The Bills and Dolphins in December. This game is what fueled the feud with Miami during the Kelly/Marino era. Fast forward a couple decades and these are two teams headed in different directions. The Bills are officially out of the playoffs for the 13th consecutive year, extending their record-setting post season drought. The Dolphins, on the other hand, are showing some life as a real contender for an AFC wild card spot. Rookie quarterback, Ryan Tannehill, continues to surprise people with his poise in the pocket and ability to hit his targets. Tannehill is proving he can be a starter in the NFL, whereas Ryan Fitzpatrick is proving that he shouldn’t have been named the Bills’ starter to begin with. Both teams have struggled this season, but only one has a chance to play in January. So, here we sit in a familiar position. It’s time for the Bills to play the spoiler. The question is; are they even good enough to do that?
From a statistical stand point, the Dolphins look to be the better team. Not only do they have a better record at 6-8, but they also don’t get blown out quite as often. Miami’s 2 biggest losses were to Tennessee, with a differential of 34 points, and Houston, with a differential of 20. Other than that, their losses have been pretty close (3-14 points). The Bills, however, have been blown out 5 times, losing those games by a total score of 335-85. This is the Bills’ 4th season in the history of the franchise with over 400 points allowed. Three of those seasons have been with Chan Gailey at the helm. Conversely, the Dolphins head coach, Joe Philbin, has kept his team focused and has actually made progress in only his first season.
The last time these teams met was the mandatory Thursday night game back in November. The Bills edged Miami 19-14 and then went on to lose 3 of their next 4 games to the Colts, Rams and Seahawks. Miami lost 2 of their next 4 but, they were to the 49ers and Patriots, beating Seattle. If the roles were reversed, you could have made an argument for the Bills having the weaker schedule, but you don’t have to since they’ve developed a habit of losing to bad teams. In actuality, the Dolphins had a similar schedule to the Bills. The one thing they did differently is that they finished games.
Over the last 13 horrifying seasons, regardless of the coach or quarterback, the Bills have had an issue with finishing games. Time and time again, they’ve let a team come back from an early lead or they’ve strung together turnovers, allowing the other team to capitalize on their mistakes. Just this season, how many times has Fitzpatrick thrown and interception on a last minute drive? (The answer is 3, but who’s counting?) The Dolphins used to do that too but they don’t anymore. They seem to be more disciplined and, even though they aren’t putting up great numbers on offense, they aren’t letting games slip through their fingers.
The only real shining star for the Bills is CJ Spiller. Last week, Spiller hit the 1,000 yard milestone for the first time in his career. With Fred Jackson out for the remainder of the season, Spiller is the man. The biggest problem the Bills have faced this year is Chan Gailey’s refusal to play Spiller the way he deserves to be played; as a starter with over 20 carries a game. He’s only been allowed to do that once this year. That was the last time Jackson went down with an injury before the Thursday night game against Miami. Spiller was a wrecking ball in that match up, tallying 130 total yards. The following week he racked up 107 on the ground against Indy. After his 103 yard, one touchdown performance last week, Gailey would be a fool not to give him 30 touches a game. But, as we know, Gailey is a fool.
This game means nothing, but we’ll still be watching. With the blackout looming for next week’s matchup with the Jets, this may be the last televised game of the season. Besides, there’s something interesting about watching a turtle try to flip over from its back when it knows there’s no use. But, most of all, we’re Bills fans. This is what we do.
– Josh Paufler
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