The Rivalry and Winning Big Games
The Dolphins-Bills rivalry spans generations. The battles of the 1990's carried significant weight in the NFL postseason discussion just about every time these polarizing cities and teams clashed.
In 2020, Miami and Buffalo have a combined 22 victories, the most between the two heading into a matchup since the two sides faced off in the 1992 AFC Championship Game (25 wins combined).
Head Coach Brian Flores is from the state of New York. He's aware of the history between these two teams. He's also aware that both fan bases live and die with their team's results every week, regardless of the opposition.
"Yeah, I know the rivalry. I know it well," Flores said. "I think every game is important to the fans on both sides. Obviously this is a division game; but the Dolphins fans, the Bills fans, these are diehard fans who root for their teams through thick and thin, so every game is important and this one's no different. There's a lot of great players over the years on both sides and I'm just humbled and honored to be a part of it."
Conditions in Buffalo are about what you would expect this time of year – a projected 1-3 inches of snow is in the forecast for Sunday.
"I mean the elements are what they are," Flores said. "I don't see it having much of an impact. I've played and coached in snow before, so one to three (inches) should be okay there as far as play calling and things of that nature. I don't see it being that big of an issue, to be honest with you."
The NFL's second-youngest team is one win away from an 11-win season, a six-game turnaround from 2019 and a postseason berth. Safety Eric Rowe is one of the more-experienced vets on this team, but he says maturity isn't exclusive to those players with experience on this Miami roster.
"It means a lot just coming from where we came from last year to this year having a chance to get to the playoffs," Rowe said. "With the young guys I just kind of tell them like -- actually I didn't have to say much. They kind of matured through the season that it's just a regular game. The game plan, technique, all of that's the same. The only difference is it's the last game of the season."
Winning games this time of year is an all-hands-on-deck operation. All phases clicking symbiotically to create balance and complementary football. The Miami run game has taken off the last two weeks with 380 rushing yards at 5.7 yards per carry.
Dolphins tight end Durham Smythe detailed what Miami can do to keep it rolling in the running game.
"Staying consistent with what we're doing," he said. "It's Week 17. We do what we do. Obviously, there's been an emphasis on improving the run game as the season's gone on and we've seen some results the last few weeks. It's extremely important to be able run the ball this time of year to win games against good teams."
"I've Never Been Around Someone Like Xavien Howard"
Dolphins cornerback Byron Jones appeared on NFL Network's Good Morning Football on Thursday. He discussed his Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year nomination, the transparent nature of Head Coach Brian Flores, and his teammate Xavien Howard among a myriad of topics.
If Howard intercepts a pass in the regular season finale Sunday in Buffalo, it will give him 10 on the season. He would be the first NFL player with double-digit interceptions in a single season since Antonio Cromartie picked off 10 passes with the Chargers in 2007.
His 19 passes defensed also lead the NFL. With two more on Sunday, Howard will match Patrick Surtain's 2000 total, the most in the franchise since the turn of the century.
"(Byron's) not lying," Rowe said. "To have a pick (that many games straight), it got to the point where if he didn't have a pick – like the Patriots game – we're kind of like 'whoa, that's not normal.' To have a guy like that, you can put him on any receiver and he can produce turnovers like that, it's definitely a comfort within the defense."
Jones appeared on Drive Time with Travis Wingfield last month to talk about his nomination for the prestigious award, giving back to the community, and playing with this young, hungry Dolphins team.
A Telling Statistic
Winning in Buffalo would give Miami a six-game turnaround from the 2019 season. It would be the third-best two-year improvement in the win column in the history of the Dolphins (10 games from 2007-2008 and seven games from 1969-1970).
Kyle Crabbs of The Dolphins Wire explored one stat that is typically synonymous with success – margin of victory.
The Miami Dolphins' 2020 margin of victory (MoV) is 6.4 points per game. So, across 15 games this season, Miami is on average nearly a touchdown better than their opponent week in and week out. That figure by itself is important. Only 11 iterations of the Miami Dolphins have been better — and they were all coached by Don Shula and they were all prior to 1986.
Thursday Injury Report and Roster News
The Dolphins placed quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick on the reserve/COVID-19 list and signed quarterback Jake Rudock. Linebacker Elandon Roberts was placed on injured reserve and wide receiver Kirk Merritt was activated as a COVID-19 replacement for Sunday's game.
Limited: WR Jakeem Grant, WR DeVante Parker, DE Shaq Lawson, G Solomon Kindley, S Bobby McCain
DNP: WR Cole Beasley, G John Feliciano, TE Reggie Gilliam
Limited: QB Jake Fromm
Click here for the full Thursday Dolphins-Bills injury report.