Head coach Tony Sparano is but a memory to the Miami Dolphins, but the season rolls on this week, with the team making its annual road trip to face division rival Buffalo. The Dolphins-Bills rivalry has lost all its luster in the past decade as both teams have settled into mediocrity, and this week will probably not bring back memories of Dan Marino or Jim Kelly.
Dolphins-Bills Preview: Into the Wild
Miami heads to the Great White North for a late-season tussle with division rival Buffalo
Instead of a pair of Hall-of-Fame quarterbacks facing off, on Sunday viewers will be treated to a showdown between Buffalo's Ryan Fitzpatrick and either Matt Moore or JP Losman of the Dolphins. Moore sustained a concussion in Sunday's loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, and interim coach Todd Bowles said he will probably not decide whether Moore will play until Sunday.
Regardless, the unappealing quarterback match-up tells you all you need to know about both franchises heading into this late-season pillow fight. Both teams have been searching for a long-term solution at quarterback for a decade, and neither have been very relevant during that time.
When the Dolphins have the ball: The Dolphins better hope Moore is available to play on Sunday, because Losman was far from effective when forced into action against Philadelphia. That was not entirely his fault, the offensive line gave up 9 sacks during the game, so it's not like Losman had much time to find open receivers while standing in the pocket.
Regardless of who is to blame, those 9 sacks helped limit the Dolphins to 95 yards passing, the team's lowest output of the season. In Week 11, Moore threw for only 160 yards against Buffalo, but Miami was able to take advantage of two Ryan Fitzpatrick interceptions that set up the offense deep in Buffalo territory.
The biggest question mark facing the Dolphins will be whether All-Pro LT Jake Long can return after leaving Sunday's game with a back injury. He was limited in practice on Thursday, but it is hard to see him sitting out if he is feeling well enough to play, having started 61 consecutive games. Regardless, the Bills are last in the NFL with 19 sacks, so the offensive line should be able to rebound from Sunday's dismal performance.
When the Bills have the ball: The Bills must be regretting signing Fitzpatrick to a six-year contract extension worth $59 million back in October (with $24 million guaranteed). Since the contract was announced, Buffalo has gone 1-6, with Fitzpatrick throwing 10 interceptions against 7 touchdowns during that stretch.
The Bills are in the middle of the pack offensively, due in large part to RB Fred Jackson. But with Jackson on injured reserve thanks to a calf injury sustained during the Bills' Week 11 loss to the Dolphins. Since losing Jackson, the Bills have put up just under 96 yards per game on the ground.
That does not bode well against Miami's defense, which is finally hitting its stride. The Dolphins have held opponents to under 100 yards on the ground in 6 of its past 7 games, forcing 9 turnovers in the past 5 games. With Buffalo in free-fall, this could get ugly.
Who has the edge? Neither team is particularly scary, but the Dolphins appear to have an edge on defense that could put them over the top. If they force a few turnovers like they did in the teams' first meeting, Buffalo could find themselves with an insurmountable deficit by halftime.
Grudge-creating quote of the week: On his comment that the Bills "laid down" in their Week 11 game against Miami, "I think when they watched the film, they knew it, too. Now it's time for Round 2." -Yeremiah Bell
The Pick: Dolphins 27-Bills 10
Details: Miami Dolphins (4-9) at Buffalo Bills (5-8)
TV: CBS, 1:00 p.m., Kevin Harlan, Solomon Wilcots
Previously: Dolphins won 35-8 in Miami in Week 11