While the Dolphins still have postseason hopes to cling to, the most likely scenario will involve both the Bills and Dolphins sitting out of the playoffs in January. After a 3-3 start to the season, the Bills' season is two games away from over after they won just two of their last eight to fall to 5-9 and last in the AFC East.
One of their two wins, though, came against the Dolphins as rookie quarterback, Ryan Tannehill had one of his worst games of the season. The first round pick threw two interceptions and managed only 141 yards passing on a Thursday Night Football game against the Bills.
With the playoff hopes very slim for the Dolphins, a better performance from the rookie is a more realistic goal for the Dolphins to look for, while the Bills can hope for improvement from a defensive unit that has allowed the second most points in the NFL through 15 weeks.
Meet the Dolphins
While the playoffs aren't completely out of the question for the Dolphins, the postseason is highly unlikely so the further development of Ryan Tannehill is the most important thing to watch. The rookie first round pick finished with a 123.2 passer rating in a Week 15 victory, connecting for two touchdowns and no interceptions. He was also aided by the play of Reggie Bush who recorded his second 100-yard game of the season and is now just 105 yards away from a second consecutive 1,000-yard season.
On defense, all eyes are on Cameron Wake as the pass rusher needs just a half sack to surpass his career-best for sacks in a season. With 14 sacks, Wake isn't far off from the franchise record for sacks in a season set by Jason Taylor in 2002, but he would need five sacks in the last two games to set a new mark. He's not the only pass rusher, though, as Jared Odrick has brought down the opposing passer three times in the last four games.
Meet the Bills
The Bills have one of the most dangerous weapons in the NFL in third-year running back, C.J. Spiller. However, in 14 games, Spiller averages fewer than 12 carries per game despite the fact that he leads the NFL among qualifying running backs with 6.5 yards per carry. Instead, the Bills turn to quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick often as he is just 65 yards away from a third consecutive 3,000-yard season.
On defense, the Bills have begun to see their offseason investment in defensive end Mario Williams pay dividends. After a slow start to the season, Williams has six sacks in his last five games and became the first Bills player to record a double-digit sack total since the 2009 season. The Bills also have safety Jairus Byrd with a team-leading five interceptions, although it is the run defense where Buffalo is lacking.
Local Takes: Dolphins
Kevin Nogle from The Phinsider says that the Dolphins didn't play up to par in a Week 11 loss to the Bills:
The Dolphins come into this game holding on to the slimmest of playoff chances. They have to avenge the Week 11 loss tomorrow if they are going to continue to hold out hope for a playoff berth and a non-losing season, which would be the first .500 or better performance for Miami since their 11-5 season in 2008. The entire team has to play better against the Bills than the performance they had in Buffalo.
Local Takes: Bills
Matt Warren from Buffalo Rumblings says that a $400 million buyout doesn't necessarily mean that relocation is out of the question:
But in negotiations, there is give and take. To offset that hefty fee, the Bills were able to get a freebie. They can leave with an inconsequential $28 million penalty after year seven. That is my reason for pessimism in this deal. Even at 10 years, the short-term nature of this lease still makes the Bills an attractive candidate to relocate.
Follow the Fun
Be sure to check out SB Nation's team blogs, The Phinsider and Buffalo Rumblings, for more analysis and highlights from the game.
Add these fine follows to your Twitter timeline:
And just think, this was the BEST team that Rex Ryan has had. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!— Kevin Nogle (@thephinsider) December 18, 2012
The Bills have finally worn me down to the point that I don't enjoy watching *any* football anymore.— Brian Galliford (@BrianGalliford) December 16, 2012
Dolphins beat writer, @OmarKelly
Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill remains last when it comes to third-down passer rating. He's got a 65.0 rating on that critical down.— Omar Kelly (@OmarKelly) December 21, 2012
Bills beat writer, @JoeBuscaglia
Is this still a rivalry? Remember when there were fights like this one?
[Dolphins linebacker Bryan] Cox was fined more for spitting. Gardner tried to continue the fight long after it was over, trying to get into the Dolphins' locker room after being ejected to go after Cox and then going twice to the Dolphins' bus and baiting Cox to come off.
Gardner was taken away from the bus by NFL security adviser Charlie Jackson after the first time, then returned later. Cox and Gardner exchanged further unpleasantries around the bus.
''They fined me $7,500 for spitting because the cameras caught me. And this guy was supposedly trying to get into the locker room, and they fine him $5,000,'' Cox told WQAM radio in Miami. ''Spitting is worse than fighting? That doesn't make much sense to me.''
So 1995 Bryan Cox = 2011 James Harrison. Basically.
The pick: 27-23, Dolphins
After opening as 3.5-point favorites, the Dolphins are favored by as many as five points in some books, but 4.5 in most, according to OddsShark.