Buffalo Bills vs. Miami Dolphins: Prediction, preview, pick to win

By The Sports Xchange  |  Oct. 22, 2016 at 6:06 AM
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Buffalo Bills (4-2) at Miami Dolphins (2-4)

KICKOFF: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, Hard Rock Stadium. TV: CBS, Tom McCarthy, Adam Archuleta, Kevin Manuel

SERIES HISTORY: 101st regular season meeting. Miami leads, 57-42-1. Buffalo won the last meeting, 33-17. Wide receiver Sammy Watkins had eight receptions for 168 yards, and Karlos Williams (110 yards rushing) and LeSean McCoy (112 yards) crushed the Dolphins defense. The Bills swept the two games last season, have won four of the last five and are 6-2 against Miami in the last four years.

GAMEDATE: 10/13/16

KEYS TO THE GAME: Bills coach Rex Ryan called his offense "boring" this week, but it wasn't a shot at the unit. Buffalo arrives in South Florida with the league's top-ranked ground game and a plus-eight turnover margin. That is a winning formula, even if the passing game ranks 31st and lacks any real pop minus injured wideout Sammie Watkins. QB Tyrod Taylor has thrown only two picks on the season and relies on moving the chains in short-yardage situations. The Bills are more than happy to play a field position game, which puts the onus on Miami's run defense to flip the script. However, McCoy left Wednesday's practice with a tight hamstring, leaving his status uncertain and Mike Gillislee as the potential lead back Sunday.

The Dolphins' passing game has yet to get untracked under new coach Adam Gase, but the much-maligned offensive line did clear the way for RB Jay Ajayi to rush for more than 200 yards against Pittsburgh last week. With QB Ryan Tannehill entering with seven interceptions against six touchdowns as he has been sacked 17 times (despite none last week), Miami might have to beat Buffalo at its own game. The Bills are allowing only 17.2 points per game and enter with six interceptions on the season.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH:

--Bills ground game vs. Dolphins run defense. Miami allowed "only" 128 rushing yards to Pittsburgh, which is well below the average of 147.0 yards per game the Dolphins are giving up on average per game to rank 31st in the NFL. The defensive front tends to struggle with maintaining gap integrity, which is exactly what McCoy is adept at exploiting. Buffalo enters the game leading the league in rushing, paced by McCoy's 587 yards. Gillislee is averaging 6.8 yards with a pair of touchdowns on 17 carries, with Jonathan Williams and Reggie Bush factoring into the mix if McCoy is out.

--Dolphins offensive line vs. Bills defensive line. Buffalo has been more physical in the trenches in winning six of the past seven meetings. Miami rushed for a season-high 222 yards last week while not allowing a sack of Tannehill with the front five showing more cohesion. DT Marcell Dareus (hamstring) still hasn't made his season debut, but would provide even more depth to an already strong unit if he's able to get in on a handful of snaps.

PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Dolphins S Michael Thomas. He'll be tasked with replacing Pro Bowl strong safety Reshad Jones (rotator cuff), a job that probably can't be done by anyone else on the roster. Thomas will have help. Miami interchanges its safeties so FS Isa Abdul-Quddus will also help replace Jones. But this is a huge loss for a Miami defense that had already lost LB Koa Misi (neck/out for season), DT Earl Mitchell (calf) and CB Xavien Howard (knee) for extended stretches.

INJURY REPORT: Buffalo -- Out: T Seantrel Henderson (back). Doubtful: DT Marcell Dareus (hamstring), WR Robert Woods (foot). Questionable: TE Charles Clay (ankle), RB Jerome Felton (back), T Cordy Glenn (ankle), C Patrick Lewis (knee), RB LeSean McCoy (hamstring), CB Kevon Seymour (shoulder), DT Kyle Williams (neck). Miami -- Out: TE Jordan Cameron (concussion), CB Xavien Howard (knee), TE Dion Sims (concussion). Questionable: RB Arian Foster (hamstring), LB Jelani Jenkins (groin), CB Tony Lippett (hamstring), LB Spencer Paysinger (hamstring, calf).

FAST FACTS: Former Bills DE Mario Williams has just six tackles and one sack in his first season with the Dolphins. Lorenzo Alexander, who is playing in Williams' old role in Buffalo, has a league-high 8.0 sacks to go with 25 tackles, two pass break-ups and three forced fumbles. ... Ajayi joined Reggie Bush (2011), Ricky Williams (twice in 2002) and Lamar Smith (2000) as the only Dolphins to rush for 200 yards in a game.

PREDICTION: McCoy's status will be a significant factor, but the Bills have a capable group of backups and this is a difficult matchup for a Miami team that needs to prove last week's strong effort by Ajayi and the run defense wasn't the aberration the season stats would indicate.

OUR PICK: Bills, 19-17.

--Derek Harper

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