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NFL Preview - Buffalo (5-9) at Miami (6-8)



By John McMullen, NFL Editor

(Sports Network) - Dolphins rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill hopes to build on his best game as a professional when the Miami Dolphins play host to their AFC East-rival, the Buffalo Bills.

Buffalo, meanwhile, will be aiming to sweep the season series with Miami for the first time since 2007. The Bills already topped the Dolphins, 19-14, in western New York back in November.

Dynamic Bills running back C.J. Spiller had 130 scrimmage yards in that one and Leodis McKelvin, who was shut down for the season earlier this week with a groin injury, returned a punt return 79 yards for a touchdown. The much- maligned Buffalo defense also limited Tannehill and Co. to 184 total yards.

It's been a mixed bag for Tannehill for most of the season but he comes in to Week 16 on a high note after tossing a pair of touchdown passes as the Dolphins earned a 24-3 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars last Sunday.

Tannehill completed 22-of-28 passes for 220 yards without an interception and also ran for 52 yards on eight carries, compiling a career-high 123.2 passer rating.

Reggie Bush added 104 yards on the ground for Miami, which dominated for most of the second half and scored the game's final 24 points. The Dolphin defense also stopped the Jaguars three times on fourth down inside Miami territory.

"The defense did a great job of keeping the other team out of the end zone," said Tannehill. "They got down there a couple times and we kept them out of the end zone and kept them from kicking a field goal also. I think it's a great win for all of us across the board."

Buffalo, meanwhile, was trounced by another rookie signal-caller last Sunday -- Seattle's Russell Wilson.

Wilson became the first Seahawks quarterback to run for three touchdowns in one game in Seattle's 50-17 drubbing of the Bills at Rogers Centre in Toronto.

Ryan Fitzpatrick completed 21-of-38 passes for 217 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions for the Bills, who were mathematically eliminated from playoff contention for a 13th consecutive season -- the NFL's longest active drought

Spiller carried the ball 17 times for 103 yards and a score for Buffalo, while Stevie Johnson caught eight passes for 115 yards and a touchdown.

The Dolphins lead the all-time series 55-37-1.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

Believe it or not Miami still has a very slight chance to earn a postseason berth by winning out and getting a ton of help.

"It's a crazy league," said Tannehill. "You see a strange situation every year. Anything can happen. We've just got to keep plugging away."

The Bills' struggles start on defense, a unit which is giving up 28.7 points per game -- tied for the most in the league. Buffalo has also allowed 45-or- more points four times, the first team to do that since the 1986 New York Jets. One of the few bright moments for the group came against the Dolphins back in November when it allowed a season-low 184 yards.

Miami remains uneven on offense and scored just 29 points in its previous two games before busting out a bit against Jacksonville.

Consistency is the next step in Tannehill's development and he really needs to show something against a Buffalo defense not exactly famous for its mental toughness.

"The first game that we played up there, as a unit, we didn't perform very well on offense," Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said. "Since then, I think (Tannehill is) throwing the ball a little more accurately as his 60 percent completion rate testify to. I think his decision making (has) gotten better. As you know, the number one criteria here is decision-maker at quarterback and number two is accuracy."

For what it's worth Bills coach Chan Gailey insists he won't be shutting things down and will continue to play his veterans.

"The focus is to win," Gailey said. "We're going to put the players on the field that help us win games. That's the responsibility of an organization, and for me in particular."

That includes the embattled Fitzpatrick, who could be playing for his job next season.

"We all understand the situation we're in right now," said Fitzpatrick. "And I think we all understand the importance of these last two games in terms of effort and the product that we put on the field to show that we have made progress and there is hope with the guys that we have in this locker room."

Fitzpatrick will continue to rely on Spiller, who averages an NFL-best 6.5 yards per carry, and has passed 1,000 rushing yards for the first time in his career, along with Johnson, who needs 109 receiving yards for what would be a franchise record third consecutive 1,000-yard season.

"It's the motivation for now," Johnson told the Bills' website. "First it was get to the playoffs, now since that's out of the picture. Now it's two things really, playing for my coaches, playing for my teammates and a thousand yards. Being the only receiver to have three straight 1,000-yard seasons would be cool. That's what it's come to."

OVERALL ANALYSIS

Buffalo, which will finish 2012 with a losing record for an eighth consecutive season, has lost three of its last four trips to South Florida. Things aren't trending all that well for the Bills this time around either since the Dolphins still have hope, albeit very little, in regards to a postseason berth.

"Our focus is that it's great to have an opportunity to play a divisional rival in your last home regular season game," Philbin said. "(The Bills are) a team that we haven't beaten yet. So I think that's a great motivating factor for our guys."

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Dolphins 20, Bills 17

12/21 10:01:34 ET