ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- The NFL world will soon get its formal introduction to Anthony Dixon.

A change-of-pace running back for the San Francisco 49ers for the past four seasons, Dixon signed with the Buffalo Bills last offseason and now will be thrust into the spotlight after C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson were carted off with injuries in Buffalo's 17-16 win Sunday over the Minnesota Vikings.

[+] EnlargeAnthony Dixon
AP Photo/Gary WiepertWith the Bills' top two running backs injured, Anthony Dixon said he's ready for an expanded role.
Spiller has a broken collarbone, ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter reported, and is out for an “undetermined time,” Marrone said. Jackson will have further tests on his injured groin Monday but his body language as he was taken off the field suggested a more serious injury for the Bills' team captain.

"It's time to step up and be great," Dixon said after the game. "It's what I've been waiting for for a long time, getting that workhorse role and I just tried to take advantage."

Once Jackson went down in the first quarter, the Bills split the six plays on their next drive between Dixon and Spiller. Then Spiller -- after a 53-yard gain on his first carry of the game -- landed hard on his left shoulder and might miss significant time, if not the remainder of the season.

As the Bills' final healthy running back who dressed for the game, Dixon rushed nine times in the second half, gaining 31 yards. He finished the day with 51 yards on 13 carries.

His role will undoubtedly increase. Known for his special-teams prowess -- he blocked a punt earlier this season -- and as a short-yardage option, Dixon is out to prove he's more than that.

"I feel like I didn't really get labeled right coming out of college and high school. People tried to do something else with me, make me somebody that I really wasn't," Dixon said. "I've been a workhorse like that all my life. I've been making plays like that all my life."

How was Dixon being labeled?

"[They] put me in a short-yardage [situation], they were just making all these type of stuff -- I can't run routes, I don't got hands. So I'm looking at them, like, 'What?' I don't see what they see," he said. "But yeah, I'm ready now for that opportunity.

"They never gave me a chance to get this opportunity [in San Francisco]. That was one of the reasons why I had to get out of there. I was looking at this opportunity. I really wanted to get back in that workhorse role and I think I'm almost there."
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ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- After the Buffalo Bills' close loss to the then-undefeated Kansas City Chiefs last November, coach Doug Marrone memorably proclaimed that he would go home, hide away in frustration and not even pet his dog.

Despite the Bills' come-from-behind, 17-16 win over the Minnesota Vikings, I don't think Boudreaux -- the Marrone family dog -- will be getting much attention Sunday night.

This is a flawed Bills team that has gone from playing mistake-free football at the start of the season to stumbling its way through the first 59 minutes of Sunday's contest, patching up its self-inflicted wounds just in time to escape with a win.

Let's not confuse this brand of football with resiliency. Rather, all the Bills showed Sunday was an ability to create drama out of what should have been an ordinary victory over a struggling opponent. It might be exciting in October, but it's hardly a recipe that will allow Buffalo to taste success in January.

Marrone's demeanor at the podium -- you would need to double-check the box score to make sure the Bills actually won -- told the story after the game.

"I think when you go down to the wire like this, then you're not going to win as many as you need to to get there [to the playoffs]," Marrone said.

The Bills are 4-3 and managed to keep pace in the division with the New England Patriots (5-2), who won Thursday. Buffalo's schedule -- which includes two games against the New York Jets (1-6) over the next month -- is favorable.

It's just hard to see the Bills heading in the right direction given the way they've played the past month. The task of making the postseason will now be even harder after both members of Buffalo's two-headed rushing attack -- C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson -- were carted off with injuries Sunday.

Spiller has a broken collarbone, ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter reported, and is out for an "undetermined time," Marrone said. Jackson will have an MRI on his injured groin Monday. If his body language while leaving the field is any indication, it might not be an easy injury for Jackson to brush off -- as he always seems to do.

The Bills are down to Anthony Dixon, a career backup who will have plenty to prove if he becomes the workhorse, and Bryce Brown, a low-mileage back dumped by the Philadelphia Eagles in an offseason trade who hasn't suited up once this season.

Spiller has been struggling lately and his playing time dipped to a season-low 12 snaps in last week's loss to the Patriots, but losing Jackson for any extended period would be a big blow. He'd proved to be a consistent, reliable presence in the all-too-inconsistent Bills offense, even leading the team in receptions entering Sunday's game.

Overcoming the absence of either or both of those backs will be difficult, but it's the Bills' slipping focus and mounting mistakes that are most alarming.

They turned over the ball to the Patriots three times last week, added four turnovers Sunday -- including two fumbles inside the red zone -- and have shown an uncanny knack for drawing flags in critical situations.

Even on their last-minute touchdown drive Sunday, which ended in a decisive 2-yard touchdown catch by Sammy Watkins, the Bills seemingly did their best to lose the game.

