Dolphins try to play spoiler against Bills
MIAMI - For the first time since 2004, the Buffalo Bills enter the last weekend of the regular season still alive for a potential playoff spot.
The Bills (8-7) visit the Miami Dolphins (6-9) at Hard Rock Stadium on Sunday. The Dolphins are out of playoff contention but are in a position to play spoiler against a Bills team that beat them just two weeks ago.
As for the Bills, a win would not guarantee them their first playoff berth since 1999. The Bills would also need a loss by the Baltimore Ravens against the Cincinnati Bengals or losses by the Los Angeles Chargers and the Tennessee Titans. The Chargers play host to the Oakland Raiders, and the Titans play host to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
"If we don't win, it's not going to matter," Bills coach Sean McDermott said of his team's long-shot playoff hopes. "We need to focus on the task at hand."
The Dolphins, who have now missed the playoffs 14 of the past 16 seasons, haven't seemed very focused lately, losing seven of their past nine games.
In last week's 29-13 loss at the Kansas City Chiefs, Dolphins coach Adam Gase and standout receiver Jarvis Landry engaged in a sideline shouting match.
Both, though, have since downplayed the encounter.
"I wasn't yelling at Adam," Landry told The Miami Herald. "I was talking to Adam."
Gase seemed to indicate it was more than just talking, but he also said that such incidents are not uncommon.
"It's part of the game - it just happens," Gase said. "It's not the first time."
The Bills, who are favored by three points, have played fairly well lately, winning three of their past five games. The only two losses during that span came against the New England Patriots.
Buffalo has eight players on injured reserve, including left tackle Cordy Glenn and defensive end Shaq Lawson, a 2016 first-round pick who had four sacks in 11 games this season.
In addition, the Bills list starting guard John Miller as questionable - he has missed the past six games due to an ankle injury.
Miami has 14 players on injured reserve, including six projected Opening Day starters. Two key players listed as questionable for Sunday are running back Damien Williams and rookie cornerback Cordrea Tankersley.
Williams, who has a separated left shoulder, is Miami's best pass-catcher out of the backfield. Tankersley, who has impressed this season as a third-round pick out of Clemson, has missed the past three games due to an ankle injury.
The Dolphins offense, missing starting linemen Jermon Bushrod and Ja'Wuan James, tight end Julius Thomas and original starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill - all due to injuries - has struggled to score and to hold on to the ball.
Miami is 28th in the league in points and 30th in turnovers lost.
The Bills' defense, meanwhile, is sixth-best in interceptions, and Buffalo is 6-1 when it forces at least two turnovers.
Buffalo's defense is vulnerable to the run, ranking 30th in the league. But Miami is last in the league in rush attempts and hasn't shown the tenacity to stick with the ground game on a consistent basis.
One curious trend for the Bills is that they have scored a combined total of just nine second-half points in their past five games, excluding an overtime touchdown that beat the Indianapolis Colts.
"We struggled early in the year scoring in the first half," Bills offensive coordinator Rick Dennison told BuffaloBills.com. "Now we're scoring early and not scoring late. We'll try to make adjustments, but it will come down to executing every play and being consistent."
The Bills rank 26th this season with just 9.3 points per game after halftime, and that could open up opportunities for Miami.
Buffalo's offense hasn't been a force, ranking 24th in the league in scoring. But Miami's defense ranks 28th in points allowed.
Sunday's game likely will be the final game as a Dolphins player for quarterback Jay Cutler, who is 6-7 as a starter this year and has a 19-14 touchdowns-to-interceptions ratio. Cutler was signed this past summer after Tannehill suffered a season-ending injury.
Other Dolphins players to watch include running back Kenyan Drake and Landry. Drake, a second-year pro, took over as a starter midway through the season and is averaging 4.8 yards per carry. Landry, meanwhile, is playing for a new contract and has 103 receptions, 895 yards and a career-high eight touchdowns.
The Bills are led by running back LeSean McCoy, who has rushed for 1,128 yards, six touchdowns and a 4.1 average. He had 96 yards from scrimmage in Buffalo's 24-16 win over Miami two weeks ago.
Updated December 27, 2017