The Buffalo Bills had a chance to bury the Miami Dolphins in their first meeting.
Back in October, the Bills went to South Florida riding a four-game winning streak. They had the chance to improve to 5-2 on the season, while at the same time dropping the Dolphins to 2-5. Instead, Miami pulled out a comeback victory, using that as part of a stretch of eight wins in nine games that has them on the doorstep of a playoff appearance.
The Bills, meanwhile, lost three straight, and their postseason hopes have lottery-like odds.
Here is everything you need to know about Sunday’s game, plus five things to watch for:
• TV: CBS. Announcers: Greg Gumbel (play by play), Trent Green (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, 58-42-1. Last meeting: Oct. 23, 2016 – 28-25 Dolphins' win at Miami. The Bills are looking for their fifth straight home win against Miami, something that hasn't happened since 1987-91.
• Milestone watch: Mike Gillislee needs 54 rushing yards to reach 500 on the season and join LeSean McCoy and Tyrod Taylor as the third trio in franchise history to record over 500 yards rushing each in the same season (1962 and 2015).
• Uni watch: The Bills are going back-to-back with blue jerseys and blue pants against Miami after beating Cleveland in the Smurf outfits last week.
• Did you know? With three rushing touchdowns, the Bills will reach 30 on the season. That would be the 10th time in league history that a team reached 30 rushing touchdowns, and the first time in franchise history.
• Next up: The Bills wrap up the 2016 season – and possibly the Bills career of coach Rex Ryan – with a trip to New Jersey to face the New York Jets.
Here are five things to watch for against the Dolphins:
1. Will the real Shady please stand up? Running back LeSean McCoy was a shell of himself in Week Seven, trying to play through a hamstring injury before eventually shutting it down. Why the Bills tried so hard to force the issue is a mystery, but McCoy is healthy now, and back to the form that got him named to the Pro Bowl this week. The Dolphins' run defense ranks 30th in the NFL, a glaring mismatch on paper. Expect the Bills to stick with their formula – run McCoy as much as needed and hope Tyrod Taylor can make a play or two when called upon.
2. Does someone seek retribution? Dolphins receiver Jarvis Landry might have ended Bills safety Aaron Williams' career with a vicious crack-back block in Week Seven. The Bills haven't forgotten that hit. "That's a situation that's not going to be dealt with 'til Saturday," cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman told The Buffalo News' Jerry Sullivan during the week. "The game is going to put that in our hands. I mean, we all know that he gets the ball a lot. The game's going to put us in position to make those type of plays on him." While the Bills would surely love to get to Landry, they have to be careful not to take any costly cheap shots, and worry more about defending the 1,000-yard receiver.
3. Can the Dolphins get under Richie Incognito's skin? A pair of social media posts Friday seemed to be in an effort to do just that.
Killer instinct we can tell what's pretend pic.twitter.com/xOA4SN6jSP
— Andre Branch (@BranchNout90) December 23, 2016
Incognito can run a little hot at times, but it's important he keeps his composure. The Bills have beaten themsevles before with penalties, and can't let it happen again.
4. Can Marcell Dareus shore up the run defense? In the two games this season that the Bills have given up a 200-yard rusher, either Dareus or Kyle Williams has been out. It was Dareus who missed the Week Seven game, when Miami's Jay Ajayi piled up 214 yards. Dareus is back now, though, and finding a rhythm, while Ajayi has been held to less than 3.0 yards per carry in three of his past four games. It wouldn't be a surprise to see Ryan make sure above all else that Ajayi does not beat his team again, particularly with the Dolphins starting a backup quarterback in Matt Moore.
5. Does the passing attack look different with Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods? Both of Buffalo's top two receivers were out in that Week Seven game. It's been a tough season for both because of injuries, but Woods said this week that his knee injury is feeling better. The Dolphins are also not expected to have cornerback Byron Maxwell, which should help either Watkins or Woods.