Photo courtesy of Miami Dolphins
One victory is all that separates the Miami Dolphins from their first playoff appearance in four years.
The Dolphins hope to get it on Sunday afternoon when they visit the Buffalo Bills. Miami can clinch a berth in the playoffs with a win or help.
If the 10-5 Dolphins fall on Sunday, they could still get in with any of three upsets. Should the Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Cleveland Browns, the Cincinnati Bengals beat the Baltimore Ravens or the Jacksonville Jaguars beat the Indianapolis Colts, Miami would be in the playoffs.
Since a 1-3 start, the Dolphins have won nine of 11 contests. Last week, Ryan Fitzpatrick came off the bench to rally Miami past the Las Vegas Raiders, 26-25.
Fitzpatrick is out this week with a positive COVID-19 test, which means rookie Tua Tagovailoa will have to get the job done. Miami has been without key offensive playmakers in recent weeks, but got big contributions from running back Myles Gaskin and tight end Mike Gesicki last week in their returns.
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Buffalo is 12-3 and AFC East champions for the first time since 1995. The Bills have been led by much-improved quarterback Josh Allen. Allen ranks in the top five in the NFL in passing yards, touchdowns and passer rating.
Allen has one of the league’s premier weapons in wide receiver Stefon Diggs. Diggs leads the NFL with 1,459 yards. He had a monster day against Miami on Sept. 18, catching eight passes for 153 yards and a touchdown in a 31-28 win over the Dolphins.
The Bills would lock up the No. 2 seed in the AFC with a victory or a Pittsburgh loss. With the Steelers sitting starters, Buffalo may choose to do likewise.
Defensively, Buffalo ranks 10th in total defense while Miami yields the fewest points per game in the NFL. The Dolphins are led by cornerback Xavien Howard, who leads the NFL with nine interceptions. Safety Jordan Poyer is among the players to watch for Buffalo.
The Bills have won four straight games against Miami. The Dolphins have not won in Buffalo since Christmas Eve 2016. Interesting enough, Miami clinched its last playoff berth one day later.
Sunday’s contest begins at 1 p.m. ET. It will air regionally on CBS.
Prediction: Buffalo 27, Miami 20
Games Across the State
Atlanta Falcons (4-11) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (10-5)
Sunday, Jan. 3 at 1 p.m. ET (FOX)
With a win on Sunday, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers would wrap up the No. 5 seed in the NFC. The Buccaneers have already clinched their first playoff berth since 2007. Tampa Bay rallied from 17 points down to beat the Atlanta Falcons in the last meeting between the teams two weeks ago. Atlanta has lost four games in a row, but all four were decided by five points or less.
Prediction: Tampa Bay 34, Atlanta 20
Jacksonville Jaguars (1-14) at Indianapolis Colts (10-5)
Sunday, Jan. 3 at 4:25 p.m. ET (CBS)
Having already clinched the No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, the Jacksonville Jaguars will look to bookend an otherwise winless season with a pair of victories over the Indianapolis Colts. The Colts can clinch a playoff berth with a win and a loss by either Miami, Cleveland or Baltimore. Indianapolis let a 17-point lead slip away in last week’s loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Prediction: Indianapolis 38, Jacksonville 19