Pregame Observations: Buffalo Edition

For the first time since the 2007 regular season finale, the Dolphins will have someone other than Dan Carpenter handling the placekicking chores when they play host to the Buffalo Bills on Sunday. But the game probably won't come down to his replacement, Shayne Graham, if the Dolphins continue to do what they did the last two weeks.

• In Buffalo, the Dolphins face a team that is reeling. The Bills have lost two in a row and last Sunday lost their best offensive lineman when Eric Wood went down with a season-ending knee injury.

• That injury is likely to have an effect on Buffalo's biggest offensive weapon, which is running back Fred Jackson.

• If the Dolphins can stop Jackson — and there's no reason to think they can't, especially with Wood out — that's going to put a lot of pressure on quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who's had a tough time of it over the past few weeks.

• Buffalo has more injury issues, such as wide receiver Stevie Johnson nursing a shoulder injury. Johnson, incidentally, is the best of what is a rather nondescript wide receiver corps.

• The Dolphins, by contrast, are getting healthier and healthier — outside of the practice injury sustained Thursday by Carpenter, of course.

• It's really no coincidence that the Dolphins has been playing well of late. Karlos Dansby is healthy, Vontae Davis was back in the lineup against Washington. That makes a big difference.

• Offensively, the Dolphins don't have injury issues outside of tight end Anthony Fasano nursing a minor ankle injury. He is, however, expected to play against the Bills and is hoping to continue what has been a nice run.

• It's interesting that the Dolphins offense has had two good games in a row and the tight end has been more involved than earlier in the season. In addition to Fasano, rookie Charles Clay also has made plays in recent weeks and we certainly want to see more and more of him.

• The Bills defense really is not an impressive group, other than the fact it has come up with a lot of takeaways. That means that quarterback Matt Moore needs to be careful with the ball because the Bills don't miss too many opportunities to get interceptions.

• It should help that Moore should have time to throw because the Bills pass rush really isn't that good. Sure, they had 10 sacks against Washington, but if you saw that game, you saw former Dolphins quarterback John Beck hang on to the ball forever as he struggled to find open receivers instead of taking off with the ball or just throwing it away.

• In their other eight games, the Bills have a grand total of five sacks. Enough said.

• Up front, the guy to watch on the Buffalo clearly is rookie Marcell Dareus, the third overall pick in the 2011 draft. The product of Alabama is a big-timer. If the Dolphins can neutralize him, they should be able to run the ball.

• On special teams, the Bills again will be without kicker Rian Lindell, who is nursing a shoulder injury. So there will be two replacement kickers, Graham for the Dolphins, Dave Rayner for the Bills. Rayner has the bigger leg, but the veteran Graham is more accurate. So advantage Dolphins.

• In the return game, the Bills have some big names back there with C.J. Spiller and former Jets quarterback/wide receiver Brad Smith, but the Bills haven't had any long returns this season. The Dolphins need to keep it that way.

• Overall, though, this shapes up as a game the Dolphins look like they should win. It's certainly a big difference from where we stood a month ago.


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