The Buffalo Bills and the Miami Dolphins will square off at 1 p.m. Eastern in a battle for second place in the AFC East Division. The 4-7 Bills enter the game winners of two straight, having entered and exited their bye with wins over the New York Jets and the Jacksonville Jaguars, respectively. The 5-6 Dolphins, meanwhile, are reeling, having lost 6 of their last 8 games after starting the year 3-0.
As with any division rivalry, many of the players on the opposing roster are familiar names. Watching a team multiple times breeds a certain level of familiarity, and certainly leads to an extra level of contempt. With this being the first of two meetings between these clubs in December, that could lead to some extra fireworks on the field.
When the game kicks off on Sunday, here are five players we’ll be watching on the opposing side.
QB Ryan Tannehill
Miami’s veteran quarterback has struggled against the Bills in his career. His career quarterback rating against Buffalo is 77.5, which is 10 points lower than his total for his career. He has 12 touchdowns and 8 interceptions in 9 games against Buffalo, and he averages only 5.94 yards per attempt in those games. Last week, Tannehill made his first start in a month and a half, completing 68% of his passes for 204 yards and 2 touchdowns in Miami’s 27-24 loss to the Indianapolis Colts. The 2018 season has been a microcosm of Tannehill’s career, with his potential ability not matching the actual results on the field.
RB Kenyan Drake
Miami’s offense has been able to run effectively throughout the 2018 season, and Drake is a big reason why. Even though he has been outpaced by
103-year old the ageless Frank Gore in carries (131 to 89) and rushing yards (595 to 408), Drake has Gore beat in rushing touchdowns (4 to 0), targets (55 to 14), receptions (38 to 10), receiving yards (298 to 90), receiving touchdowns (3 to 1), and scrimmage yards (706 to 685). Drake has had success against Buffalo in his brief career, totaling 209 yards on 34 carries with 2 touchdowns rushing. He is without an injury designation this week after suffering a shoulder injury last week against the Colts, so he should be ready to make an impact on Sunday. Shutting him down and forcing Tannehill to beat them through the air is essential to victory for Buffalo.
WR Leonte Caroo
He’s more than just an awesome name. Caroo is in line to play a larger role in the offense this week, with Miami’s receiving corps ravaged by injuries. The Dolphins are already without Albert Wilson and Jakeem Grant, who are out for the season with hip and Achilles injuries, respectively. Danny Amendola, Miami’s leader in targets, receptions, and receiving yards this season, is doubtful thanks to a knee injury, and Devante Parker is questionable due to a shoulder injury. That leaves Caroo and Kenny Stills as the only truly healthy wideouts on the active roster who have caught a pass this year. Last week, Caroo caught a 74-yard touchdown pass from Tannehill on his only target. The 6’1,” 215-pound speedster may be Miami’s version of Robert Foster here late in the season.
TE Nick O’Leary
The Dolphins rewarded Jack Nicklaus’ grandson on Saturday with a contract extension for 2019, and the gloveless wonder can celebrate by playing against his former team. O’Leary was a hard-worker in Buffalo, but the coaching staff decided to go with two more athletic players behind Charles Clay in Jason Croom and Logan Thomas this season. I’m sure that O’Leary would love to stick it to the team that released him if given the chance. In any case, I’ll be watching him on Sunday because I love to watch him play, and I will remember his time in Buffalo fondly. I hope that he comes up with a touchdown grab—in a 38-7 Dolphins loss.
LB Kiko Alonso
The man who brought LeSean McCoy to Buffalo is having his best year as a professional, and definitely his best season since his stellar rookie campaign with the Bills. Alonso will be tasked not only with shadowing McCoy out of the backfield, but he probably will have to mirror quarterback Josh Allen to prevent the mobile rookie from continuing to make big plays with his legs. Alonso has 95 total tackles coming into Sunday’s game, and he may be on his way to the Pro Bowl for the first time in his career. Making him second-guess what his eyes tell him will go a long way towards helping Buffalo win its third game in a row.