For Miami, the game is almost a must-win. The Dolphins sit at 8-6 and are currently seventh in the AFC but tied record-wise for sixth with the Baltimore Ravens, who hold the tiebreaker based on their win over Miami earlier this season. The Dolphins have won four of their last five and if they win out, need only a loss from Baltimore or the Cincinnati Bengals to make the playoffs.
Buffalo is simply playing out the string at 5-9. The Bills are putting their fans through another tough season, not having made the postseason since 1999. It's the longest such streak in the NFL, mostly due to bad personnel decisions.
Meet the Dolphins
Miami is not the most explosive offensive team in the world, but they get the job done. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill is quietly putting together a nice campaign in his second season, throwing for 3,627 yards, 23 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. The picks are a bit high, but Tannehill has been under constant pressure.
The Achilles heel of this unit is the offensive line, which is possibly the worst in football. Without Jonathan Martin and Richie Incognito, the line features two reserves and has allowed a staggering 51 sacks, most in the NFL. The line is also a big reason the running game has sputtered, with Lamar Miller leading the team at only 628 yards.
Defensively, the Dolphins rank 16th in yards allowed. Their specialty is getting to the quarterback, coming in seventh with 41 sacks on the year, led by Olivier Vernon's 11.5. Vernon doesn't have a household name yet, but he is becoming a force in the front seven along with Cameron Wake.
Meet the Bills
Buffalo is a team with talent, but still a group that is struggling to find its way. Much of that inconsistency has to do with the quarterback position, which has seen E.J. Manuel, Jeff Tuel and Thad Lewis get starts this season. Manuel -- the signal-caller of the future -- has thrown for 1,972 yards, 11 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He also has a 58.8 completion percentage, showing potential for the Bills teams to come.
Around Manuel is a solid running game but little else. C.J. Spiller has come up strong as the season continues, gaining 745 rushing yards on 4.6 yards per carry. His partner in crime, Fred Jackson, has continued to be productive, amassing 725 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground.
Buffalo is even better than Miami at sacking the quarterback, pacing the NFL with 49 thanks to Mario Williams, Jerry Hughes and Kyle Williams. The trio has accounted for 29 of the sacks, at 12, 9, and 8, respectively. Rookie linebacker Kiko Alonso has also been a stud, leading the team with 137 tackles (11 for loss) and four interceptions.
Local take: Miami
Kevin Nogle of The Phinsider lays out how the Dolphins can clinch a playoff berth this weekend:
While the Dolphins are taking on the Bills, the Cincinnati Bengals will be hosting the Minnesota Vikings. For the Dolphins to claim the playoff berth, they will need the Vikings to leaving Ohio with a win.
Then, with a 4:25pm ET kickoff, the New England Patriots will visit the Baltimore Ravens. If New England, who the Dolphins beat this past weekend, were to come out on top of the defending Super Bowl champions, the Dolphins would lay claim to the final playoff spot.
Local take: Buffalo
Over at Buffalo Rumblings, the conversation has turned to the future and how the draft might shape up:
Buffalo fans and the organization itself should be in complete evaluation mode, preparing for the 2014 offseason by putting the current roster through their paces. By beating the Jaguars, Buffalo slipped at least one spot in the 2014 NFL Draft order with Tennessee moving into the top ten. Buffalo finds itself in a virtual tie with the New York Giants for the tenth spot in the draft.
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Buffalo is never an easy place to play in December, especially for a warm-weather team like the Dolphins. It also does not help that the Bills have the best pass-rush in football and get to go against the worst offensive line in the NFL. This could be a very serious problem for Miami, who needs to win this game in all likelihood. I'll go with the Dolphins because they need to win so much more, but I do it with one eye open.
Pick: Miami 17, Buffalo 13
Miami is favored by 2.5 points on the road, with an over/under of 43, according to Oddsshark.com.
The Dolphins close out the regular season at home against the New York Jets while the Bills travel to play the New England Patriots.