Top 7 storylines for Bills-Dolphins on Christmas Eve

Top 7 storylines for Bills-Dolphins on Christmas Eve

Overview

murph John Murphy Play-by-play/Host

 

John Murphy looks at how the return of Sammy Watkins, Marcell Dareus, LeSean McCoy and Robert Woods plus the weather can make a difference in this second game against Miami this season.

It’s round two of the Bills-Dolphins series in 2016, two months removed from the first matchup. And deep in December, both the Bills and the Dolphins have plenty at stake in their Christmas Eve contest. Here are the top seven storylines for the week leading up to the Miami game:

1. TWO MONTHS REMOVED FROM THE HARD ROCK BEAT DOWN

It was a shocking collapse for the Bills defense back in week 7. Up 17-6 late in the third quarter, the Bills defense surrendered 22 straight points to Miami. And most of the damage was done by Dolphins running back Jay Ajayi.

He ran for 204 yards against the Steelers the week before and the Bills took note. But using cutback runs and misdirection, Ajayi ran for 214 yards and one touchdown against the Bills. He led the way in Miami’s 28-25 victory in Hard Rock Stadium.

That game still smarts for the Bills. And the game tape from that day was the first thing on Rex Ryan’s agenda when he went to work this week.

“We have to go back and look at how much success they had against us,” Ryan says. “It was a huge day. They had like 450 yards on us. Obviously they controlled that game.  We’ll spend a lot of time looking at that, but also looking at their recent games as well.”

2. HEALTHIER BILLS ROSTER FOR THE REMATCH

The Bills are heartened by having a much healthier roster for the rematch with Miami, especially when it comes to skill position players.

In the October meeting, Sammy Watkinsicon-article-link was still on injured reserve. Robert Woodsicon-article-link missed the game entirely. The Bills started with Marquise Goodwinicon-article-link and Justin Huntericon-article-link at the wide receiver spots, with Brandon Tateicon-article-link coming off the bench.

LeSean McCoyicon-article-link saw limited action against the Dolphins that day as he dealt with a hamstring issue. He came out of the game early in the third quarter and never returned.  And Marcell Dareusicon-article-link was a game day scratch for the Bills as he struggled with his hamstring pull.

All four of them, Watkins, Woods, McCoy and Dareus are ready for action this week. That’s four potential difference makers for Buffalo.

 

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3. WEATHER EXTREMES FROM ONE GAME TO THE OTHER

It was a hot, sticky day in Miami Gardens back on October 23. The game time temperature was 81 degrees with high humidity.

Rex Ryan is looking for some classic Buffalo winter weather this weekend when the South Floridians hit town.

“I hope so,” he said. “It looks like it’s going to be about 40 or something. Let’s get it down to about 20 – that would be great.”

The early forecast for Sunday calls for a high of 36 degrees with a 10 pecent chance of rain or snow. Rex says—whatever.

“Either way it doesn’t matter. We’re going to show them one way or another.”

4. WILL MOORE DO ENOUGH?

A bigger change than the weather will be the Dolphins quarterback change from eight weeks ago. Ryan Tannehill is injured and he’s been replaced by veteran backup Matt Moore.

In his first start in five years last Saturday, Moore was outstanding – throwing for four touchdowns in the Dolphins 34-13 rout of the Jets.

Moore, one of the NFL’s most capable backup QBs, has had success against Buffalo. He led the Dolphins to two wins over the Bills in 2011, the last year he was a regular starter. In those two, Moore threw five touchdowns and no interceptions as Miami swept the season series from the Bills.

5. THE LEGEND RETURNS

In his one season on the Buffalo roster, LB Kiko Alonso quickly became a fan favorite. The Bills second round pick in 2013 won fans with his hard-hitting reckless style and his nose for the ball. The “Legend of Kiko” took flight.

An offseason knee injury kept Kiko out of the lineup in 2014 and he was traded to the Eagles in the spring of 2015 for LeSean McCoy.

Now, Alonso returns to Buffalo for his first game here since his rookie campaign. And he returns playing the best football of his career.

Alonso is ninth in the AFC with 103 total tackles. He had a 60-yard interception return for a touchdown in the final minute of Miami’s win at San Diego back in week 10. He’s got four fumble recoveries this year, tied for most in the NFL.

Even though he’s a Dolphin these days, Kiko’s career resurgence has to warm the hearts of those who bought into his “legendary” status three years ago.

6. ANOTHER FORMER BILL RETURNS

Less legendary, and much less revered, is Miami DE Mario Williams, who returns for his first game in Orchard Park since the Bills let him go last spring.

Williams made it to two Pro Bowls in his four year stint in Buffalo. He has not had much of an impact so far this year with Miami.

He was held off the stat sheet last week against the Jets. He has just 1 ½ sacks this season.

Williams told the Miami media he’s focused on one thing as he gets ready to play in Buffalo on the visitors’ side this Saturday.

“Win the game,” he said. “That’s the biggest thing. We need to win one game at a time, no matter who the opponents are. I’m not the type of person to be hooting and hollering about anything else other than us winning the game.”

7. SHUTTING OUT THE NOISE

For the Bills, the last two weeks have featured national reports about the long term future of Coach Rex Ryan and the future direction of the franchise. But Bills players have already made it clear they’re not paying attention.

Veteran Kyle Williamsicon-article-link was asked if it’s difficult to ignore the media drumbeat about imminent upheaval.

“It’s not very hard for me,” Williams says. “None of that is going to help me prepare to beat the Dolphins. I really don’t pay any mind to it.”