Miami needs a win in Sunday’s regular-season finale at Buffalo to guarantee its first postseason berth since 2016.
The Dolphins (10-5) can also get into the playoffs with one loss by either the Cleveland Browns, Indianapolis Colts or Baltimore Ravens.
The Bills (12-3) have already clinched their first division title since 1995, but a win would lock up the No. 2 seed in the AFC playoffs.
Miami will be without starting linebacker Elandon Roberts, who suffered a knee injury in last week’s win over the Las Vegas Raiders. Wide receiver/punt returner Jakeem Grant, who suffered an ankle injury against the Raiders, is expected miss the Buffalo game. Three other key Dolphins are questionable: receiver DeVante Parker (hamstring), guard Solomon Kindley (knee) and defensive end Shaq Lawson (shoulder).
For Buffalo, wide receiver Cole Beasley is doubtful due to a knee injury. He ranks second on the team in receptions (82) and receiving yards (967) and has four touchdowns this season.
If Beasley sits, that could open the way for rookie Gabriel Davis and Isaiah McKenzie to get more targets. Starting receiver John Brown (COVID-19 protocol) is already on injured reserve.
At quarterback, the Dolphins will again start rookie Tua Tagovailoa, who was benched in the fourth quarter against the Raiders and replaced by veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick. Even though Fitzpatrick led Miami to victory, Dolphins coach Brian Flores said he is sticking with Tagovailoa as his No. 1.
“Tua has brought us a spark in many other games, but people forget that because they just remember the last thing,” Flores said. “I think Tua has played fairly well. People can disagree. We will agree to disagree in that case.”
Tagovailoa is 6-2 in eight starts this season and has done a good job of avoiding turnovers. His touchdown-to-interception ratio is an impressive 10-2. He is also completing 65.1 percent of his passes for 161.4 yards per game.
At times, however, Tagovailoa has been indecisive, which has led to 19 sacks (sack rate of 7.6 percent).
Fitzpatrick has been sacked 14 times with a sack rate of 5.0 percent, which is a sign that the 38-year-old veteran knows where he wants to go with the ball and gets rid of it quickly.
Overall, Fitzpatrick is completing 68.5 percent of his passes for 232.3 yards per game for 13 touchdowns and eight interceptions. His interception rate is much higher than Tagovailoa’s (3.0 to 0.9).
Fitzpatrick, who has never made the playoffs in his 16-year NFL career, is 4-3 as a starter this season.
For Buffalo, wide receiver Stefon Diggs is the reigning AFC Offensive Player of the Week after catching nine passes for 145 yards and three touchdowns in Monday’s 38-9 road victory against the New England Patriots.
Bills quarterback Josh Allen has 34 touchdown passes this season, breaking Jim Kelly’s previous franchise record. Allen also has eight 300-yard games, which broke the previous team record set by Drew Bledsoe.
So far this season, Allen has passed for 4,320 yards at a completion rate of 69.1 percent.
“The records, this and that, it’s cool,” Allen said. “But the plan is to get us to 13-3 to give us a chance in the playoffs. The records don’t mean much if we can’t get it done.”
That quote ought to answer anyone who doubts the Bills will be playing to win on Sunday.
And a motivated Bills team is dangerous, especially with Diggs, who has already set a franchise record this season with a league-leading 1,459 receiving yards. Diggs, who also leads the NFL with 120 receptions, credits Allen.
“We have a young quarterback who’s balling,” Diggs said.
Buffalo’s top two running backs — Devin Singletary and Zack Moss — both have South Florida roots, and they have combined to rush for 1,153 yards and six TDs this season.
Allen is also a major threat to run, with 418 yards and eight touchdowns. But he has to be wary of turnovers — he has nine interceptions and nine total fumbles (six lost) this season.
–Field Level Media