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Bills-Dolphins Scouting Report: LeSean McCoy has run hot and cold against Miami

When the Bills run: Buffalo has not been very efficient running the ball, averaging just 3.95 yards per carry, which ranks 27th in the NFL. Things have been better the last two weeks though, as the Bills have been run dominant, carrying 81 times for 379 yards (4.7 yards per carry) in wins against the Jets and Jaguars. Quarterback Josh Allen did the most damage on the ground against Jacksonville, setting a franchise single-game record for rushing yards at his position, with 99 on 13 carries. The Bills know they have to be smart about how much they run Allen, though, because he took a few big hits at the end of those runs. Allen ranks eighth in rushing yards by a quarterback this season despite missing four games. LeSean McCoy has run hot and cold against the Dolphins in his Bills career, with three games of 16 rushing yards or less and two games with 110 yards or more. Miami has been bad against the run, allowing 139.8 yards per game, 29th in the NFL. EDGE: Bills.

When the Bills pass: Undrafted rookie receiver Robert Foster has emerged the past two weeks as a big-play threat for the Buffalo offense, with five catches for 199 yards. His ability to stretch the field vertically has been a much-needed addition. Foster and fellow newcomer Isaiah McKenzie are making serious pushes for jobs in 2019. That’s a positive development considering how much change is needed at the position. Allen missed a few throws against the Jaguars, including an easy one on a wide receiver screen, but was more accurate than his 8-of-19 passing performance would suggest. The Bills have climbed out of the basement in passing yards per game, ranking 31st with 159.8. There is still a mile to go to even get to 30th, though, which Tennessee occupies at 190.6 yards per game. EDGE: Dolphins.

When the Dolphins run: Ageless wonder Frank Gore has taken over as the Dolphins’ go-to running back. The NFL’s No. 4 all-time leading rusher, Gore is averaging 4.54 yards per carry this season. That’s the most in NFL history for a player age 35 or over (with a minimum of 100 attempts). Nobody even 33 or older has done that on at least 100 carries, according to the Dolphins. According to analytics website Pro Football Focus, Gore has 177 rushing yards after contact and 13 forced missed tackles in the past three games. Kenyan Drake is a solid No. 2 running back. He’s rushed 89 times for 408 yards and has Miami’s four rushing touchdowns this season. The Bills were a mess against the run early against Jacksonville, allowing 173 yards in the first half. They’ll have to clean that up Sunday. EDGE: Even.

When the Dolphins pass: Ryan Tannehill returned to the lineup last week off a shoulder injury and played well. He went 17 of 25 for 204 yards and two touchdowns against the Colts after missing five games. Tannehill, though, has traditionally struggled against the Bills. In nine career games, he has a 3-6 record and has thrown 12 touchdowns and eight interceptions, with a passer rating of 77.5. The Dolphins’ leading receiver is veteran Danny Amendola, who has 48 catches for 469 yards and one touchdown. Kenny Stills provides the deep threat, averaging 16.6 yards per catch. The Bills have held their last three opponents to less than 200 net passing yards. If they do it a fourth consecutive game, it will be the first time that’s happened since 2013. EDGE: Bills.

Special teams: Maybe the third time will be the charm. The Bills released punter Colton Schmidt, again, this week and signed former Miami punter Matt Darr. He’s been out of the league since being cut by the Dolphins before the start of the 2017 season – a good indication of how desperate the Bills are at the position. Darr was replaced in Miami by Matt Haack. He’s punted 57 times this season, fourth most in the NFL, and averages 40.1 net yards. Rookie kicker Jason Sanders is 16 of 17 on field goals for the Dolphins, a 94.1 percent conversion rate that is tied with the Bills’ Stephen Hauschka for sixth in the league. The Dolphins lost standout return man Jakeem Grant in Week 10 and are still looking for an adequate replacement. EDGE: Dolphins.

Coaching: Dolphins coach Adam Gase put on a clinic of coaching not to lose against Indianapolis, and predictably it led to the Dolphins blowing a fourth-quarter lead. Gase didn’t trust Tannehill on a pair of third-and-10 plays, electing instead for give-up draw plays. Tannehill isn’t great, but he was playing well enough to trust him in that situation. Bills coach Sean McDermott had to like the way his team responded to the brawl against the Jaguars. The momentum turned after that. Defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier made some solid adjustments to the game plan at halftime after his defense gave up a boatload of rushing yards, while offensive coordinator Brian Daboll continues to do a nice job with his play calling. The jet sweep to McKenzie and quarterback draw by Allen that went for touchdowns were both great calls. EDGE: Bills.

Prediction: Bills 20, Dolphins 17

 

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