1. Get ready for the read option. Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill said this week the Dolphins don’t “major” in running the read option, but after watching the Seattle Seahawks and Russell Wilson run all over the Bills last week, they may want to change their focus. The Dolphins have dabbled in the read option in recent weeks, running six plays out of the formation last week against Jacksonville. “We’ve had trouble with that zone-read type of deal and conventional runs we’ve picked it up and played a lot better since our bye week,” Bills defensive tackle Kyle Williams said. “We just have to play a lot better against that because we’re going to see a lot of that.”
2. Reach the end zone. Pretty simple key to victory, right? Well, it wasn’t against Miami in the first game. The Bills scored 19 points on a punt return for a touchdown and four field goals. The Dolphins, in fact, are the best team in the league at limiting opponents in the red zone. In 49 trips to the red zone this season, opponents have scored touchdowns just 19 times. That touchdown percentage of 38.8 is the best in the league. The Bills can help their cause today by giving C.J. Spiller the ball inside Miami’s 20-yard line. They did that last week against Seattle, and Spiller scored a TD.
3. Get off the field. Third-down defense is such a key stat for the Bills. Last week, the Seahawks finished 5 of 11 on third downs, but set the tone early by picking up their first five. In the first meeting against the Bills, Miami went 3 of 10 on third down. That’s part of the reason the Bills dominated time of possession, holding the ball for 10 more minutes. Last week against the Jaguars, Miami was better than 50 percent on third down, going 6 of 11. Three of the Dolphins’ scoring drives went 10 plays or more. The Bills have to get off the field if they’re given that many chances.
4. Control the lines again. The Bills were strong against the run in the first matchup with the Dolphins, limiting Reggie Bush to 20 yards on 10 carries, and the Dolphins as a team to 60 yards on 24 carries. Buffalo also registered three sacks on Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Bills defensive end Mario Williams has a favorable matchup against reserve right tackle Nate Garner. Bush is coming off a 100-yard game last week, but has a tendency to miss holes at times. If the Bills can bottle him up again, the Dolphins’ run game will be hurting, because it’s also without Daniel Thomas (knee injury). Conversely, the Bills rushed for 120 yards on offense. The return of center Eric Wood from a knee injury will be a big boost for the Bills up front. Buffalo’s right tackle Sam Young has a huge test in Miami pass rusher Cameron Wake (14 sacks).
5. Back up their words. The Bills have said all the right things about playing for pride, in support of coach Chan Gailey, for jobs next season, blah blah blah. All those words ring hollow with efforts like last Sunday’s. The Dolphins are an evenly-matched opponent. The Bills have said finishing the season 3-3 in the AFC East would represent progress. That’s debatable.
Outlook: Since their Week 11 meeting with Buffalo, the Fins have gone 2-2 and played San Francisco. It’s overstating things to say they’re peaking, but they’re playing better than Buffalo at the moment.
Prediction: Dolphins 20, Bills 13