Dolphins Host Final Home Game Against Bills, Hope To Keep Playoff Hopes Alive.


Photo by: Richard C. Lewis/Icon SMI

At 6-8 the Miami Dolphins are fighting for the chance to be lucky enough for a Wild Card position in the 2012 NFL Playoffs. While not mathematically out of the post-season, it will take a lot of help in the form of other teams losses. Not only would it take other teams to lose, the Dolphins will have to win both of their remaining games, so a loss to the Bills this weekend would mean the end of any playoff hope. The Dolphins are coming off a “laugh-er” of a victory against a Jaguars team lead by the familiar Chad Henne; but can the Phin’s offense perform at the same level against a better defense? Read on to find out.

Wednesday Injury Report

Miami Dolphins 
Did Not Practice
WR Davone Bess (back)
CB Nolan Carroll (knee)
LB Koa Misi (ankle)
DT Randy Starks (non-football)
RB Daniel Thomas (IR)
TE Charles Clay (IR)
K Dan Carpenter (IR)

WR Brian Hartline (back)

Full Practice
S Chris Clemons (neck/ribs)
LB Karlos Dansby  (biceps)
SCB Jimmy Wilson (hip)

Buffalo Bills
LB Arthur Moats (IR) (ankle)

Did Not Practice
TE Scott Chandler (foot)
WR Marcus Easley (hamstring)
G Andy Levitre (knee)
CB Leodis McKelvin (groin)
LB Chris White (hamstring)
DT Kyle Williams (ankle)

DE Mark Anderson (knee)
LB Nick Barnett (knee)
CB Justin Rogers (foot)
C Eric Wood (knee)

Full Practice
FS Jairus Byrd (foot)
DT Marcell Dareus (knee)
TE Lee Smith (back)
RB C.J. Spiller (shoulder)
CB Aaron Williams (knee)
DE Mario Williams (wrist)

Dolphin’s Offense vs Bills Defense

After a strong performance against the Jaguars, The Dolphins offense looks to repeat. It could prove tough to do so however, as the WR core has seemingly taken another hit. Brian Hartline was limited on Wednesday’s practice report, and was also absent at thursday’s practice. All this points to a possible starting WR core consisting of Marlon Moore, Rishard Matthews, & Armon Binns. It is safe to say you may see Thigpen and Bush line up in the slot again, in order to take some pressure off the unproven WR’s. Another notable injury to the Dolphins offense is TE Charles Clay, who has been put on I.R. for a knee injury he received last week. Dolfan’s should expect to see the debut of rookie TE Michael Egnew. Daniel Thomas is also on I.R., and Lamar Miller will likely receive his snaps. Will Tannehill be able to keep a unit (made of backups) together?

The Buffalo Bills operate a base 4-3 defense, similar to the Dolphin’s defense. Buffalo has some serious power on the line with guys like Mario Williams, Kyle Williams, Marcell Darius, & Kyle Moore as the starters. Mario Williams, the starting defensive left end, is a ferocious talent, whom offensive lines must account for. Overall he is currently rated as the the 13th best 4-3 DE in the league, even with the slow start he had at the start of the season. Williams is also considered the 14th best run stopper at his position.  “Super Mario” Williams has accounted for 11 sacks, 7 QB hits, & 31 QB hurries this year, which makes him the 17th best pass rushing 4-3 DE around. Last time he faced the Dolphins in week 11, he was able to accumulate a sack and 3 hurries going against Jonathan Martin (then a RT). This week he will be going against Nate Garner, who has been efficient in relief of Martin’s extradition back to LT. Meanwhile J. Martin will have to deal with a lesser known DE named Kyle Moore, who is filling in for the injured Mark Anderson. Moore is rated as the 22nd best pass rusher and the 58th best run stopper, which has him ranked 39th overall among 4-3 DE. Moore was actually able to put together a very impressive day against the Dolphins in week 11, creating an impact of 1 sack, 1 hit, & 3 hurries on Tannehill. The Dolphins may have to rely on their run game more this week with the WR situation, but is it a good idea to run up the gut? Last time the Dolphins faced the Bills they were limited to just 60 rushing yards. DT Kyle Williams played a significant role in that effort. Williams is currently rated the 14th best interior d-lineman at stopping the run. Kyle is no one trick pony though, as he is also 4th best at applying QB pressure from the interior. Mike Pouncey, Richie Incognito, and John Jerry need to all have good days blocking for the run, if the Dolphins wish to have a successful ground game.

The Bills LB trio does not particularly strike fear into a QB as a pass rush threat. The ILB, Kelvin Sheppard has been very effective at rushing the passer, but is barely used to do so. He has been the best ILB to rush the QB, but he only rushes the passer on 10% of his passing snaps (which equals out to about 18 pass rush snaps) accounting for the 8th lowest percentage at the ILB position. The 2 OLB Nick Barnett & Bryan Scott both are rarely sent after the QB, and are no real threat when they do so. Scott & Barnett are however both top 20 at stopping the run, while Sheppard is underwhelming at 48th. Sheppard’s redeeming quality however is the coverage he provides over the middle, and is rated as the 4th best ILB in coverage.

