In just about two hours, the Miami Dolphins take the field against the Buffalo Bills to complete the AFC East division rivals' home-and-home series for the season. The Dolphins dominated the first contest between the two, decisively winning 35-8 during the NFL's Week 11 play.
As today's game progresses, here are five things you should watch:
1 - Miami Offensive Line. This could probably fill all five what to watch positions. When All-Pro left tackle Jake Long left last week's contest against the Philadelphia Eagles with a back injury, the Miami offense may as well have walked off the field with him. This week, Long is listed as "Questionable," along with fellow lineman Vernon Carey. The Dolphins very well may have to rely on second year guard John Jerry at left tackle, and utility lineman Nate Garner at right guard, a prospect that doesn't exactly instill confidence. Miami's offensive line depth could come in the former of Will Barker, a player who has spent nearly the entire season inactive on game day. A week after getting quarterback Matt Moore knocked out of the game with a head injury, can the offensive line be any more productive this week - or at least give whomever the Miami quarterback is this week time to at least look at a receiver (more than they had last week).
2 - Miami Starting Quarterback. The Dolphins' quarterback position takes on more of a story this week, thanks to the offensive line's performance last week. Starting quarterback Matt Moore was limited in practice on Thursday and Friday, attempting to recover from a head injury, and is listed as "Questionable" ahead of today's game. If Moore comes out on the field, how sharp will he be, and will the offensive line find him the time to find the open receiver. If he isn't able to go, the story at the quarterback position becomes even better, as the Dolphins will turn to former Bill J.P. Losman to run the offense. Bills fans will remind Losman of is struggles with their franchise - and it could get ugly for the eight year veteran.
3 - Buffalo's Ryan Fitzpatrick. Earlier this season, Fitzpatrick signed an extension with team and was dominating the QB Rating schemes. He seemed to be everything the Bills needed in a quarterback. Since then, the Bills have fallen apart, and Fitzpatrick's play has suffered along with the rest of the team. This past week, Bills head coach Chan Gailey was having to defend his starter. In Week 11, the Dolphins held Fitzpatrick to 51% completions, with two touchdowns. He finished the game with his second lowest QB rating of the season with a 45.8 (only behind his 31.0 performance last week). If Fitzpatrick doesn't come out and play like he did early in the season (when he was about 75 QB rating for the first 7 weeks, and the Bills were 5-2 on the year), Miami should be able to capitalize on the embattled quarterback.
4 - Reggie Bush. Bush is just 230 yards away from his first career 1,000 yard season. With three games to go, Bush must average 76 yards per game in order to reach the milestone. Bush was held to just 32-yards against the Bills in Week 11, but will be looking to have increased success this week. With the Dolphins' quarterback position in flux, look for Miami to turn to their starting running back early and often.
5 - Miami Pass Rush. The Dolphins got to Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick early last week, but seemed to lose momentum as the game progressed. In their first meeting with the Bills' the Dolphins constantly pressured Fitzpatrick, leading to two interceptions, two sacks, and four quarterback hits. Fitzpatrick never settled into a rhythm against Miami, and the final score reflected that. Th Dolphins must get pressure onto Fitzpatrick every play, and they can't slack off as the game progresses.
Four weeks ago, the Dolphins completely demolished the Bills. There's not been a whole lot seen from the Bills over the month to suggest any sort of adjustments by the team, and this could quickly return to the Dolphins' favor. However, if Miami starts J.P. Losman at quarterback, the advantage could be sliding back to the Bills.
Before i give my final prediction, I invited Brian Galliford of Buffalo Rumblings to give me his prediction for the week. Asking what each team has to do to win, and what the final score would be, Galliford replied:
"Miami wins if they show up and play hard. Buffalo wins if they don't. Dolphins 31, Bills 16."
I can't really disagree with Galliford here. I think the Dolphins have the ability to continues the beat down from the two team's Week 11 game. However, this could very easily swing back to Buffalo's favor, as the team could fail to perform for interim head coach Todd Bowles, and Moore could be unable to play, resulting in Losman's start. We shall see shortly which Bills - and which Dolphins - team is able to show up for this week's game.
Prediction: Miami 28 - Buffalo 10
Record Predicting Dolphins Games: 6-7 (Streak - 1 Incorrect)
Record Predicting All NFL Games: 133-75