It all comes down to this.
The Miami Dolphins are matched up against their division rivals, the Buffalo Bills, for the last game of the NFL’s regular season with the playoffs on the line.
Miami Plays in Buffalo Hoping to Clinch AFC Wild Card Playoff Spot in NFL’s Final Week
They’ll be in Buffalo facing the 12-3 Bills who have already won the AFC East and have clinched a postseason berth. The Dolphins (10-5) currently sit in the No. 5 seed of the expanded seven-team playoff format, but are accompanied by four other teams with identical records fighting for three spots (and a divisional title). The Tennessee Titans, Indianapolis Colts, Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns are all in play and all have scenarios to move on for a chance at the Super Bowl.
If all of these teams were to win this weekend, it would be the Colts taking a long offseason, but should one of these teams lose and the rest win, they’ll be the ones missing the postseason. But of course, each team has multiple scenarios that jump then into the dance, or out of it. To ensure their trip to the postseason, the Dolphins need to win their day-trip to Buffalo.
“Yeah, I know the rivalry, I know it well. I think every game is important to the fans on both sides,” Miami head coach Brian Flores said. “Obviously this is a division game but the Dolphins fans, the Bills fans, these are diehard fans who root for their teams through thick and thin, so every game is important and this one’s no different.”
Tua Tagovailoa Starting, But Backed Up By Not Too Familiar of Faces
Flores will again start rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa in the Dolphins’ final trio of must-win games, but will be backed up by a new face after Ryan Fitzpatrick tested positive for COVID-19 earlier in the week. QB Jake Rudock will officially back him up, with Miami adding insurance at the position, activating Reid Sinnett as well and putting him on the plane to Buffalo.
Tagovailoa Can’t Be Bailed Out By Fitzpatrick on Sunday
Dolphins fans can only hope Tagovailoa doesn’t struggle in this one. Despite starting the last nine games for the Dolphins, with a record of 7-2, he came out last week against the Las Vegas Raiders after not amassing 100 passing yards into the fourth quarter. Fitzpatrick nearly doubled his yardage totals in the final 10 minutes, led multiple scoring drives and ended up eating a facemask call with 19 seconds left in the game to set up the Dolphins’ game-winning field goal.
Tagovailoa Must Show “Season’s Teachings” in Must-Win Game
Now, that’s not an option. Tagovailoa must show what he has been taught by his veteran mentor and put all the rumors and doubts to rest by getting Miami to its postseason appearance.
“I’d say for me, there’s really no extra added pressure. I would say the expectation for myself is very high in how I perform and how I go out there and try to lead the guys to victory,” Tagovailoa said. “Obviously this past weekend (in Las Vegas), I didn’t play to that standard. It’s more so me knowing that we’ve got to go out there and got to get the job done. If you can’t get the job done, then that’s on you. That’s on no one else.”
Josh Allen, Stefon Diggs Having Career Years for Bills
For the Bills, their QB has taken a large leap and found his footing. Josh Allen has been having a hot season with 34 touchdowns and averaging more than 300 passing yards per game. He has benefitted from Buffalo’s offseason acquisition of wide receiver Stefon Diggs, who leads the team and league in receptions, as well as receiving yards. He has also linked up with WRs Cole Beasley and John Brown (when Brown is healthy), giving Buffalo its first reliable three-WR set for the first time in years.
There is some question on whether Buffalo is planning to play its starters as well, especially with the Pittsburgh Steelers (12-3, below Buffalo in the playoff picture) announcing they are benching their starters. However, Bills head coach Sean McDermott said the team will keep that information will not be released until game time. Likely in order to make their division rival prepare for all as it already has the added pressure of qualifying for the playoffs.
Miami Dropped First Season Meeting to Buffalo, But Has New Roster Now
Miami lost to Buffalo by three in week two, but was working with nearly half of its starters coming in as new faces. The Dolphins won’t have all of their original starters who began the year due to injury, but will have most guys who have been playing in the lineup for the latter part of the season.
Van Ginkel Snap Count Expected to Increase
The only real change is linebacker Elandon Roberts (leg) won’t play and will likely be replaced by LB Andrew Van Ginkel who has rotated positions this season. His wrecking-force presence will be heaving needed (and wanted) by Miami on Sunday.
DeVante Parker, Jakeem Grant Still Questionable
Miami will also take No. 1 and 2 wideouts DeVante Parker and Jakeem Grant to Buffalo but are officially questionable for the game. Parker has been a game-time decision the previous two weeks, but his surprise absence last week, and no real progress this week, makes his play shaky at best tomorrow. Grant on the other hand, who is dealing with a plethora of injuries, actually seems more likely to play at this point.
Miami Needs to Rely on Multiple WRs, Myles Gaskin
Additionally, the Dolphins should rely on running back Myles Gaskin against a poor Buffalo rush defense. And, even more so if it’s snowing in Buffalo, especially for its Hawaiian QB who has seen snow just once, he said.
With playoffs on the line, all five AFC Wild Card hopefuls kickoff at 1 p.m. eastern.
Kayla Morton contributed to this article.
– Kayla Morton is the Managing Editor for Full Press Coverage Miami Dolphins. She is also a co-host on the Full Press Fantasy Podcast. Like and follow on Follow @northdakayla74 Follow @FPC_Dolphins and Facebook.