The Buffalo Bills hosted the Miami Dolphins in the regular-season finale. Buffalo had nothing to play for except seeding (and, thanks to a loss by the Pittsburgh Steelers, that didn’t even matter—though the team had no way of knowing that during the game). Miami was playing for a chance to clinch a playoff berth.
Buffalo laid an absolutely epic smackdown on the visiting Dolphins, winning 56-26 in a huge statement to the rest of the league against the NFL’s No. 1 scoring defense entering Week 17. Buffalo was the much better team in every phase of the game—even when their backups were playing.
Speaking of those backups, we picked a few of them to watch this week. Which ones were Week 17 studs and which ones were Week 17 duds? Here’s how our five players to watch performed this week.
QB Matt Barkley
Josh Allen’s backup played for the entire second half, and while most of us expected that he’d basically hand it off and sprinkle in a few throws, he found some time to sling the ball around a little bit. Barkley threw 13 passes, completing only six on the afternoon. However, he totaled 164 yards on those six completions, buoyed by two big gainers to rookie Gabriel Davis. On the first completion to Davis, Barkley found Buffalo’s biggest wideout deep for a 51-yard gain. On the second completion, Barkley hit Davis deep down the middle for a 56-yard touchdown. It was the first touchdown pass of the season for Barkley and the seventh touchdown grab of the season for Davis. Barkley was intercepted by Xavien Howard, who secured his tenth interception on another ball intended for Davis. Barkley made some nice throws in his limited action.
WR Isaiah McKenzie
What an afternoon for the jet-sweepin’ (WOO!), punt returnin’ (WOO!), high-flyin’ (WOO!), touchdown-grabbin’ (WOO!) son of a gun. McKenzie caught six passes for 65 yards, which wasn’t quite enough in either category to lead the team like I’d predicted (Stefon Diggs caught seven passes and Gabriel Davis had 107 yards), but McKenzie did haul in two second-quarter touchdown passes from Josh Allen as the Bills built a 28-6 first-half lead. McKenzie’s third touchdown came on an 84-yard punt return, where he showed his incredible speed and some nice moves in the open field. I post Ric Flair GIFs in our editorial Slack channel every time the Bills score a touchdown, so McKenzie was personally responsible for three Flairs this week in what was easily his best professional game.
TE Dawson Knox
Knox had plenty of chances, as he was targeted more times than anyone other than Stefon Diggs on Sunday. However, in spite of those eight targets that he saw, Knox was only able to make two catches for 29 yards. Granted, most of the throws that he didn’t catch were off-target, but it would be nice to see Knox be more consistent going forward. He has shown a penchant for making big catches and missing the easy ones. If he puts it together, though, look out.
DE Darryl Johnson, Jr.
I remain the president of the Darryl Johnson, Jr. fan club in spite of his statistical goose egg last weekend. The big edge rusher played 33 defensive snaps, 40 percent of the team total, and 25 special teams snaps, which was 69 percent of the total. Veteran Trent Murphy saw action on 44 snaps for the first time since Week 10, and rookie A.J. Epenesa led all defensive ends with 57 snaps. Even Mike Love, called up from the practice squad, out-snapped Johnson on defense, as he appeared on 35 defensive snaps.
LB Tyrel Dodson
I had the wrong replacement on defense for Tremaine Edmunds, as Dodson only played two defensive snaps on Sunday. He still played 24 special teams snaps, however. Rather than Dodson, it was Tyler Matakevich manning the middle linebacker spot, and he was flanked by fellow special teams player Andre Smith for most of the second half. Dodson had zero tackles.