Wildcard Weekend

It is wildcard weekend, and for once the Miami Dolphins are playing, it has been a long time coming. The only problem is they have to get past the Buffalo Bills in Buffalo with a banged up team that will be missing a number of key starters. What are the chances of Miami progressing to the next round, to be honest, it is slim to none but this is the NFL and things don’t always turn out as expected.

Starting with the injury list, the Dolphins have been limping through the season picking up injuries on a weekly basis, last week was no exception as Raheem Mostert broke his thumb and Liam Eichenberg sustained an arm injury, both players have been ruled out for the matchup. The main headline for the Dolphins however is that Tua remains in concussion protocol, so Skylar Thompson will get his second successive start. As for the Bills, they are pretty healthy, nobody has been ruled as yet, however WR Isaiah McKenzie and DT Jordan Phillips have been listed as questionable following Friday’s practice.

On the face of it, the task in hand seems to be impossible for a team that limped towards the end of the season on the back of a five game losing streak. That doesn’t matter anymore, the main objective was to be one of the last seven teams standing in the AFC and they achieved that. Where they go from here is down to them, but they need to play their best game of the season if they want to continue playing beyond Sunday.

Skylar Thompson has to play the best game of his young career and will have to put some points on the board, it can’t be a repeat of last week as Buffalo will score more than six points, that much is guaranteed, unless Josh Allen implodes and throws numerous interceptions, and the Bills turn the ball over several times. That is unlikely to happen although there have been games where they have been generous, so it isn’t totally out of the question. Thompson has been to tentative at times and has not always seen the whole field, choosing to stay away from the riskier throws and not having faith in the receivers catching the ball. That needs to change otherwise it is going to be a long day for the defense.

What would be a big help is if Jeff Wilson could fill in for Mostert and stop the Bills coming after Thompson. If Buffalo has to respect the ground game, it will take a lot of pressure away from Thompson. In turn it will shorten the game and reduce scoring opportunities for Allen and company. It is a big ask as the offensive line is down to their back up, back up’s which is never a good place to be. They could really do with catching a break and not lose anybody else during the game, otherwise we could see guard Lester Cotton who has been elevated from the practice squad. He joined the team a little over four weeks ago after spending his first his first four seasons on and off the Raiders practice squad with limited action.

On the other side of the ball the defense is going to have to step up and play penalty free football and make the Bills offense work for every yard. That will be easier said than done due to the injuries. It is going to have to start with the line, if they can make Allen uncomfortable it will make the secondary’s life a lot easier, if he has too much time then he will pick the Dolphins apart and it may end up being embarrassing, we truly hope not, but it is a concern.

The Buffalo running game shouldn’t present that much of a problem as we have seen many a running back bottled up during the season. More of a concern is Allen and his infuriating runs that keep the chains moving. This is part of his game that makes him so dangerous and sets him apart from other QB’s. Somehow Josh Boyer needs to work out how to limit the plays where Allen takes off and does real damage.

It isn’t long before we find out if Miami can surprise everybody and spring an upset, it is going to be a tall order, but it only takes a few plays to make a difference, can Mike McDaniel’s team do it?