The battle for third place in the AFC East resumes on Sunday as the Miami Dolphins travel to Buffalo to face Rex Ryan and the Bills. Both teams will be looking to get their seasons back on track after looking like post-season contenders during the offseason.
The Dolphins fired head coach Joe Philbin after a poor start, and interim head coach Dan Campbell has gone 2-1 and revitalised Miami. They still failed to trouble the Patriots for the AFC East, and have a lot of ground to make up after a 1-3 start.
Buffalo have struggled with injuries at times this season, forcing Rex to be a little too creative on defense as well as turning to E.J. Manuel a few times. The Bills are 3-4 and are coming off a bye week after losing a close game to Jacksonville at Wembley.
Three Keys to the Game:
- Buffalo’s injuries
In Tyrod Taylor’s absence, the Bills have struggled. The quarterback has practised all week and is listed as probable for Sunday’s game. LeSean McCoy is fully healthy and backup running back Karlos Williams is also probable after recovering from a concussion. Rex Ryan expects Sammy Watkins to be back, despite the wide receiver missing Friday’s practice. Safety Corey Graham is also back, as is Mario Williams. The Bills will need as many healthy stars as they can to make a second half playoff push.
- Can the Dolphins bounce back?
The main difference between Philbin and Campbell is energy. Joe Philbin was a calm, calculating head coach, but Campbell has the respect of the players and brings a tough player mentality to the Dolphins. After a 36-7 loss to the Patriots, Philbin would’ve slumped even further. But Campbell looks like a coach who will bounce back even stronger. He has the personnel available. He just needs to start winning again.
- Has Rex figured out the defense?
Despite having the best defensive personnel he has had in a team, Rex has sometimes struggled to deploy the Bills properly as his predecessor Doug Marrone did. Mario Williams recently made comments about Rex’s defense, and the Bills have been defeated by high powered offenses like New England, Cincinnati and the New York Giants. Has Rex figured out a better way of using his personnel? The Dolphins are a good team to get back into the rhythm against.
Matchup to watch
Lamar Miller vs LeSean McCoy With McCoy returning to health in recent games after struggling early in the season, he will become front and centre of the Bills offense for the second half of the year. Miller also struggled early under Philbin, but has been Campbell’s main weapon since taking over, averaging 101 yards per game over Campbell’s three games. McCoy has averaged 60.8 yards per game over five games this season, but has looked better in recent weeks. Both running backs will be key to the game.
With Cameron Wake out, the Dolphins might struggle to regain their swagger; but they have a better quarterback, and arguably a defense that is as strong as the Bills’. Miami’s problems stemmed from an attitude problem, while the Bills still likely have issues with Ryan’s defense scheme. Expect a close game, and Miami to come out on top.