Bills at Dolphins -- Week 16
Where: Sun Life Stadium, Miami (grass, outdoors)
When: Sunday, 1 p.m., ET (CBS)
Spread: Dolphins by 4.5
Forecast: 70 degrees, mild
Records: Bills (5-9; AFC East 1-3); Dolphins (6-8; AFC East 1-3)
Past results: Two most recent meetings -- Nov. 15, 2012: Bills 19, Dolphins 14; Nov. 20, 2011, Dolphins 35, Bills 8. Series record: Dolphins hold a 55-37-1 edge.
What matters: These two teams have gone in opposite directions since their meeting in Week 11, which the Bills won 19-14. In that game, the Bills handled the Dolphins for the most part due to rookie QB Ryan Tannehill’s struggles. Since then, the Bills have lost three of four games and are coming off a 50-17 blowout loss to the Seattle Seahawks. The Dolphins, on the other hand, are 2-2 in their last four games and have put up a fight in each of those performances. They even beat that same Seattle team, 24-21, in Week 12. The Dolphins remain mathematically alive for the playoffs, but at 6-8 their goals for the season likely parallel the Bills’ goals -- they want to show that they are indeed moving in the right direction despite some bumps along the way. For the Bills, that will be hard to do. At 5-9, there are calls for coach Chan Gailey to be fired and QB Ryan Fitzpatrick to be benched.
Who matters: The two RBs, the two QBs and Miami’s banged up WR corps. Bills RB C.J. Spiller has been dangerous whenever he’s had the ball in his hands this year. The problem is he hasn’t received enough opportunities in the ground game. In Buffalo’s Week 15 loss to Seattle, Spiller rushed for 103 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries, but his touches were limited as the game went on because the Bills were forced to stick with the pass. That’s been a recurring theme all season long for the Bills. He had 91 yards on 22 carries against the Dolphins in Week 11 and needs at least 20 touches vs. Miami. Reggie Bush was effectively bottled up by the Bills the first time around (20 yards on 10 carries) but the Bills gave up 270 yards on the ground to Seattle in Week 15. Surely the Dolphins watched the film of that game and it’s possible that they’ll attempt some read-option looks with Bush and Ryan Tannehill. The Bills have stuck with Fitzpatrick at QB despite his many inconsistencies, and he’ll need to perform if the Bills want to end their season on a high note. Fitzpatrick threw for 217 yards and one touchdown against the Seahawks, but also had two ugly interceptions. It will be interesting to see how the Dolphins fare at WR -- starting WRs Davone Bess (back) and Brian Hartline (back) have been out with injuries during the week.
Key matchups: Bush vs. Buffalo’s front seven, Bills WR Stevie Johnson vs. Miami CB Sean Smith. Buffalo’s run defense was making strides over the second half of the season until it ran into a well-oiled machine against Seattle. It’s imperative that Buffalo’s defensive line -- and especially DT Marcell Dareus -- gets back to form against the elusive Bush. LB has been a problem issue for the Bills all year, and they’ll be looking for more from veteran Nick Barnett. Barnett missed a gap against Seattle that led to a 54-yard run by Marshawn Lynch. Johnson hasn’t mailed it in and had a terrific game against Seattle (eight receptions for 115 yards, one TD). He just needs Fitzpatrick to get him the ball.
Injuries of note: C Eric Wood (knee) is looking good to return after missing the past two weeks with a partial MCL tear. “Barring any unforeseen setback, I’ll be out there Sunday,” Wood said after practice Friday. WR Donald Jones (illness) and CB Leodis McKelvin (groin) are out after being placed on IR earlier in the week. DE Mark Anderson (knee) and backup LB Chris White (hamstring) also won’t make it.
Inside stuff: With McKelvin out, it comes down to Ron Brooks and Aaron Williams for the No. 2 CB role. Brooks would appear to be the favorite because Williams is making his way back from a knee injury and played sparingly against Seattle. If Williams gets the call, it’s unlikely that he’ll play the entire game -- the Bills are hoping to limit his snaps unless they have no other choice.
Connections: Defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt was Miami’s head coach from 2000-04, posing a 42-31 record (including postseason appearances). Gailey served as Wannstedt’s offensive coordinator from 2000-01.
Stat you should know: In the first meeting between Buffalo and Miami, the teams combined for just five third-down conversions on 22 attempts. In other words, this could be a low-scoring affair.
Record watch: Stevie Johnson needs 109 receiving yards to reach 1,000 on the season for the third year in a row. He’s already the first Bills WR to ever hit the 1,000-yard mark in back-to-back seasons.
Looking ahead: Bills -- The Bills end their season with a home game against the New York Jets. Both teams are limping to the finish line, to put it lightly. Dolphins -- The Dolphins end their year with a difficult trip to New England. Miami did hold its own against the Patriots in Week 13 in a 23-16 loss.
Prediction: Dolphins 20, Bills 13
For more updates on the Bills, follow correspondent Mark Ludwiczak on Twitter @CBSBills and @MarkLud12.