The Miami Dolphins come to Orchard Park needing a win over the Buffalo Bills to ensure a playoff berth in 2020. While they still may make the tournament with a loss, it’s not a guarantee. The Dolphins are in the enviable position of controlling their own destiny: Win and they’re in.
Buffalo, on the other hand, has clinched a playoff berth, so they have little left to play for other than seeding. The Bills could be the No. 2 or No. 3 seed, but there’s no guarantee that they’ll play their starters for the entire game. Do the Bills play to end Miami’s season, or do they play to preserve their own health?
The Dolphins put up plenty of points in the first meeting between these two teams, a 31-28 victory for Buffalo. It’s one of three times the Dolphins’ No. 1 ranked defense has allowed 30 points this season.
Which players will we be watching this weekend for the visiting team? Here’s our list of Dolphins to watch in the regular-season finale.
QB Tua Tagovailoa
With old friend Ryan Fitzpatrick set to miss the game due to a positive COVID-19 test (here’s to a quick, full recovery, Fitzy—we still love you, big guy!), it’s Tagovailoa’s game to start and finish. While this would normally be a given, head coach Brian Flores has not been shy about pulling his future franchise quarterback when Tagovailoa plays poorly. He’s had his share of great games—a two touchdown, 248-yard performance while completing 71 percent of his passes in a 34-31 win over the Arizona Cardinals comes to mind—but he’s also had some duds. He was horrendous last week against the Las Vegas Raiders, throwing for just 94 yards on 22 attempts. The Bills’ defense could be a tough matchup for the rookie, but with the spectre of a Wild Card matchup on the horizon, I imagine it will be a pretty vanilla game plan this week. I think the rookie is going to have a solid day overall, even if much of his success comes in the second half when Buffalo gives their starters some rest.
RB Myles Gaskin
I appreciate Gaskin for saving my fantasy season after Saquon Barkley tore his ACL. I also really like the way he plays, as he runs tough between the tackles and shows great burst on the outside, both as a runner and a receiver. Last week, it was his pass-catching prowess on display, as he caught five passes for 82 yards and two touchdowns in the 26-25 victory over Las Vegas. Gaskin is going to be a tough cover for Matt Milano, and if Buffalo gives their starters a break, he’s going to be a darn near impossible mark for A.J. Klein. The second-year man has done a great job in establishing himself as the top dog in Miami’s running back rotation.
TE Mike Gesicki
Gesicki is a blooming star at the tight end position, and he had his best game of the season in Week 2 against the Bills. In that game, Gesicki caught eight passes for 130 yards and two touchdowns. For the year, Gesicki has 48 receptions for 656 yards and a team-leading six touchdowns. Granted, Buffalo was without Milano and Tremaine Edmunds in the first meeting, so it was up to Klein and Tyrel Dodson to contain the middle of the field. With Buffalo’s top linebackers back, they should be able to do a better job on Gesicki this time around—if they play much at all, that is. Of all the dangerous weapons Miami has, Gesicki is the one who matches up the worst for Buffalo.
DE Shaq Lawson
Shaq is dealing with an injured shoulder, but he’s logged full practices all week long, so he should be good to go in his first visit to Bills Stadium as an opponent. Lawson has four sacks and 32 tackles on the year to go with 18 quarterback hits, so he’s done exactly what he did in Buffalo for most of his career: he’s given the Dolphins solid edge-setting against the run with average pass rushing numbers. Lawson would love to sack his former teammate Josh Allen, or even Matt Barkley if he has the chance, so he’ll be worth watching come Sunday.
LB Jerome Baker
Miami’s leading tackler on the year (108 tackles) has come on of late as a pass rusher, as well. He has 4.5 sacks over the last three weeks, bringing his total to seven on the year. Baker is a big, fast inside linebacker who can put plenty of pressure on the “A” gap. He’s improved in pass coverage, as well, as he’s allowing a career-low 8.4 yards per completion this season as the closest defender in coverage. Expect to hear plenty of “55’s the MIKE!” calls this weekend, as the Bills will need to know where he is on the field at all times.