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With Injuries Mounting, Dolphins Hope To Bolster Playoff Hopes In Buffalo

Dolphins Injuries Mounting Twosheffs via Flickr


With Dolphins Injuries Mounting, Buffalo Will Be A Difficult Opponent

Coming off a shocking win against the New England Patriots, the Miami Dolphins are confident. If Miami wins out against the Bills twice and beat the Chiefs, a Wild Card spot is very possible. However, this is an away game. The Dolphins have a history of playing sloppy in weather under 40 degrees (25-31-1), especially in snow. Last week in Buffalo, the snow was so thick, players were not even touching the turf. A solid running game and defense like we saw last week from Miami is the formula to win in cold weather. Kenyan Drake had 200 yards from scrimmage last week, and Jay Cutler is playing some pretty inspiring football. Unfortunately, with the Dolphins injuries mounting; especially on defense; things could get messy.

Weather Will Cause Issues Offensively

The good news for Dolphins fans is that Jay Cutler spent eight seasons in freezing Chicago. On the flip side, Cutler has also expressed his distaste for playing in cold weather. Historically, quarterbacks play better in warm weather. The ball is easier to grip, and wide receivers also catch the ball easier which makes quarterbacks look good.

Last season’s playoff game in Pittsburgh was the last cold game Miami played in with a little snow. With a crisp temperature of zero degrees, Miami was pummeled 30-15. If it does snow, it benefits the defense of both teams. Despite the Dolphins injuries mounting, their offense is arguably superior to the Bills. Alternatively, Buffalo’s offense just played in a snowy, windy game and know what to expect. Jay Cutler knows that wind can make or break an offensive game plan.

“I think wind is probably the biggest factor in some of these cold weather games. Snow, rain, 30 degrees, that’s all fine. We’ve got heated benches, heated hand muffs, heated helmet things, so once you get out there, you’re running on adrenaline; but if it’s windy, I think that probably affects QBs more than anything else.” – Jay Cutler

Mind Over Matter

While cold conditions seem mostly negative, anything can happen in the NFL. In 2013, Ryan Tannehill and company walked into Pittsburgh and won a nail-biter in the snow. They clinched a playoff berth in freezing temperatures last season in Buffalo. The snow did not stop Ricky Williams from achieving a career-high 228 yards and Miami franchise record in 2002, also in Buffalo. That game had a reported wind chill of 13 degrees. Anything can happen in any NFL game, and the Dolphins have enough talent to dominate this game.

With that being said, some players will need to adjust to their first cold game of the season. Kenyan Drake grew up in Georgia and played college football in Alabama against southern teams. With the Dolphins injuries mounting, Drake will be asked to carry the load since Damien Williams will be doubtful. A frozen turf will take some adjusting, but Drake should do just fine toting the rock. It is a ‘mind over matter’ mindset in Miami, and that is half the battle.

“Maybe I’m from the school of ‘It’s all about a mindset…If you’re going to worry about it then it’s going to become a factor. I always tell our guys, ’75 percent of you are from the Midwest anyway.’ We’ve all played in this.” – Head coach Adam Gase

Backups Need To Play Smart Football

With the Dolphins injuries mounting, the backups will be crucial in this divisional matchup. Many positions are still in the process of overcoming injuries in thin areas, and the Dolphins are limping into Week 15. Playing 14 straight games with no break is taking a considerable toll on the players’ bodies. A handful of starters and important backups are either doubtful or questionable to play in Sunday’s matchup. Since a few of these players have been dealing with lingering injuries, their backups have gotten quality snaps the past few weeks. Ultimately, defensive tackle is the real concern if Phillips and Suh are not entirely healthy.

OUT: Starting guard Jermon Bushrod is out, adding to an already battered offensive line in a game where the trenches will be pivotal in the game.

DOUBTFUL: With Cutler going down twice this season, backup Matt Moore being doubtful could become an issue. Damien Williams is dealing with an ailing shoulder for the second straight week, but Kenyan Drake should be able to carry the load again. Corner Cordrea Tankersley and safety Michael Thomas are sure tacklers in the defensive secondary and exceptional special teamers. If they cannot go, Reshad Jones and TJ McDonald can hopefully hold up the back-end.

QUESTIONABLE: Andre Branch, Xavien Howard, Jordan Phillips, and Ndamukong Suh are all hitting their stride regarding performance. All four figure to be game-time decisions. Howard has three interceptions in the last two games. Jordan Phillips and Suh in the middle are finally meshing and giving quarterbacks nightmares. Branch is a guy who can get pressure on the quarterback when other linemen command double teams. All these guys will need to give 100 percent even if they are playing hurt.

Will History Repeat Itself?

The Buffalo Bills started the season looking like a playoff team at 5-2. Wins over Atlanta and Kansas City show they can keep up with pretty much anyone in the NFL. Their defense is only giving up only 22 points per game which is middle of the pack in the league. That is an amount Miami can score, but it is a matter of what offense decides to show up on game day. However, the Dolphins should be able to move the ball well up and down the field. Buffalo sits at 23rd in the league giving up 350 yards per game.

Aside from last seasons thrilling overtime win, Miami has not won in Buffalo since 2011. The Dolphins also usually have trouble scoring on what is routinely a tough defense. With a potential playoff berth on the line, the Miami Dolphins need to come out of Buffalo with a win and hopefully a convincing one. There is no more time to figure out the offense, or for the youth on defense to come into their own. Every contest from here on out is a playoff game. Miami (6-7) owns tie-breakers over the Chargers (7-6) and Titans (8-5). Add two wins over Buffalo (7-6) and another over Kansas City (8-6) in the coming three weeks and Miami’s playoff chances skyrocket.

Photo by twosheffs