Thursday Night Football Preview: Buffalo Bills @ Miami Dolphins

Bills rookie receiver Sammy Watkins already has 5 touchdown receptions on the season

This weeks edition of Thursday Night Football pits the AFC East rival Bills against the Dolphins in a crucial mid-season match-up, with both teams currently well off the pace in the division but right in the thick of the wild card race. With identical 5-4 records a defeat for either would be near-fatal to their post-season hopes, while the victor would remain in the thick of the play-off hunt. Keep reading to find out what to watch for on both sides of the ball.

When Buffalo has the ball…
After E.J Manuel was replaced at quarterback by Kyle Orton the Bills offense improved dramatically, with Orton’s emphasis on ball security and more accurate arm helping to bring the best out of rookie receiver Sammy Watkins. Watkins has 617 yards receiving on the season and five touchdowns, a good haul from a first year player performing within an unstable offensive environment. Even though C.J Spiller went down early in the season the Buffalo running game has been solid if not spectacular, with Fred Jackson picking up much of the load. Jackson is unlikely to play tonight, however, with Bryce Brown expected to pick up much of the slack for the Bills. Defensively Miami have been up and down in 2014, with their shutout of San Diego two weeks ago undoubtedly the high point. Cortland Finnegan and Brent Grimes are one of the better cornerback pairings in the NFL for Miami, while Cameron Wake is an outstanding pass rusher who already has 8.5 sacks on the season.
Edge: Miami

When Miami has the ball…
After putting up 37 points against the Chargers Ryan Tannehill and the Dolphins offense came crashing back to earth against Detroit’s elite defense, registering just 16 points. Tannehill has shown great improvement this season after some inconsistent play in previous years, however rumoured tensions between offensive co-ordinator Bill Lazor and several senior offensive players don’t bode well as the season reaches a critical stage. Knowshon Moreno was lost for the season early on, meaning the rushing load has fallen on Lamar Miller’s shoulders. Miller was hobbled for the game in Detroit, however, which limited both his and the Dolphins overall offensive production. The Buffalo defense has quietly emerged as one of the best in the league, with a pass rush led by all-pro defensive tackle Marcell Dareus and former number one overall pick Mario Williams, plus a secondary boasting ball-hawk Leodis McKelvin.
Edge: Bills

Special Teams
Bills kicker Dan Carpenter is reliable and one of the best legs in the league, while the Buffalo return game was hurt when star kick returner Spiller went down for the year. Caleb Sturgis has been accurate when kicking from within 40 yards for Miami, but his accuracy has dipped from longer distance as he’s made just 5 of 8 attempts. Dolphins return man Jarvis Landry has given Miami good field position on a consistent basis.
Edge: Even

Injury Report
Running back Fred Jackson is questionable for the Bills, while rookie wideout Sammy Watkins is probable to play. For Miami, quarterback Ryan Tannehill and running back Lamar Miller are both probable, while talented tight end Charles Clay is questionable with a knee injury.

Prediction
Bills 19, Dolphins 18

Who do you think will win tonight’s TNF match-up? Tweet @fredjstanley with your opinion or leave a comment

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