The Sports Xchange
Miami Dolphins (3-4) at Buffalo Bills (3-4)
Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET, at Ralph Wilson Stadium, Orchard Park, N.Y. – TV: CBS
*TV announcers: Spero Dedes, Solomon Wilcots
*Keys to the game: Both teams are in the midst of critical stretches, with Miami 1-1 in the heart of a stretch of four of five games on the road and the Bills beginning a three-game stretch that includes the Dolphins, a Thursday night road game at the Jets and a Monday night tilt at New England.
The Dolphins have made a strong commitment to the run under interim coach Dan Campbell, but the Bills are well-rested coming off their bye and allow 3.8 yards per carry. QB Ryan Tannehill can get in a groove with the help of a solid ground game. Conversely, he tends to make poor reads when pressured on long passing situations and has RT Jason Fox replacing injured Ja’Wuan James (toe) – unless RG Dallas Thomas is moved outside. One of Buffalo’s biggest issues has been the massive dropoff from the pass rush (11 sacks) with several players struggling in their roles under new coach Rex Ryan. Has a week off to work on adjustments helped?
Buffalo gets QB Tyrod Taylor (knee) back in the lineup, and the hope is he’s healthy enough to take advantage of his mobility. RB Karlos Williams (concussion) also returns to help lead back LeSean McCoy attack a defense allowing 124.4 rushing yards per game. However, WR Sammy Watkins (ankle/calf) remains uncertain and the Bills’ other receivers have really struggled to gain separation and make an impact when he has been out of the lineup.
*Matchup to watch – Dolphins DE Derrick Shelby vs. Bills RT Seantrel Henderson: Shelby doesn’t have any sacks in seven games as a reserve this season, but is thrust into a critical role following the season-ending injury to Cam Wake. He will be spelled by Terrence Fede and potentially Chris McCain, a converted linebacker who has been inactive in three games under Campbell but provides strength as a pass rusher.
*Player spotlight – Bills DB Leodis McKelvin: The veteran is set to make his season debut after suffering a broken ankle last November, but Ronald Darby is playing well in his old starting spot. So McKelvin is expected to see most of his action in the slot and could see snaps at safety while also contributing on punt and kickoff returns.
*Fast facts: Dolphins P Matt Darr, an undrafted rookie out of Tennessee, leads the NFL with a 50.0-yard gross average. … McKelvin’s 26-yard career average on kickoff returns is second in franchise history (Terrence McGee, 26.33) and his 1,000 yards and three touchdowns on 92 punt returns both tie franchise records.
WHO WILL WIN AND WHY
The second level of the AFC is mired with mediocrity, but this could amount to an elimination game and it’s difficult to predict either team from week to week. We’ll take the healing Bills at home and coming off a bye week by a very slim margin.
*Our pick: Bills 24-23.