By Danny Cox
The term “must-win game” is one that can often make a team sick to their collective stomachs, but it’s the way things happen in the NFL sometime. Actually, it’s the way that things happen a lot of the time in the NFL, and it’s happening again this week on “Thursday Night Football.” The Miami Dolphins and Buffalo Bills are going into the game with identical 5-4 records and tied for second place in the AFC East. Catching up to the New England Patriots is not impossible, but both teams are fighting for a wild card spot and this game could say a lot for who will be staying home in January.
Ian Eagle of CBS Sports took time to speak about the match-up on “Thursday Night Football,” and he knows how important it is for both the Bills and Dolphins to get a win. Earlier in the year, the Bills beat the Dolphins easily, but things have changed and now this is going to be a much different game than the first match-up.
Earlier this season, the Bills beat the Dolphins handily with EJ Manuel as the starter…do you think this is now an entirely different team with Kyle Orton as the quarterback?
Ian Eagle: “I think the Bills now have a belief that with a veteran quarterback…games that were lost based on the inexperience at quarterback…well, there is a general consensus within the team that they can now find ways to win close games. There is more confidence offensively than earlier this season. Defensively, they are one of the top defenses in the NFL and they match up very well with Miami as we saw earlier this season.
The Dolphins will see a lot this week that is the same as what they saw last week against Detroit. Buffalo will try to replicate that.”
Speaking of Manuel, do you believe that his time in Buffalo has come to an end?
IE: “No, I wouldn’t say that. One thing to know about the quarterback position in the NFL is that it’s very fluid. I would like to think that Manuel is using this time productively, benefiting his craft, and learning from a veteran quarterback on the team. Obviously, you can’t duplicate experience and reps, but he needs to do things that benefit him. There is no way the Bills are ready to give up on the 16th pick from the 2013 NFL Draft, but they felt at this time that Kyle Orton was the better option.”
After three victories in a row, the Dolphins lost a hard one to the Lions. What do they need to change to get back on the winning track?
IE: “Well, they unfortunately went up against a team that has a bit of destiny on the side in Detroit. The Lions clearly, in one year’s time, have changed their overall perspective on how to handle close games situations. Miami just ran into one of the hotter teams in the NFL.
There was no balance last week. The running game of Miami was never established. They didn’t take advantage of the red zone opportunities – one touchdown in four trips. To me, the key to their success is running the ball effectively. Also, defensively, they played a terrific game after a slow start and making adjustments. Detroit just has everyone’s number right now.”
How do the Dolphins defend against Sammy Watkins?
IE: “Well, they just played against the best wide receiver in the NFL in Calvin Johnson and now they’ll be facing the next young wide receiver in the NFL in Sammy Watkins. There are still people around the league that don’t know a whole lot about Brent Grimes. If you saw the one-handed stab interception that he made last week, it’s one of the highlights of the year. He is a legitimate lock-down corner that gives up some plays due to his size, but his toughness and his resiliency is up there with anyone playing the position.
The downside for Miami is the questionable status of Cortland Finnegan who is also very feisty and aggressive.”
Which of these two teams do you believe has the best chance at making the playoffs?
IE: “Looking at their respective schedules, you can sometimes speculate too much on what should be a win or a loss. To me, the winner of this game will stay in the race and could win nine or 10 games. The loser of this game will have a very difficult time recovering to make the playoffs. That’s how important this match-up is. The result of this game will set the tone for either of these two teams for the rest of the season.”
Danny Cox knows a little something about the NFL, whether it means letting you know what penalty will come from the flag just thrown on the field or quickly spouting off who the Chicago Bears drafted in the first round of the 1987 draft (Jim Harbaugh). He plans on bringing you the best news, previews, recaps, and anything else that may come along with the exciting world of the National Football League. Danny is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com.