It’s time to see if the Dolphins can match their best performance of the season from a week ago against the Patriots or if they’ll experience the hangover in Buffalo against the Bills where they’ve routinely struggled to find wins.
Monday night’s 27-20 victory over New England left Miami with a 6-7 record and an outside chance of earning a wild-card berth into the NFL playoffs. A game ahead of the Dolphins in the AFC East with, at least statistically, a better chance of making the playoffs is Sunday’s opponent, the Buffalo Bills.
The Bills are coming off a 13-7 overtime win against the Indianapolis Colts in a game that will be remembered for its snowy conditions and the amount of players utilizing their hands as shovels to clear a path for their respective kickers.
After the overtime win, the Bills find themselves as the sixth seed in the AFC playoff picture, but tied with both Baltimore and Los Angeles at 7-6 with just three games remaining in the regular season.
Sunday’s game, already heightened as a divisional rivalry, is even more meaningful when considering the potential playoff implications and the fact that these two teams match up again week 17 in Miami. With that, here are five players to watch in Sunday’s tilt versus the Bills.
The biggest threat to the Dolphins’ defense on Sunday is Bills’ running back, LeSean McCoy. With Timmons playing in both two- and three-linebacker defensive sets, he’ll be sure to see plenty of McCoy who had 32 carries for 156 yards and the game-winning touchdown last week against the Colts.
Timmons was also utilized in more blitz packages last week against New England, so it seems likely that we’ll see more of the same against the Bills and Tyrod Taylor who seems likely to return from the injury that forced him to miss last week’s game.
Grant saw a nice bump in usage Monday against New England and hauled in a 25-yard touchdown over Patriots corner, Malcolm Butler.
He also had a chance at another long touchdown on a go route from Jay Cutler, but couldn’t complete the catch that would have led him straight to the end zone and ben the final dagger to the Patriots.
It will be interesting to see if the coaching staff continues to get grant onto the field and give him opportunities to take advantage of the speed mismatch he creates against most any defender in the NFL.
If Grant gets lined up on the outside with single coverage and Cutler is given the opportunity to take shots down field, watch out.
Making his second consecutive appearance on this list, Howard is ever so deserving with four interceptions in the last two games.
It was one thing to pull down two of Trevor Siemian passes, but back it up with two more against future hall of famer, Tom Brady, is very impressive. Also, while playing man coverage, Howard was shadowing Brandin Cooks who managed just one reception the entire game, which came against zone coverage when Howard wasn’t the primary defender.
This two-game span should give Howard confidence to know mentally that he can compete with anyone, and while an additional two interceptions shouldn’t be expected this week, it’ll be important for Howard to play well and once again limit the receiver he gets paired up with.
A former member of the Miami Dolphins and a main cog in one of the most entertaining controversies surrounding an NFL team in recent history, Incognito remains a solid offensive lineman who would like nothing more than to knock off one of his former teams.
Incognito draws the task of block Ndamukong Suh, Davon Godchaux, and Jordan Phillips – who’s been playing great but is recovering from a leg injury suffered last week – so he’ll have quite the task at hand against this particular unit of the Dolphins’ defense that has been playing exceptionally well as of late.
In a game where trench play will be crucial, Incognito and his battles will likely have a big impact on deciding the outcome this Sunday.
Tied for third in the NFL with five interceptions, Hyde has been a solid contributor to the Bills 17th-ranked pass defense.
Hyde’s performance will be put to test if the Dolphins’ offense is able carry over the momentum created from the last two weeks. With Cutler coming off a three-touchdown game last week, and the team’s receivers starting to flourish in their roles, Hyde and the Bills’ secondary may have their hands full in a game where weather isn’t as likely to be as much of a factor in contrast to last week’s Bills’ game against Indianapolis.