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Tough to imagine the Bills resting their young starters in Week 17 (HC Sean McDermott won’t commit either way just yet), so it is just as tough to picture the Dolphins being able to outscore them.
Bills -1.5 (-112)
|Dolphins vs Bills Information|
|What||Miami Dolphins vs Buffalo Bills|
|Where||Bills Stadium in Orchard Park, NY|
|When||Sunday, January 3, 2020; 1:00 PM ET|
|How to watch||CBS|
The Miami Dolphins are 10-5 and now rookie QB Tua Tagovailoa gets an opportunity to give his team a chance at postseason life since a Week 17 win over the Bills earns them one of three AFC Wild Card spots in the playoffs, only this week, veteran QB Ryan Fitzpatrick (COVID-19) is NOT on the sidelines ready to take over if the young Tua lets this game get out of hand.
The Buffalo Bills won the AFC East and are guaranteed a playoff spot, so if HC Sean McDermott prefers, he can afford to rest his starters in Week 17, though with such a young roster including third-year QB Josh Allen, it would seem more important to get additional reps on both sides of the ball and keep up the 8-of-9 game-winning momentum they have already built.
These two AFC East rivals have faced each other 113 prior times (including 4 postseason games), with the Buffalo Bills winning 51 of those games and the Miami Dolphins winning 61 of the games, plus they have tied once.
Rookie QB Tua Tagovailoa is the franchise man under center for the Dolphins, at least according to HC Brian Flores and the Miami front office, and he will get the start on Sunday for this to do or die game to make the playoffs.
So far this season, Tagovailoa has completed 151-of-232 for 1,453 yards and 10 touchdowns with just 2 interceptions while carrying the ball 30 times for 81 yards and 3 more touchdowns, leading his team to a 6-2 record as the starter.
But there are times when the young Tua seems in over his head, like last week against the Raiders, and backup Ryan Fitzpatrick has stepped in to save the day, but Fitzpatrick has tested positive for COVID-19 and so on Thursday the Dolphins signed free-agent quarterback Jake Rudock, who will be there on Sunday just in case.
The Bills have won the last eight out of nine games, their most recent string of five victories in a row surpassing the 4-0 string they initially set to start off the 2020 season, giving HC Sean McDermott’s young Buffalo squad a giant pile of positive momentum to ride into the postseason.
So, the question becomes – do they play it safe and sit their starters to avoid any unfortunate injuries, or do they ride the momentum they have created and let their young starting roster gel together for yet another important game.
The only downside to playing everybody is if a key injury does occur but playing it safe does not seem like the Buffalo Bills’ way and chances are they will want to keep the winning times rolling and show up every week they play, even the last one of the season.
Miami receiver DeVante Parker is a key part of the Dolphins offense, the 6’ 3”, 216 pound speedster having the size and quickness to get open and the strength and experience to fight for yards after every catch.
This season, Parker has posted some respectable numbers – he has caught 56 passes off 89 targets for 677 yards and 4 touchdowns, averaging 52.1 receiving yards per game and giving whichever QB is under center a legitimate target at which to throw.
Currently, Parker is listed as questionable for Week 17 because of a hamstring issue, and he will most likely be a game-time decision for HC Flores, but Parker is tough and tends to play if he can, so expect him to suit up and be available for Tua.
Watching the Bills young QB Josh Allen develop over the last three seasons has been fascinating, with HC McDermott and OC Brian Daboll game planning around his strengths and helping him learn to throw more accurately, greatly improving his completion percentage from the rookie season (52.8) to 2020 (69.1).
In 2020, Allen has his team at 12-3 and has completed 378-of-547 for 4,320 yards and 34 touchdowns with just 9 interceptions while carrying the ball 100 times for 418 yards and 8 more touchdowns.
The key to the Bills winning any game is for Allen to protect the ball while finding receivers Stefon Diggs and Cole Beasley as often as possible, and they will get to do that here against the Dolphins’ 19th ranked passing defense that allows 243 yards through the air per game.
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