Dolphins-Bills: Five Things To Watch

Posted Dec 22, 2012

Banged up Dolphins look for win in home finale.

No more home games remain at Sun Life Stadium after tomorrow’s AFC East showdown with the Buffalo Bills, and the Miami Dolphins are hoping to end that portion of their schedule with a winning record.

Miami is 4-3 at home after last week’s 24-3 win over the Jacksonville and a victory over Buffalo would keep its faint playoff hopes alive as well as increase momentum headed into the final game of the season at New England a week later.

Back on November 15th up in Buffalo, the Bills thwarted the Dolphins’ attempt at a road win with a 19-14 victory and the Dolphins want to earn a split in the season series with a little redemption. A win coupled with a Pittsburgh Steelers victory over the Cincinnati Bengals keeps the Dolphins in the mix for the postseason.

Three Miami players landed on Injured Reserve this week – tight end Charles Clay, running back Daniel Thomas and kicker Dan Carpenter. Veteran kicker Nate Kaeding was brought in to replace Carpenter while a handful of backups will step up to fill in the void left by Clay and Thomas on the offense.

Here’s a look at the some of the key matchups and angles for tomorrow’s ballgame in Miami.

Five Things To Watch:

1. What will Miami’s front seven do differently to contain Buffalo running back C.J. Spiller this time around – In the first meeting between these two teams, Spiller rushed for 91 yards on 22 carries for an average of 4.1 yards per carry and caught three passes for 39 yards. The speedy and shifty Spiller managed to break off a 20-yard run and turn a screen pass into a 24-yard gain. “He’s got elusiveness and he’s got speed and he’s got instinct,” Dolphins Head Coach Joe Philbin said. “We can’t have guys lose force, lose contain, however you want to say it and let him bounce the ball because. If he bounces the ball outside and you don’t have the right angles of pursuit you’re really going to be in trouble. We like the guys that are responsible to set the edge to set the edge. We like the other guys to get off blocks and get downhill and tackle the guy. He’s a lot to handle.” The Dolphins pride themselves and being stout against the run so expect them to answer the bell.

2. Which of the Dolphins’ wide receivers and tight ends will step up on an injury-depleted unit – Davone Bess and Brian Hartline combined to catch 10 passes for 99 yards and a touchdown at Buffalo on November 15th, with Bess catching six for 50 and a 2-yard score and Hartline adding four for 49 yards. They accounted for 72 percent of rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill’s completions, but Bess is out of this game with a back injury and Hartline was bothered this week by a back injury. Tight end Charles Clay was placed on Injured Reserve with a knee injury, so there’s a chance rookie tight end Michael Egnew could see his first action of the season. Marlon Moore, rookie Rishard Matthews, newcomer Armon Binns and Marcus Thigpen will be called upon more in the passing game to deliver and Matthews can look back on the fact that he caught his first NFL pass against the Bills, a 19-yarder. So how these players perform with more responsibilities placed on them will be critical to the outcome.

3. How will new Miami placekicker Nate Kaeding handle the elements and the quick turnaround from traveling across the country to sign with the team Friday after not kicking since Week 3 – A few days ago, Kaeding was putting the final touches on his San Diego home for a family Christmas with his wife and three kids. After Dan Carpenter injured his groin and it was determined he would have to go in IR late Thursday, the Dolphins reached out to Kaeding and flew him out on a red-eye Thursday night. He won a quick kicking competition Friday morning, signed a contract and got in one light practice and hasn’t kicked in a game since September 23rd against Atlanta. Kaeding says he’s been healthy since a week before the Chargers released him on October 30th and will rely on his nine years of experience to account for any rust he might have. His 87.0 percent career accuracy makes him the NFL’s most accurate kicker, so if this game comes down to a field goal it will be interesting to see how he responds.

4. Bills defensive end Mario Williams versus Dolphins right tackle Nate Garner After a sluggish start in a new city for the No. 2 overall pick of the 2006 NFL Draft, Williams has come on of late and leads the team with 10.5 sacks. He managed one sack of Tannehill in the Thursday night game at Buffalo back on November 15th when rookie Jonathan Martin was playing right tackle and Pro Bowler Jake Long was on the left side. Martin has since moved over to the left after Long suffered a season-ending triceps injury and Garner, at 6-foot-7 and 325 pounds, has held down the right side rather well in two starts. If he can neutralize Williams and keep him away from Tannehill so that he has time to throw the ball the ball and keep him out of the running lanes for Reggie Bush the Dolphins offense should be able to have more success in this game.

5. How much of an impact can the home crowd have in the last regular-season game of the 2012 season at Sun Life Stadium – This will be the last chance this year for South Florida football fans to see their Dolphins play a home game and it just so happens to be against a division rival in the Buffalo Bills. On top of that, it’s a meaningful December game with Miami still alive for a playoff spot, so those two factors alone should be enough to motivate those in their seats to get loud when Buffalo has the ball. This is the type of game where any advantage is a welcome one so the Dolphins will be relying on their fans to push them to back-to-back wins for the first time since October.

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