Week 17 Preview: Miami Dolphins vs Buffalo Billsby Christopher Gallagher January 2, 2021 0 comments
Seeking their first playoff appearance since the 2016 season, the surging Miami Dolphins travel to Buffalo to battle their divisional rival, the Bills. Winners of their last three games, the Dolphins squeaked out a victory over the Las Vegas Raiders in week 16 thanks to late-game heroics from veteran quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. Notching their eighth win in nine games on Monday Night Football, the Bills blew out the New England Patriots 38-9 in a spectacular performance from quarterback Josh Allen. Leapfrogging into the MVP conversation, the 24-year-old tossed four touchdown passes, including three to star receiver Stefon Diggs. With major playoff implications on the line for both teams in the 113th meeting between these two franchises. Here’s the breakdown of this one.
One of the hottest teams in football over the last half of the season, the Dolphins have won nine of their last 11 games, vaulting them into the number five seed in the AFC playoff race. Taking care of business a week ago, the team thrillingly won 26-25 on a game-winning field goal by kicker Jason Sanders. However, once again, Fitzpatrick was forced to come into the game to relieve quarterback Tua Tagovailoa after the rookie finished the game with just 94 passing yards while being sacked three times. With question marks surrounding who should start for Miami in their regular-season finale all week long, the discussion was put to rest after Fitzpatrick tested positive for Covid-19, forcing the longtime Bills member to miss the game.
Miami needs a strong performance out of their first-round pick from a year ago. If they hope to remain stride for stride with a red hot Bills offense, Miami will need to push the ball downfield more in the passing game. Currently ranked 31st out of 36 quarterbacks with just 6.3 yards averaged per throw, Tagovailoa has also put up just under 182 passing yards per game. Turning into one of the best defensive units in football over the last month of the season, the Dolphins are number one in the league in points per game with 18.8. Miami has held three of their last five opponents under 13 points. The team will also need to continue its strong stretch of play in the red zone, ranking top five in both points against and takeaways.
Becoming more and more of a threat to dethrone the world champion Chiefs in the AFC over the past few weeks, the Bills head into this one ranked sixth in the NFL in points per game, second in passing yards per game, and first in third-down percentage. Led by one of the best wide receiving groups in football, star wideout Diggs leads the league in both receptions (120) and receiving yards (1,459). With the number two seed in the AFC all but locked up with Pittsburgh resting starters in their game against the Browns, expect the team to rest both Allen and other offensive players if they begin to pull away from the Dolphins or the Browns begin to blowout the Steelers.
A much-improved unit over the last half of the season, Buffalo’s defense ranks eighth against the pass and 20th against the rush, leading to a 14th overall position. Led in the secondary by pro bowl cornerback Tre’Davious White and safeties Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer, where Leslie Frazier‘s group truly makes their mark is taking the ball away from their opponents as the group is fifth in the league with 22 takeaways through 16 weeks. In addition to this, the Bills have also become one of the highest blitzing teams in the NFL. They send extra men on 38.8 percent of their plays, leading opposing passers to complete just 55 percent of their throws. With Tagovailoa struggling to complete passes at a 60 percent clip this season, expect an aggressive gameplan from Sean Mcdermott and company on Sunday.
Date: Jan 3, 2021
Start Time: 1:00 P.M. est
Location: Orchard Park, NY
Stadium: Bills Stadium
TV Info: CBS
Betting Odds Sponsored by Jazz Sportsbook
Points Spread: BUF -3 (-110) | MIA +3 (-110)
Moneyline: BUF -165 | MIA +135
Over/Under: O 42.5 (-110) | U 42.5 (-110)
At just a three-point spread, take the Bills to cover in a game that should be close all afternoon long. With the Steelers resting both veteran quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and star pass rusher T.J. Watt against the Browns, expect a large chunk of the Bills starters to be out in the second half if Cleveland begins to pull away from Pittsburgh. With backup Matt Barkley expected to spell Allen at some point, and with Miami expected to be without both DeVante Parker and Jakeem Grant, take the under in a low scoring bout.
Needing a win to secure a spot in the playoffs, Miami will look for just their fourth win in Buffalo in the past 16 years. However, the Bills are red hot on offense. They have outscored their opponents by a margin of 173-84 over their last five contests. Look for them to defeat their divisional rival in a low-scoring affair in Orchard Park.
Final Score: Miami Dolphins 17 Buffalo Bills 21
Follow Chris Gallagher on Twitter @ChrisGally06
Main Credit Image: Embed from Getty Images