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Buffalo Bills vs. Miami Dolphins Wild Card preview

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© Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

 

Naturally, the biggest story coming into the week was whether Tua Tagovailoa would be able to play after suffering what may be his third concussion of the season, back on Christmas day. But it won’t be the NFL’s leader in yards per attempt under center. Instead, we’ll see seventh-round rookie Skylar Thompson make his third career NFL start.

 

This small bit of news has drastically altered the outlook of the Buffalo Bills vs. Miami Dolphins Wild Card matchup. With Tagovailoa, the ‘Phins are a dangerous team that can hang with anyone on the scoreboard. Without him? The ‘Phish can easily be squished. 

 

In turn, the Bills have drawn the best playoff matchup in the NFL by far. Consider this more of a tune-up game before the real playoffs begin.

Buffalo Bills vs. Dolphins game details, where to watch

  • Sunday, January 15, 2023
  • Start time: 1 PM ET
  • TV channel - CBS
  • Location - Highmark Stadium, Orchard Park, NY

 

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© Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Keys to the game

  • Forcing Skylar Thompson to throw

 

In San Francisco, we’re seeing another seventh-round rookie, Brock Purdy, lead the 49ers to the playoffs on the back of a phenomenal defense plus a playmaking group of skill position players. Purdy is punching way above his weight, but we haven’t seen Thompson do the same, and there’s no reason to believe this will suddenly change in the postseason.

 

At 6-foot-2, Thompson is physically limited. He doesn’t have a cannon for an arm, yet he’s also struggled greatly with his accuracy. He’s completed just 57.1% of his passes in seven appearances. This would rank as second-worst in the NFL among starting QBs, just ahead of Zach Wilson. 

 

What’s more, Thompson hasn’t even topped 166 passing yards in limited action, and his career high as a rusher is just nine yards. He’s a total non-threat, no matter who his receivers are.

 

Basically, if the Bills can establish their dominance early on, getting a two-possession lead where the Dolphins feel they have no choice but to continue throwing the ball, we like Buffalo’s chances to run away with what should be an easy victory. 

 

  • Containing Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle

 

One would think that having the second and seventh-leading receiver in yards would make life easy for anyone playing QB. For the most part, that is what we saw out of Miami this season. But it turns out there is a stark difference between Tagovailoa and Miami’s backups. 

 

With Miami’s top two quarterbacks either out or set to be in a backup role (Teddy Bridgewater is dealing with a fractured finger and will be backing up Thompson), both Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle know they need to bring their ‘A’ game. We saw this in Week 6 when Hill went off for 177 yards, and Waddle racked up 129. But most of this work was done when Bridgewater filled in for Thompson.

 

In the three games where Thompson saw the most action, neither Hill nor Waddle topped 55 yards. Unless Thompson is forced out of the lineup again, chances are Miami’s passing offense will severely lack explosiveness, giving Buffalo a massive edge.

 

  • Rumbling Herd must not fall for Miami’s BS

 

Head coach Mike McDaniel knows he’s not headed into the third matchup of the season against the Bills at full strength. Expect to see plenty of end-arounds to try and take advantage of the team’s otherworldly speed. But Miami could also go deep into their bag, trying to limit Thompson’s usage.

 

We could even see the Dolphins bust out the wildcat in an effort to get Hill more touches. No matter what, expect the unexpected on Sunday, as Miami knows they will have to pull out all the stops, possibly even some onside kicks and quirky fakes, to try and steal an extra possession. Buffalo will have to have their eyes open, being fully attentive for whatever crap the Dolphins try and pull. 

 

 

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© Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Buffalo Bills vs. Dolphins game prediction

  • This season’s record: Buffalo Bills - 13-3, 1st in AFC East
  • Miami Dolphins: 9-8, 2nd in AFC East

 

We’ll be honest. The Dolphins stand no chance of winning. Not in a straight-up head-to-head battle. But we also know this is football, and all it takes is a few odd bounces, tips, or referee assistance to swing the game’s momentum.

 

Entering a game where we feel arguably more confident than we’ve felt all season, we envision the Rumbling Herd rolling to victory, sending Miami home once and for good. At least for this season. 

 

Vegas lists the Bills as overwhelming -13.5 point favorites. We agree. It’s tough to see how this ends up being anything but a blowout. 

 

Game prediction: Bills 31, Dolphins 17 - Bills victory

 

 

Go Bills!!

 

Related:

Buffalo Bills vs. New England Patriots Week 18 preview

Buffalo Bills vs. Cincinnati Bengals Week 17 preview

Buffalo Bills vs. Chicago Bears Week 16 preview

Buffalo Bills vs. Miami Dolphins Week 15 preview

Buffalo Bills vs. New York Jets Week 14 preview

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