Who has the edge in Thursday night's AFC East matchup between the Miami Dolphins and Buffalo Bills? Don Banks makes his pick below.
• Last week: 9-4; season: 99-47 (.678)
• Best pick in Week 10: Baltimore 23, Tennessee 10. (Actual score: Ravens 21-7)
• Worst pick in Week 10: Cincinnati 26, Cleveland 20. (Actual score: Browns 24-3)
If either the Bills or Dolphins are to end long playoff droughts and have an AFC wild-card berth in their future -- a scenario I just don’t foresee -- this matchup is a virtual elimination game. Both clubs have challenging schedules over the course of the season’s final six weeks, with Buffalo and Miami each still facing daunting trips to Denver and New England. The Bills also have to play Cleveland and Green Bay at home, while the Dolphins draw visits from Baltimore and pesky Minnesota.
But Buffalo’s situation is even a little more dire than Miami’s, because the Bills are just 2-4 in the AFC compared to the Dolphins’ 4-2 record, and a fifth conference loss would likely spell big trouble for any potential wild-card tiebreakers. The Bills hitting the road for a division game on a short week also doesn’t sound like the recipe for success, no matter what an over-confident Leodis McKelvin might say or think.
Both Buffalo and Miami let victories get away last Sunday, with the Dolphins losing a fourth-quarter lead inside of two minutes at Detroit, and the Bills gagging at home against Kansas City after leading for most of the game. That makes the bounce-back factor even more critical tonight. Strangely, both these teams have been better on the road than at home, with Buffalo’s 3-1 travel mark topping Miami’s 2-2 home record. But the Dolphins do own home wins over the Patriots and Chargers, with a very narrow loss to another quality opponent in the Packers.
The Bills have won four of the past five games in the series, including a thorough 29-10 beatdown of the Dolphins in Week 2 at Ralph Wilson Stadium. But Miami is playing much better ball these days, and has gone 4-2 in its past six games, with only close losses to Green Bay and Detroit marring that run. The Dolphins protecting quarterback Ryan Tannehill from Buffalo’s pass pressure (13 sacks by the Bills in the most recent three games against Miami) is vital, and that job gets more difficult without injured left offensive tackle Branden Albert. The game will be close and probably turns on one mistake, but I like Miami’s mojo at home as the Dolphins squeak one out and all but finish off the Bills.