Beware Of The Trap
By Brian Miller
Trap? Is it? The game against the Buffalo Bills that is. Is this the Miami Dolphins game that stands to be overlooked with the New England Patriots a week away? We will see but one thing is for sure, these Dolphins better not think anything close to it or they will find themselves simply playing New England for pride and nothing more.
The Dolphins are heading north on Sunday to face a Bills team that they basically obliterated earlier in the season. Sitting at .500 on the year and two games out of a first place tie, the Phins could head into their day off on Tuesday with the division and the playoffs sitting in their own hands instead of waiting for something else to play out. See while the Dolphins will have to get by Buffalo on Sunday without looking ahead to the following week, the Patriots will have to get by the unbeaten New Orleans Saints on Monday night. A loss and the Dolphins will control their own fate for the season.
First, they need to get past Buffalo who like Miami is suffering from some serious injuries. Already gone is their head coach, starting OG, back-up guard, and a slew of others in a rash of injuries that are plagueing the team. Still, if there is one thing you can count on is that in the AFC East, nothing is a given. The Bills still have Terrell Owens who despite his infighting still is formidable as a WR when the ball can get to him. He finally showed what he was signed for last week going over the 100 yard mark. Then of course there is Lee Evans who has a history of taking control of a game against the Phins.
The QB situation for the Bills is a back and forth affair. Trent Edwards or Ryan Fitzpatrick? The Dolphins have lost 4 of 5 in November to the Bills and the Bills currently lead the NFL with interceptions (17) so Chad Henne needs to be careful with his throws if he gets in a position to have to use his arm instead of the legs of his running backs. In the first meeting it was a lot of Ricky and Ronnie and now with Ronnie out, the Phins will need to use Ricky and Lex Hilliard to eat clock and try and put the score out of hands early.
The Bills are not playing for anything more than pride and spoiler right now and that is a dangerous combination. The Phins will be without a couple of their starters as Center Jake Grove is doubtful as is backup DT Lionel Dotson. Kendall Langford is also on the report with a non-injury but is not listed as out, doubtful, or probable on the NFL game center listings.
If there is one thing going for these Miami Dolphins is the play of Jason Taylor and the coaching of Tony Sparano. Taylor has more sacks against Buffalo QB’s than any other team and Tony Sparano does not allow his team to focus on anyone but the team ahead. They also have had 10 days to get ready for the game having not played since their Thursday night win at Carolina that put them back to even on the season.
Two weeks ago, I listened to Dolphins’ CEO Mike Dee state that in two weeks the Phins could be back in the hunt with back-to-back wins against Tampa Bay and Carolina. They took care of those games and now stand one game away from the season showdown with the Patriots. While the team can’t look ahead, we can. The Dolphins as stated above will be in complete control of the division and their future with a win against Buffalo and a loss by the Patriots to the Saints. The reason why is simple.
Even with the Phins being only 1 game over .500 should the beat the Bills, they would be one game behind the division leading Patriots whom they lost to earlier in Foxboro. The Patriots and the Phins both sit at 3-1 in the division, the Dolphins would be 4-1 going into the Patriots game and all of their AFC East games would be completed. Meaning that regardless of what happened the rest of the way, the Phins with a split against the Pat’s would have the tie-breaker in the division if the two finish with the same record.
The Patriots should they lost to Miami would be 3-2 in the division and could finish no better than 4-2 while the Phins would be at 5-1. The victory against the Patriots also puts Miami in a “control their own destiny” mode. They can simply win out and take the division regardless of what the Patriots or anyone else did. A large task but not completely out of the question considering that the team faces the Jacksonville Jaguars, Tennessee Titans, Houston Texans, and the season finale against Pittsburgh. At the outset of the season, all of those games were going to be hard wins, now, the Dolphins have shown that with those teams struggles they are winnable contests, albeit tough ones on the road in some cases.
The Phins can not afford to relax at any point this year or their season could be handed back to the Patriots. It comes down to “wantto”. How bad do the Dolphins want this season? For now, they need one thing to happen to gain the upper hand, but before they can truly turn to New Orleans for help, they need to not overlook a dangerous Bills team who has nothing to lose but everything to gain.