Hopefully Tannehill remembers Jairus Byrd at safety, because Byrd made a great interception on Tannehill in the last meeting. Byrd was able to get from over the middle to the sideline while the ball was in the air, to scoop the pick away from Davone Bess in the 4th quarter. Byrd has been on fire in 2012, having not allowed a single TD and has 5 INT’s. He is having such a good year that has him rated as the 2nd best Safety overall, and nominated him into their picks for the ProBowl. The perimeter CB’s Stephan Gilmore & Justin Rogers, are both a little pedestrian in coverage. They have allowed a 90.4 and 88.9 passer rating this year respectively. When the Nickel package comes out, Rogers moves to the slot and Aaron Williams plays perimeter, and poorly at that, allowing a near perfect 134.7 passer rating.

Dolphins Defense vs Bills Offense

Bills fans must be accustomed to seeing poor deep passes by now, as  Fitzpatrick is still one of the worst at throwing them. He has been accurate on 26.7% of his deep attempts, and attempts them 10% of his throws. Only Christian Ponder has been worse throwing deep this year. Additionally, Fitzpatrick has average accuracy while under pressure, being so on 61% on those attempts. The key to beating Fitzpatrick is to apply pressure and limit him on short zones. Fitzpatrick had a pretty accurate day against the Dolphins earlier this year, completing 76.9% of his passes; though he did not take a single shot over 15 yards.

QB protection is always paramount, but the offensive line is not the issue in Buffalo. They are currently ranked as the 4th best pass blocking line in the NFL. Cordy Glenn protects Fitzpatrick’s blindside, and is the 32nd best Tackle in the league. He is far from an elite pass blocker so J. Odrick or O. Vernon need to make sure they take advantage of the opportunity  Cameron Wake will be lined up across Sam Young who has only started the last 2 games. In that time period he has gone up against Chris Long and Chris Clemons, only allowing a combined 1 hit and 2 hurries. Can he keep that up against Cam Wake? Kraig Urbik plays RG and is considered to be the 8th best pass blocking G in the NFL, only allowing 2 sacks, 1 hit, and 7 hurries. Andy Levitre is opposite Urbik, but protects Fitzpatrick even better. He is considered to be the 2nd best pass blocking G, and has only allowed 2 sacks, 3 hits, and 6 hurries in 138 more snaps. Erick Wood mans the middle in top 10 fashion, but barely, at #10 on’s rankings for pass blocking efficiency. The Bills line are not truly impressive at run blocking (20th best), but next you will find why they don’t need to be.

The Bills have a wildcard that can keep them in any game. His name is C.J. Spiller, and if the Dolphins defense is not careful he will run by them again. In week 11 the Dolphins had a hard time containing Spiller, and he accumulated 91 yards on 22 attempts (4.1 ypc) while making 8 Dolphins defenders miss a tackle. He has been, by far, the most elusive RB this year and has caused 55 missed tackles on 161 attempts. Spiller also has a propensity for big gains, as 41.5% of his 1,047 rushing yards have come on runs of 15+ yards.

Buffalo has some decent weapons in the receiving game to be aware of. Most notably, Steve Johnson. Johnson has a reputation to expose man-on-man style CB’s with his ability to shed press coverage and find the open hole. He has easily had his most success going against guys like Darelle Revis, & Richard Sherman. The key to stopping Johnson however is to not play man, but instead throw a complicated zone at him. Johnson seems to be lackluster when playing against zone coverage’s due to heavy improvisation in his routes (the same that help him so much against man coverage). Johnson currently has 6 TD catches and 891, though Fitzpatrick has also thrown 6 interceptions while targeting Johnson. Johnson’s play-style causes Fitzpatrick to have to process more information on the fly and it causes mis-communications at times.


The Dolphins enter the game with some mostly unproven, but interesting, young players. As many as 6 potential targets for Tannehill can be considered unknowns, with many of them being rookies. Can Tannehill carry the passing game? The Dolphins should aim to install a run heavy game-plan and utilize Tannehill impressive ability in play-action. They should also try to cover the flats and 10-15 yard passing range. Don’t worry to much about the deep pass, and disrupt the timing of the routes with some bump-&-run coverage. If you can limit Spiller, and apply pressure to Fitzpatrick and this offense shouldn’t be able to do much. The Bills will not have their punt returner that arguably won the game for them last time, so the offense will have to perform this time around. I’m not convinced the Dolphins will be able to stop Spiller, and I’m afraid of our CB corps allowing another decent performance passing.

Final Score: 21-17 Dolphins win.

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