Moore, Dolphins look to continue surge vs. Bills
Even without quarterback Ryan Tannehill, the Miami Dolphins remain one of the hottest teams in the NFL.
Miami's playoff push weathered the cold in last week's road win over the New York Jets. The Dolphins head back north on the same mission Saturday with a visit to the Buffalo Bills. It likely won't be a white Christmas Eve at New Era Field, but freezing rain is in the forecast.
The Dolphins (9-5) have won eight of their last nine games and control their fate in the AFC wild-card race. They can clinch their first playoff berth since 2008 with a win at Buffalo and a Denver loss in Kansas City.
Miami has not won in Buffalo since 2011. Matt Moore was the Dolphins' quarterback for that game, and he's starting again with Tannehill out indefinitely due to a sprained knee.
Moore stepped in and had a career night against the Jets, completing 12 of 18 passes for 236 yards and four touchdowns in his first start since the 2011 season finale. Over the previous four seasons, Moore threw for 219 yards and one touchdown.
"Matt prepares like he's the starting quarterback," Dolphins receiver Jarvis Landry said. "Every week he has done that. For him to come in and play with the confidence he played with, to a lot of people that was unexpected, but for us it was something we already knew."
Miami relied on its running game to come back and beat Buffalo, 28-25, at home in Week 8. Jay Ajayi had 214 of the Dolphins' 256 rushing yards.
"They punched us in the mouth the first game," Buffalo defensive lineman Leger Douzable said.
Ajayi rushed for 529 yards during the first three contests of the six-game winning streak that turned around the Dolphins' season. He's struggled a bit lately, totaling 205 yards over his last four games.
Miami defensive end Mario Williams will make his return to Buffalo for the first time since he was released in the offseason. Williams played four seasons for the Bills after signing what was the richest contract for a defensive player in NFL history in 2012, but clashed with coach Rex Ryan in his final season.
"We need to win one game at a time, no matter who the opponents are," Williams said. "I'm not the type of person to be hooting and hollering about anything other than us winning the game."
The Bills (7-7) have not been eliminated from playoff contention but need to win their final two games and get a lot of help in a bid to end their 16-year postseason drought, the longest in the NFL.
"We're just going to have to do our best to win our games," Ryan said. "We have two games left and this one in particular, like I say, hottest team in football, so bring it on."
Ryan could also be coaching for his job the final two weeks - if ownership has not already decided to make a coaching change after the season, as multiple reports have suggested.
"It doesn't really matter to me," Ryan said. "My job's to coach the football team and that's what I'm going to do and there's no focus anywhere else. This is it. I truly believe we're going to play a great game, and we'll see if it's good enough."
The Bills were 4-2 and held an 11-point lead entering the fourth quarter of their loss at Miami.
"If you look at the two storylines," Bills quarterback Tyord Taylor said, "both of them are flipped. They went on a run kind of after they played us, and we lost two more games after that going into the bye."
Taylor also appears to be on thin ice in Buffalo. The Bills must decide by March whether to pick up the option on a five-year, $90 million contract extension that guarantees Taylor more than $30 million over the first two seasons.
Tannehill, linebacker Jelani Jenkins (knee/hand) and cornerback Byron Maxwell (ankle) did not practice for Miami on Wednesday. Safety Abdul-Quddus (ankle), linebacker Kiko Alonso (hamstring/hand), and cornerback Bobby McCain (knee/hand) were limited. Williams (ankle) and guard Jermon Bushrod (shoulder) were full partcipants.
The Bills had three players miss practice: defensive tackle Kyle Williams (back), linebacker Lerentee McCray (concussion) and offensive tackle Jordan Mills (illness).
Wideout Sammy Watkins (foot), former Dolphins tight end Charles Clay (knee), linebacker Preston Brown (foot), fullback Jerome Felton (foot), left tackle Cordy Glenn (back), linebacker Jerry Hughes (hamstring), guard John Miller (hip) and defensive tackle Jerel Worthy (shoulder) were limited. Taylor (groin), running back LeSean McCoy (knee) and linebacker Shaq Lawson (foot) were limited.
Updated December 21, 2016