The Miami Dolphins travel to Ralph Wilson Stadium to take on the Buffalo Bills for the NFL’s Week 11 installment of Thursday Night Football. With two teams watching their seasons slowly slip into obscurity, tonight’s game is considered a must-win.
The Dolphins (4-5) are at a low point, riding a two-game losing streak and coming off an embarrassing 37-3 home loss to the lowly Tennessee Titans. While a win on Thursday night would keep them alive in the AFC playoff picture, this team is certainly not ready to hang with the conference’s better teams on a consistent basis.
However, Miami is a young group led by a rookie quarterback. Though there is a nice nucleus surrounding Ryan Tannehill—running backs Reggie Bush, Daniel Thomas and Lamar Miller, and wide receivers Brian Hartline and Davone Bess—it could take a couple of years for everything to come together.
The Bills (3-6) are currently one-upping Miami, entering Thursday night having lost three straight games—including last week’s surprisingly close 37-31 road loss to the New England Patriots. While Buffalo is seemingly out of the playoff race, continuing to build confidence within the offense, along with a solid defensive showing, could really help this team make 2012 a nominal success.
After navigating through their first nine games, including two games with the Patriots and road contests with the San Francisco 49ers and Houston Texans, Buffalo finds a much more manageable slate to close out the season. A few wins could go a long way toward gaining momentum into next year.
Here is one bold prediction for each team, along with fantasy football "beast or bust" candidates in Thursday’s matchup:
Dolphins Rush for More than 200 Yards and 3 Touchdowns
Though being down 21-0 early in the second quarter to Tennessee last week forced the Dolphins into altering their game plan, their failure to capitalize on a porous Titans run defense squashed any chance of Miami winning that game. Not exploiting an even worse Bills unit could pose similar results.
Buffalo enters Thursday night’s game with the NFL’s worst run defense, yielding 163.7 yards per game on 5.5 yards per carry. The Bills have also allowed 16 touchdowns on the ground through nine games. All three marks rank last in the league.
With the combination of Reggie Bush and Daniel Thomas, the Dolphins feature a well-rounded rushing attack—assuming they use it properly. And the matchup with the Bills offers a perfect opportunity to showcase their backfield.
CJ Spiller is Held to Less than 100 Total Yards and Doesn’t Find the End Zone (Fantasy Bust)
With Bills running back Fred Jackson ruled out of Thursday’s game against the Dolphins with a concussion, it is a safe bet that CJ Spiller will get plenty of chances to shine against Miami.
However, the Dolphins defense has been solid against the run all year, allowing just 94.2 rushing yards per game on 3.8 yards per carry. Miami has also only given up four touchdowns on the ground.
Knowing that the Bills will be all-in with Spiller, Miami would do well to throw everything they have at containing the explosive running back.
With Jackson out, it is expected that Spiller will absolutely go off on Thursday night and that anything short of 150 total yards and a score would be a disappointment. With Miami’s already solid run defense keying on him more than usual, fantasy owners are being duped by the mirage of a monster game.
Who wins this game?
Fantasy Beast: Reggie Bush
Bush hopes to rebound from being benched for a case of fumble-itis in last week’s loss to the Titans. Lining up against the league’s worst run defense in Week 11 could be just what the doctor ordered for a quick recovery.
Though Bush has only tallied 293 total yards and two touchdowns on 70 touches in the last five games, even 15 or so plays called his way could result in serious totals against the Bills on Thursday.
Keep in mind that Bush gouged the Bills for 203 rushing yards during a 30-23 victory in Week 15 of last season. That game was coincidentally played in Buffalo as well.
While the Dolphins may not use Bush to the tune of 25 carries like they did that game, their plan of attack should include plenty of work for the all-purpose back.