BUFFALO, N.Y.—The Dolphins really need this one.
They’ll still be in the playoff picture even if they lose at Buffalo on Saturday, but they’d need a lot of outside help in that scenario. A victory over the Bills would give them a strong chance of making the postseason, and they could clinch it if Denver loses at Kansas City on Sunday.
The first step is winning at Buffalo. Here’s what Miami needs to make that happen:
1. An early lead could end this.
The Bills haven’t quit yet, but this game sets up perfectly for them to lose interest. They know their coach is headed toward unemployment and they don’t have a real chance at the playoffs. It’s going to be cold and miserable Saturday, and a quick 10-0 lead by the Dolphins might be all the reason Buffalo needs to check out of this game.
2. Jay Ajayi needs to get rolling.
Ajayi hasn’t come right out and said this, but it’s clear he thinks he can do more with more carries. Since his three-game outburst, he’s averaged 60.2 yards on 17.3 attempts. He pounded the Bills for a career-high 214 yards in October and needs to hit them hard again, especially to lessen the burden on Miami’s passing game with Ryan Tannehill out.
3. LeSean McCoy needs to not get rolling.
McCoy is one of the best backs in the league and he’s by far the best element of the Buffalo offense. He has accounted for 44.2 percent of the Bills’ total yardage, has 12 touchdowns and averages 5.5 yards per carry. If the Dolphins get a handle on him, there aren’t many alternatives for Buffalo.
4. Xavien Howard and Tony Lippett have to be solid (and healthy).
Miami has gotten by surprisingly well at cornerback this year, but figures to go without No. 1 option Byron Maxwell on Saturday. He injured his ankle last weekend and didn’t do anything in practice this week. One more injury at this position could sink the Dolphins, so they’re banking on Howard and Lippett looking good all afternoon.
5. The Dolphins should keep sending Ndamukong Suh off the edge.
Defensive coordinator Vance Joseph should use all his creativity when it comes to the Dolphins’ most expensive weapon. He’s been using this move where Suh lines up at defensive end, and the Dolphins got a sack out of it last week when Suh and Cameron Wake smashed Bryce Petty. This is a good game to utilize that more often.
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