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Pregame primer: 5 things to watch when Bills visit Dolphins

So it comes down to this for the Buffalo Bills.

Beat the Miami Dolphins on Sunday and get some help around the league, and a 17-year playoff drought will be over. You know the scenarios by now, but once more here they are: A Buffalo win coupled with a loss by Baltimore against Cincinnati gets the Bills in the playoffs. The other path for the Bills includes beating Miami and then having the L.A. Chargers (against Oakland) and the Tennessee Titans (against Jacksonville) either lose or tie their games. So that we’ve covered every scenario, if the Bills tie Miami, they could get in with a loss by the Chargers and Titans.

Here are all the details you need for the game, plus five things we'll be watching for:

• TV: CBS. Announcers: Andrew Catalon (play by play), James Lofton (color analyst).

• Radio: Bills Radio Network. Buffalo-WGR 550 AM; Toronto-Fan 590 AM; Rochester-WCMF 96.5 FM and WROC 950 AM; Syracuse-WTKW 99.5 FM and WTKV 105.5 FM. Announcers: John Murphy (play by play), Mark Kelso (color analyst).

• Series history: Dolphins lead 59-43-1.  The Bills can finish with a winning record for just the third time since the 1999 season with a win.

• Bills injury report: Out: CB Shareece Wright (concussion). Questionable: C Ryan Groy (illness), WR Deonte Thompson (shoulder). Dolphins injury report: Doubtful: LT Laremy Tunsil (ankle), QB Matt Moore (foot), RB Damien Williams (shoulder). Questionable: TE MarQueis Gray (hip), DE Charles Harris (thigh), LB Neville Hewitt (hamstring), S T.J. McDonald (shoulder), WR DeVante Parker (ankle), S Michael Thomas (not injury related), CB Alterraun Verner (hamstring), DE Cameron Wake (illness).

• Point spread: The Bills are 2.5-point favorites at footballlocks.com.

• Did you know? Bills safety Jordan Poyer is the only player in the NFL with 90-plus tackles, at least four interceptions and at least two sacks.

• Next up: Either the first playoff game since January 2000 or the cleaning out of lockers Monday. Stay tuned.

Here are five things to watch against the Dolphins:

1. Can the secondary do it again? The Bills are 7-2 this season in games they win the turnover battle. That includes the Week 15 win over Miami, when Jordan Poyer, Shareece Wright and Tre’Davious White recorded second-half interceptions of Dolphins quarterback Jay Cutler. Outside of playing spoilers, Miami has nothing to play for Sunday. It’s fair to wonder which Cutler, then, will show up. Cornerback E.J. Gaines will also be back in the lineup for Buffalo, which is 7-3 in games he’s played this season and 1-4 in games he’s missed because of injury.

2. Are we seeing the last of Kyle Williams? The heart and soul of the locker room, Williams could be playing his final game with the Bills after a 12-year career. His teammates would love nothing more than to get Williams to the postseason for the first time in his career. The veteran defensive tackle has pushed through a groin injury that has limited his practice time — is anyone surprised Williams has played hurt? — and will be key to the Bills' efforts at slowing Dolphins running back Kenyan Drake.

3. Can Tyrod Taylor go out with a bang? The expectation is that Sunday will be the quarterback’s final start with the team barring a playoff game. It’s a good opponent for Taylor to possibly be going out against. In five starts against Miami, Taylor has thrown for 1,232 yards, nine touchdowns and no interceptions, with a completion rate of about 65 percent. He’s also added 193 rushing yards and two touchdowns on the ground. “I don’t know if I can pinpoint what exactly causes that,” Taylor said of his success against Miami. They’re “definitely a team I like to play against.”

4. Who serves as the No. 2 running back? If there’s one thing all Bills fans can agree on, it’s that they have seen more than enough of Mike Tolbert getting touches. The only other option behind LeSean McCoy, though, is Marcus Murphy. He was promoted from the practice squad this week after Travaris Cadet was placed on injured reserve. Coach Sean McDermott was non committal this week when asked if Murphy was ready to get playing time behind McCoy. “We'll see. He's done a good job, just like he has in the weeks leading up to this week. He stays on the game plan every week, it seems like he's done a good job of it this week as well, so we'll just see moving forward.”

5. If Deonte Thompson is down, can Zay Jones step up? Thompson is questionable for the game with a shoulder injury suffered in Thursday's practice. If he can't go, the Bills need Jones to play a bigger role. After coming on midway through the season, the rookie receiver has disappeared as of late, failing to make a catch in the last three games. That has to change Sunday.

 

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