Here are my five takes on the Buffalo Bills' game against the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium Sunday:
1. Take control early to promptly extinguish any incentive the Dolphins might have.
The Bills did exactly that when the teams met on Dec. 17 at New Era Field. They built a 21-6 halftime lead that was enough to keep them pretty much in control for the rest of the game.
The Dolphins are out of the playoff picture. They're pretty much counting down what's left of a highly disappointing season. That means it shouldn't take a whole lot to discourage them.
Maybe their coach, Adam Gase, can sell his players on the idea of being a spoiler. He already has made it clear that they're playing for their jobs. But expecting that to carry the Dolphins through an entire game against a team looking to end a 17-year playoff drought is probably expecting too much.
2. Capitalize on another batch of interceptions from Jay Cutler.
Cutler threw three in the previous meeting. And the Bills' defense was fully anticipating that level of generosity. Safety Micah Hyde, in particular, was counting on Cutler's multiple gifts based on the six times he faced him when Cutler was with the Chicago Bears and Hyde was with NFC North rival Green Bay.
Hyde knows Cutler as well as any quarterback in the NFL. He knows he has a tendency to quickly get away from sound mechanics and throw off his back foot. He knows Cutler will sometimes be too confident in his ability to throw into tight spaces.
Expect the Bills to continue to disguise coverages until the final second before the snap — and even a second or two afterward. Cutler struggled with that the last time. The Bills also got decent pressure on him, and he fumbled four times (recovering each one).
3. Get LeSean McCoy rolling from the start and keep him rolling.
McCoy rushed for only 50 yards and averaged a mere 2.5 yards per carry on Dec. 17.
He did make an impact, rushing for a touchdown on the game's opening drive and catching a 16-yard scoring pass late in the first half. But the Bills can't count on only two quarters of McCoy's running and receiving to be sufficient.
They have to impose their will on the ground, which will likely require another strong effort by right guard Vlad Ducasse in particular and the O-line in general to prevent tackle Ndamukong Suh from being his dominant self. Keeping the Dolphins' defense on its heels should help open up opportunities in the passing game, increasing the possibility of difference-making plays.
4. Kelvin Benjamin builds on his breakout performance against the Patriots.
Of course, the most memorable part of what Benjamin did at Foxborough, Mass., was make a spectacular touchdown catch that NFL vice president of officiating Al Riveron somehow saw fit to reverse when watching the replay in Manhattan.
Still, Benjamin gave the sort of performance that provided the most solid evidence to date as to why the Bills parted with a third-round draft pick to acquire the former Carolina Panther. He caught five passes for 70 yards, including one for 35 yards.
Benjamin will need postseason knee surgery, but he has been gutting it out and relying on his sheer size, strength and determination to make plays. He doesn't necessarily have to have big numbers, but a big play or two (such as that TD that was taken away from him) could go a long way toward allowing the Bills to come out on top.
5. Stay focused.
It won't be easy. There will be a great temptation to watch the out-of-town scores, because the Bills can't make the playoffs just by winning.
However, constantly checking to see whether the Cincinnati Bengals are providing assistance by beating the Baltimore Ravens (which is all that's needed) or whether the Jacksonville Jaguars and Oakland Raiders are pitching in by beating the Tennessee Titans and Los Angeles Chargers, respectively, could be a serious distraction.
Sean McDermott's major challenge will be to try to keep everyone's attention on what's happening on the field. But he certainly won't get a whole lot of cooperation from the scoreboard operators at Hard Rock Stadium.