Game Preview: Miami at Buffalo
Bills QB Ryan Fitzpatrick
Bills QB Ryan Fitzpatrick

Posted Dec 16, 2011


Todd Bowles will make his head-coaching debut Sunday afternoon when the Dolphins take on the reeling Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Here's a breakdown of the matchup.

WHO: Miami Dolphins (4-9) at Buffalo Bills (5-8)

KICKOFF: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET

SITE: Ralph Wilson Stadium

SURFACE: FieldTurf

TV: CBS, Kevin Harlan, Solomon Wilcots

THE SPORTS XCHANGE PREDICTION: Dolphins, 19-16

KEYS TO THE GAME: Injuries have both teams limping to the finish line. The Dolphins, under the direction of interim coach Todd Bowles, might be forced to play conservative and rely on their defense if LT Jake Long (back) and QB Matt Moore (concussion) sit. Even the Bills' modest pass rush might have success putting heat on backup J.P. Losman, who was sacked five times in 15 dropbacks last week. The Dolphins' defense destroyed the Bills' front five in the Nov. 20 meeting, intercepting QB Ryan Fitzpatrick twice as Buffalo spun its wheels without RB Fred Jackson. That's an ongoing theme the Bills can attempt to solve by isolating WRs Steve Johnson and Brad Smith against single coverage when the Dolphins use a nickel package.

FAST FACTS: Miami's opponents are 15-of-89 (16 percent) when on third-down conversions of 7-plus yards. ... Fitzpatrick has six multiple interception games in 2011.

INSIDE THE CAMPS

Dolphins

The Dolphins don't know the status of the team's starting quarterback and franchise left tackle for Sunday's game against the Buffalo Bills, but if those two players have any influence in the decision both will be playing.

Left tackle Jake Long is nursing a back injury he suffered against the Eagles last Sunday, but this three-time Pro Bowler prides himself on his ironman image, which goes back to his college days at the University of Michigan.

Last season Long played the entire season with a bad left knee, and the final seven games with a separated shoulder. His goal is to play in every NFL game and he hopes to keep that streak going against the Bills.

If Matt Moore has any say he'll be under center for the Dolphins' first snap.

Moore returned to practice Thursday for the first time since he sustained a "mild concussion" last Sunday.

When asked if he could play this week, Moore simply said, "Absolutely."

It was the second concussion of his career, the last coming in the 2010 season opener against the Bills.

"I'm ready to go and excited for the opportunity," said Moore, who has thrown for 1,864 yards with 10 touchdowns and six interceptions this season.

Moore said he underwent the NFL's required procedure for a player who has endured a concussion. That includes passing a baseline concussion test.

"I was a little banged up, obviously," Moore said. "I'm doing good now and that's the most important thing."

Interim coach Todd Bowles said he will treat Moore and Long's situation with caution, monitoring their participation during Friday's session, and Saturday's walkthrough.

But so far, so good.

"(Moore) threw the ball around some," Bowles said. "He looked pretty good. ... We'll get him some reps (Friday), see how he feels and go from there. I think you have to do it with those types of things."

Moore split the reps with J.P. Losman during Thursday's practice. Bowles said he's proceeding with care because Moore has yet to practice in pads or take any hits.

"Just got to see him throw the ball around some and how much can he grasp in the game plan, so all that's playing into it," Bowles said. "We just got to make sure he's all right."

Bills

When Buffalo hosts Miami on Sunday at Ralph Wilson Stadium, they are prepared to face either quarterback Matt Moore or ex-Bill J.P. Losman.

The Dolphins are being coy and cautious concerning Moore's status. But he has been cleared of concussion-like symptoms, took snaps in practice and told reporters in Miami he expects to play.

However, given Miami's 4-9 record there is no reason to force him into action unless he's 100 percent.

"We're preparing for whoever they play," Bills linebacker Chris Kelsay said. "They both are mobile. Matt can scramble, obviously J.P. is known for making stuff happen with his legs when he was here."

Moore burned the Bills for three touchdown passes in a 35-8 Dolphins victory last month. Losman, on the other hand, hasn't started an NFL game since 2008 when he was still with Buffalo.

He was the team's first-round pick in 2004 and played five seasons for two head coaches. Amid the upheaval he played just one full season (2006, 19 touchdown passes) lost his job to Trent Edwards in 2007 and was gone after 2008.

"No clue what's going to happen," Losman told reporters about playing Sunday.

Losman was with Oakland in 2009, played in the United Football League in 2010, then landed a spot on Miami's roster this season.

"To play against them (would be) pretty ironic," Losman said. "I've had a gazillion text messages and voice mails from Buffalo people saying they're going to bring their Losman jerseys."

The Bills may privately be wishing to see Losman. While physically gifted, he struggled in the pocket and was one of the most sacked quarterbacks in Bills history with 103. He also threw 33 touchdown passes vs. 34 interceptions.

Buffalo's pass rush has been anemic: Buffalo has 19 sacks but 10 came in one game vs. the Redskins.

"He's been known to hold the ball which is good for a defensive line that's rushing the passer but they're going to have schemes and plays that are designed for him to excel," Kelsay said. "Defensively we have to be able to counter that and get to him. Again, what J.P. does, what they do with J.P. if he is the one that plays, that's their business. Our business this week is preparing and playing our game against them."

PERSONNEL NEWS

Dolphins

-- LB Koa Misi sat out his second straight practice and has been ruled out for Sunday by interim coach Todd Bowles. It is possible Misi might end up on injured reserve because of the shoulder injury he suffered on Sunday.

-- QB Matt Moore returned to practice on Thursday after passing his baseline concussion tests. Moore expects to play on Sunday.

-- LT Jake Long practiced on Thursday on a limited basis and his status for Sunday's game remains questionable.

-- G John Jerry returned to his usual guard spot after spending Wednesday's practice at left tackle.

-- OLB Jason Taylor will likely start and play more snaps with Koa Misi sidelined.

-- SS Yeremiah Bell had his participation limited because of a turf toe injury he's been nursing for a month.

-- RT Vernon Carey had his participation limited for the second straight session because of a left ankle injury he's been nursing for two weeks.

-- TE Anthony Fasano had his participation limited for the second straight session because of a rib injury he suffered in Sunday's game.

-- CB Vontae Davis practiced without limitations despite a neck injury he suffered in Sunday's loss against the Eagles. Davis played through the injury.

Bills

-- TE Scott Chandler is expected to miss his second game in a row with a bad ankle injury. He did not practice again. Chandler is tied for the team lead with six TD passes and was Buffalo's most effective receiver when it played Miami last month.

-- CB Aaron Williams, who is recovering from a calf injury, practiced fully and will start at left cornerback, coach Chan Gailey announced. That moves former first-round pick Leodis McKelvin back into a reserve role.

-- LB Nick Barnett enters Sunday's game against Miami with a team-leading 105 tackles. The Green Bay free agent has been Buffalo's most consistent defensive player, adding three sacks, two interceptions, three pass breakups and one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.

-- RT Erik Pears' contract extension is for three years and worth $9.3 million, The Buffalo News reported. It comes with $3.85 million in guarantees. Pears has started all 13 games this year and he's signed through 2014.

-- PK Dave Rayner is dealing with a left groin injury but he is expected to play Sunday against Miami. Rayner kicks with his right foot but there are still discomfort issues to deal with and concerns about how effective he can be with his left plant leg. Rian Lindell (shoulder) is on injured reserve.


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