Free NFL Pick: Buffalo at Miami 12-19-2010

December 18, 2010

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Buffalo Bills at Miami Dolphins

Sunday December 19th, 2010 1:00 PM EST

Line: Miami -6

Overview:

The Miami Dolphins are one of those odd teams that cannot play in front of their home crowd. Despite being 7-6, the Dolphins have only won once at home. It is unclear what accounts for the huge discrepancy between road wins and home wins, but it certainly is a pattern that repeats itself. The Dolphins are out of the playoff race, but a strong 9-7 finish would do wonders for their franchise.

The Buffalo Bills have won three of their last five games, with one of their two losses coming in overtime against Pittsburgh. It seems as though the Bills have turned a new leaf. They are competitive in most games and are no longer the laughing stock of the NFL, as that designation belongs to the Carolina Panthers. Buffalo did show that they still have the potential to revert to their old habits, when they were blown away by the Vikings two weeks ago, but they have remained consistent at being in the game up to the final minutes.

Keys to the Game:

  • Cameron Wake should be the Defensive Player of the Year. Wake is averaging over one sack a game this year, as his sack total grew to 14 this past week. He is a major factor in the Dolphins wins and he has to be accounted for on every single play. Clay Matthews may make a push for DPOY as well, as will Haloti Ngata, but Wake certainly should be in the discussion.
  • Bills DT Kyle Williams has to get going for them to be effective against Miami. He has nine tackles for a loss this season and has dropped the quarterback five times this season. He is perhaps the most crucial element in the Bills defense. When he has games like he did against Pittsburgh –ten tackles and two sacks– the offense is somewhat at a loss, as many teams do not game plan against Williams. He is having a career year this season and noone has taken notice.
  • Brandon Marshall will be a big time weapon for the Dolphins in the future, but the Dolphins need to use him at a limited capacity for now. They have the offensive line, the running backs, and the super star wide out to be a complete offense. That being said, they don’t have the field general to do so. They need to bring someone in to get the ball out to Marshall. Until that happens, the Dolphins cannot force the issue. Marshall is their best offensive weapon, but for the time being Miami needs to be a run first team.
  • With Lee Evans out for the season, it appears as though Steve Johnson is going to be even more of an asset to the Bills this season. Johnson has already enjoyed a breakout year and being a true number one wide receiver could have a positive impact on his already impressive stat line. He could struggle this week when he goes up against Vontae Davis. Davis has come into his own and can run step for step with Johnson. It is going to be a solid matchup to keep your eye on this week.

Key Matchup:

Fred Jackson Vs. Miami’s front seven

  • The Bills have three wins this season. Coincidentally, they happen to be the three games in which Jackson has rushed for over 100 yards this season. It is no secret that the Bills have struggled to run the ball this season, but over the last five games Jackson has shown he can be a feature back. He has hit the 100 yard mark in three of his last five games and caught a short pass he took for 65 yards, that was instrumental in racking up 105 yards receiving on the Steelers.
  • Miami is stingy against the run. They allow less than 100 yards a game on the ground and do a great job at sealing the edge. Jackson is going to have his hands full and it is unclear how productive he will be against Miami. History shows he will need to have a  monster day in order for the Bills to pull this one out, and it seems like a long shot given the way Miami has performed.

Wrap Up:

The Bills are an improved football team. The Dolphins seem like the better team in this matchup, but with the identity crisis and the miserable home play, I just can’t say that the Dolphins are going to take this one by seven or more. The Bills usually keep it close and while I think Ryan Fitzpatrick may struggle against Cameron Wake, the Bills should be able to remain within striking distance.

Free NFL Pick: Buffalo +6


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