1:00 PM ET, December 22, 2013
Ralph Wilson Stadium, Buffalo, NY
Despite the lingering distraction of the bullying scandal, the surging Miami Dolphins have a chance to reach the playoffs for the first time in five seasons.
Looking for a season-high fourth consecutive victory, the visiting Dolphins can possibly clinch that playoff berth Sunday while trying to avenge an earlier loss to the Buffalo Bills, who will be without their starting quarterback and top receiver.
Miami (8-6) opened with three straight wins then dropped four in a row prior to the scandal involving teammates Jonathan Martin and Richie Incognito that drew front-page headlines across the country. The investigation into the matter continues.
Instead of folding, the Dolphins have won five of seven. With victories over Buffalo (5-9) and the New York Jets at home next weekend, Miami would head to the playoffs for the first time since 2008.
A win Sunday and losses by Baltimore and Cincinnati would clinch that postseason berth sooner.
"We are fighters," quarterback Ryan Tannehill said. "We've been through a lot. Guys are tough and are able to handle anything that happens on the field."
Tannehill has completed 64.6 percent of his passes for 843 yards, eight touchdowns and two interceptions during Miami's three-game run, made up of road victories over the Jets and Pittsburgh as well as Sunday's 24-20 home win over AFC East-leading New England.
Mike Wallace has three TDs in four games and topped the 100-yard receiving mark for the second time during that span with six receptions for 105 against the Patriots.
Miami allowed an average of 28.5 points during its four-game slide Sept. 30-Oct. 27, but has yielded 18.4 over the last seven. Tom Brady threw for 364 yards with two TDs last weekend, but rookie safety Michael Thomas intercepted him on fourth down with seven seconds left to seal the victory.
Miami held Buffalo to 268 yards but recorded only 293 during a 23-21 home loss Oct. 20. Tannehill threw three TDs but was picked off twice, one of which was taken back by Nickell Robey for the game's first touchdown.
Ex-Dolphin Dan Carpenter made three field goals, including the winner with 33 seconds left as Buffalo overcame a four-point deficit after three quarters.
"Every game is important, and certainly this one coming up against the Buffalo Bills is very important," coach Joe Philbin told the Dolphins' official website. "We've attempted to approach each and every game the same way.
"We're going to take a look at obviously what (Buffalo did) the first time."
Looking to win a third straight away from home, Miami has a chance to go undefeated on the road in December for the first time since it went 3-0 in 2008. The Dolphins had won three of four in Buffalo before losing 19-14 there last Nov. 15.
A sprained right knee kept Bills rookie quarterback EJ Manuel out of the October game against the Dolphins, and a left knee injury will keep him from playing Sunday. Thad Lewis, who went 21 of 32 for 202 yards with an INT and no TDs while getting sacked four times at Miami, will make his fourth start of the season and first since Oct. 27.
In danger of a fifth straight season of double-digit losses, Buffalo looks to win consecutive games for the first time since Sept. 16-23, 2012, after defeating Jacksonville 27-20 last week.
"We'll look to do whatever we have to do to win because it's critical for us to win," coach Doug Marrone said. "And I think when you win, you learn a lot from that."
Stevie Johnson had one catch a day after his mother passed away, and he'll miss this contest while remaining with his family.
Buffalo forced three turnovers against the Dolphins in October and recorded four against the Jaguars. The Bills, however, have allowed an average of 149.0 rushing yards over the last five games.
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|Avg Points Allowed||21.0||23.6|
Team Averages & NFL Ranks
|TEAM OFFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|TEAM DEFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|Pass Yds Allowed||MIA|
|Rush Yds Allowed||MIA|
Head to Head Matchups (Since 2001)
|Buffalo leads 14-12|
|Oct 20, 2013||MIA 21, BUF 23|
|Dec 23, 2012||MIA 24, BUF 10|
|Nov 15, 2012||MIA 14, @BUF 19|
|Dec 18, 2011||MIA 30, @BUF 23|
|Nov 20, 2011||MIA 35, BUF 8|
|Dec 19, 2010||MIA 14, BUF 17|
|Sep 12, 2010||MIA 15, @BUF 10|
|Nov 29, 2009||MIA 14, @BUF 31|
|Oct 4, 2009||MIA 38, BUF 10|
|Dec 7, 2008||MIA 16, @BUF 3|
|Oct 26, 2008||MIA 25, BUF 16|
|Dec 9, 2007||MIA 17, @BUF 38|
|Nov 11, 2007||MIA 10, BUF 13|
|Dec 17, 2006||MIA 0, @BUF 21|
|Sep 17, 2006||MIA 6, BUF 16|
|Dec 4, 2005||MIA 24, BUF 23|
|Oct 9, 2005||MIA 14, @BUF 20|
|Dec 5, 2004||MIA 32, BUF 42|
|Oct 17, 2004||MIA 13, @BUF 20|
|Dec 21, 2003||MIA 20, @BUF 3|
|Sep 21, 2003||MIA 17, BUF 7|
|Dec 1, 2002||MIA 21, @BUF 38|
|Oct 20, 2002||MIA 10, BUF 23|
|Jan 6, 2002||MIA 34, BUF 7|
|Nov 25, 2001||MIA 34, @BUF 27|
Ryan Tannehill was sacked or put under duress on 15 of his 34 dropbacks Sunday (44 percent). Tannehill hadn't been pressured on more than 32 percent of his dropbacks in a game this season. Tannehill was 2-of-8 for 15 yards when under duress Sunday.
Ryan Tannehill was 0-of-10 on passes more than 10 yards downfield Sunday. He's the first quarterback since Matthew Stafford in 2009 to attempt at least 10 such passes without a completion. Matt Moore didn't do much better for the Dolphins, going 1-of-5 with both of his interceptions on passes more than 10 yards downfield Sunday.
The Dolphins' 103 total yards of offense today vs the Bills was their 3rd-worst output in franchise history.[+]
Dolphins Fewest Total Yards - Franchise History
ESPN Stats & Information