1. Get Mario Williams going again The Bills were victorious in their first meeting with Miami thanks largely to Mario Williams’ timely strip sack of Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill. That set up a winning 31-yard field goal by Dan Carpenter. Williams, however, has had just two sacks since that Week Seven victory. He’ll be expected to once again dominate his matchup against tackle Tyson Clabo. Miami benched Clabo after he was dominated by Williams in the first meeting, but regained his job following the Jonathan Martin-Richie Incognito scandal. The Bills have 49 sacks this season – one off the franchise record of 50 set in 1964. The Dolphins have allowed 51 sacks, most in the NFL.
2. Tannehill turning it on. The Bills held Tannehill to his lowest completion percentage of the season in Week Seven, when he went 19 of 37 for 197 yards. In the past three weeks, however, he’s had eight touchdowns and just two interceptions during a three-game winning streak. In that time, he’s also had a passer rating of 103.2. In his second season, Tannehill has a completion percentage of 62.4. He’s thrown 23 touchdowns - nearly double the 12 he had as a rookie.
3. Win the ground game. Miami ranks 22nd in the league against the run, giving up 117 yards per game, and hulking defensive tackle Paul Soliai is nursing an ankle injury. The Bills have attempted more rushes than any team in the NFL, with 460. A windy, wet day calls for another heavy dose of Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller, who is healthier today than he was in Week Seven meeting. Establishing the run should also take pressure off Thad Lewis, who faces his hometown team for a second time this year. The Dolphins have 41 sacks (tied for seventh in the NFL) and 17 interceptions (tied for sixth).
4. Pop one on special teams. Leodis McKelvin is running out of time if he wants to continue his streak of consecutive seasons with a punt return for a touchdown to three. McKelvin ranks just 21st in the NFL with an average punt return of 6.4 yards – a year after leading the league with an 18.7 yard average. He’s returned 28 punts, which is tied for eighth most in the league.
5. Let it rain, let it rain, let it rain. Ok, so maybe it doesn’t have the same ring as “let it snow,” but the Bills need to use the elements to their advantage. Heavy rain is expected this afternoon, and if the temperature dips a few degrees lower than forecast, that could turn to a wintry mix. The Bills have been practicing outside in the elements under Doug Marrone – not to get used to the cold, but the swirling winds inside Ralph Wilson Stadium. As Marv Levy used to say, “when it’s too tough for them, it’s just right for us.” The Bills need to make that the case today.
Outlook: If the Dolphins win out, they’re in the playoffs, so they’ve got a lot more to play for. But this is a good matchup for the Bills, who should embrace the role of spoilers.
Prediction: Bills 27, Dolphins 20