After jumping out to a 3-0 start, Miami has lost two straight and is in danger of falling too far behind the division-leading Patriots. The Bills, also losers of two straight, are coming off a heartbreaking overtime loss to the Bengals and sit at 2-4 and last place in the AFC East.
Meet the Dolphins
The Dolphins' offense has struggled with consistency recently, especially with a rushing attack that ranks fourth-worst in the league. A week after putting up 115 yards on the ground against the Saints, they could muster only 22 yards last week against the Ravens. Lamar Miller has been decent with a 4.2 yard carry average, but has not gotten the carry numbers to be a real difference-maker. Ryan Tannehill has been solid, but is averaging only a touchdown per contest and has thrown five picks. Big-play-threat receiver Mike Wallace has been boom-or-bust, going over 100 yards receiving in two games and under 25 yards in the other three. Tight end/fullback hybrid Charles Clay has emerged as a solid outlet in the passing attack, and is second on the team in receiving yards.
Despite a defensive front stacked with pass rushers like Olivier Vernon, Cameron Wake and rookie Dion Jordan, Miami has failed to put much pressure on quarterbacks in 2013, and has only 13 team sacks through five games. Thanks in part to that lack of pressure, they are allowing nearly 400 yards of offense per game and rank 27th against the pass.
Meet the Bills
With starting quarterback E.J. Manuel out until sometime around Thanksgiving, the Bills have turned to Thad Lewis, who was taking snaps on the practice squad a few weeks ago. Lewis was admirable last week in the loss to the Bengals, putting up 216 yards, two touchdowns and no picks. If he is to continue that success, he'll need support from a running game -- led by the two-headed attack of C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson -- that ranks third in the league and will play an important role in keeping defenses honest.
The Bills defensive front has been as good as the Dolphins were supposed to be. Led by the duo of Mario Williams (eight sacks) and Marcell Dareus (four sacks), Buffalo ranks third in the NFL in getting to the quarterback. That pressure has led to the league's highest interception total (10), though teams are still putting up a solid 271 yards per game through the air. The unit's biggest improvement needs to come in run defense -- their 124 rushing yards allowed per game ranks 28th in the league.
Local Takes: Dolphins
Kevin Nogle at The Phinsider lists poor offensive line play as one of the primary reasons for the Dolphins' recent woes.
The Dolphins have allowed a league-high 24 sacks this year, with every member of the offensive line, as well as the running backs, tight ends, and quarterback Ryan Tannehill, at fault. At the current pace, Tannehill will be sacked 77 times, which would set the record for most sacks on one quarterback in a season.
Local Takes: Bills
Signing Flynn, released by the Oakland Raiders a week ago today, is just the latest in a long line of scrambling moves the Bills have made at quarterback this season. When the team lost Kevin Kolb to a career-threatening concussion and rookie EJ Manuel had minor knee surgery this preseason, they traded for Lewis and signed Matt Leinart, whose tenure was disastrous and mercifully short-lived. Lewis stuck with the team on the practice squad, but he made his second pro start [Sunday] after Manuel went down with a LCL sprain in Week 5 (an injury that forced the Bills to pursue Josh Freeman on the open market and work out names like Pat White and Dennis Dixon). Now, Lewis has a sprained foot, and the Bills have once again scraped the bottom of the barrel for an insurance policy.
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Sounds like Ellerbe practiced. Maybe not during the small portion of the practice media gets to watch, but doesn't mean he didn't workout.— Kevin Nogle (@thephinsider) October 16, 2013
The Dolphins' offensive line has struggled as of late, particularly right tackle Tyson Clabo, and could be in for a long day against Mario Williams and the Buffalo pass rush. That being said, if Miami can limit the Bills' high powered rushing attack, it's hard to expect Thad Lewis to lead this team to victory.
The pick: Miami 24, Buffalo 14
The Dolphins opened as 11½-point favorites, though the line has come back to as close as eight points in some sportsbooks, according to Oddssharks.com.