played the best game of his career in Buffalo, rushing for 203 yards in the snow. A good game from Bush would take the pressure off Tannehill, who threw three interceptions against Tennessee on Sunday.

Buffalo will be missing DE Chris Kelsay for a second straight game, as well as DE Mark Anderson and CB Aaron Williams. Standout defensive linemen Mario Williams and Kyle Williams have combined for 9.5 sacks this season.

When the Bills have the ball: Like Miami, Buffalo has an explosive running attack, but leading rusher Fred Jackson will be out after suffering a concussion against New England last week. Co-starter C.J. Spiller will take a bulk of the carries in his place. He's no slouch, averaging 7.3 yards per carry. Miami gave up its first 100-yard rushing performance in 22 games last week against Tennessee's Chris Johnson.

The Bills have given up 21 turnovers this season, third-worst in the NFL. Starting QB Ryan Fitzpatrick has 10 interceptions to go with 5 fumbles. Fitzpatrick will try to stretch Miami's defense by targeting dynamic WR Stevie Johnson and 6'7" TE Scott Chandler.

This will be a test of unstoppable force against immovable object, though, as Miami's stout run defense looks to slow Buffalo's ground game. Despite last week's score, the Dolphins gave up only 293 yards against Tennessee, the lowest output by a Miami opponent all season.

Who has the edge? Last week proved that turnover margin is the most important stat when predicting the Dolphins' performance, as Miami was minus-4 against the Titans. If the Dolphins can keep that margin in positive territory, they can eke out a crucial road victory. Thankfully for Dolphins fans, Buffalo is one of the most turnover-prone teams in the NFL.

The pick: Dolphins 20-Bills 10

Details: Miami Dolphins (4-5) at Buffalo Bills (3-6)
TV: NFL Network, 8 p.m., Brad Nessler, Mike Mayock
Line: Buffalo by 2.5
Previously: Miami won 30-23 in Week 15 of the 2011 season

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