Tight end Scott Chandler let a ball slip through his hands, right tackle Seantrel Henderson drew a false-start penalty one breath after a fourth-and-20 conversion, and Kyle Orton committed an intentional grounding penalty once the Bills reached the red zone.

Had it not been for Chandler's 24-yard catch on fourth-and-20 or Watkins' touchdown grab with one second remaining, the Bills would be reeling, losers of four of their past five.

Count Marrone among those disturbed by the trend, one that threatens to turn the Bills' 4-3 start into a much less desirable finish.

"I would hate to be categorized as grumpy after a win, but I don't help myself here right now," Marrone said. "I know where I want to go with the team. I do. And I'm just fighting to lead this team to where I want to go.

"It's on myself. I'm going to be on the coaches and the coaches are going to be on [the players]."
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CHICAGO -- So this is what Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill looks like at his absolute best.

Miami's 27-14 victory over the Chicago Bears on Sunday finally showed what a consistent, dominant Tannehill looks like under center. Better yet for the Dolphins, it happened over four full quarters -- not the usual one good half or quarter Tannehill has provided this season.

How locked in was the third-year quarterback? On his second touchdown pass of the day, the Bears took away his first and second options. So Tannehill went to his third progression -- which he rarely does successfully -- to complete a 10-yard touchdown to Mike Wallace.

Wallace said after the game that the Dolphins (3-3) couldn't even hit that play in practice. But with Tannehill in the zone, they made it look easy when it mattered most, giving Miami a lead it never relinquished.

"I was the last read on the play," Wallace said. "On that play in practice, I've been working that [route] probably since I was in Pittsburgh and never got the ball, not one time, on that play. That was the first time.

[+] EnlargeRyan Tannehill
AP Photo/Charles Rex ArbogastQB Ryan Tannehill capitalized on short passes to lift the Dolphins over Chicago in Week 7.
"You could fall asleep on that play, but you gotta stay focused. Honestly, I got that same play on Tuesday or Wednesday in practice and he threw it. We didn't connect on it, and I told him I will be better on it the next time. Tonight was our next time, and we were better."

There have been games when Tannehill was good, but never the best player on the field. That changed in Chicago. Afterward, backup quarterback Matt Moore got a chuckle out of Tannehill by telling him, "You inspire me."

Tannehill's day started with 14 straight completions, and he finished with 277 yards and two touchdown passes. He posted a career-high 123.6 passer rating and didn't have his first incompletion until 54 seconds left in the first half.

First-year offensive coordinator Bill Lazor is getting a better grasp of his quarterback's capabilities. The Dolphins used a well-devised game plan that highlighted Tannehill's strengths: throwing short and intermediate passes. His longest completion was for 26 yards to backup tight end Dion Sims. Tannehill also used his athleticism by rolling out of the pocket on passing plays, rushing for 48 yards on six carries.

Dolphins tight end Charles Clay said Tannehill's confidence was at an all-time high, especially after getting hot early.

"It's hard to pinpoint, but it was just something about him," said Clay, who had four receptions and caught Tannehill's first touchdown pass. "It gave me confidence, and I'm sure it gave everybody else in the huddle confidence."

Tannehill said he has never completed 14 straight passes to start a game at any level. He did complete 14 straight between the second and third quarters this season against the Oakland Raiders, but this performance was from the start and more dominant.

On this day, if you were open, Tannehill easily identified it and made the right decisions. He completed 78.1 percent of his passes, and eight Dolphins players had at least two receptions.

"Everyone was getting open," Tannehill said. "It's fun to be able to spread the ball around like that."

Was this a one-game performance or a potential career turning point? That remains to be seen.

One of the biggest critiques of Tannehill is he rarely strings together strong games in back-to-back weeks. This season alone he has struggled from half to half. That is one of the major reasons Tannehill is just 18-20 as a starter and still trying to prove he is Miami's long-term solution.

But Sunday's lights-out performance at least provided a one-game snapshot that Tannehill is capable of dominating a game. He has good athleticism and can make most of the throws needed to thrive in the NFL, with the exception of a consistent deep ball.

After six games, it's clear the Dolphins will go only as far as Tannehill takes them this season.

"We're definitely playoff-caliber, and if he's playing like [Sunday], we could be Super Bowl-caliber, honestly," Wallace said. "But we got to put in the work every day. We know it's not going to just come to us. We have to keep grinding and stay focused."
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Observed and heard in the locker room after the Buffalo Bills' 17-16 win over the Minnesota Vikings:
  • Spiller
    After being carted off in the first half, running back C.J. Spiller was diagnosed with a broken collarbone, ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter reported. Spiller will have surgery Monday, according to ESPN NFL Insider Adam Caplan. Coach Doug Marrone said Spiller will be out "an undetermined time." He added that Fred Jackson, who was carted off with a groin injury, will need further tests.
  • Bryce Brown, acquired in an offseason trade, was inactive Sunday for the seventh time this season. There was more buzz about Brown last week after Spiller's continued struggles, and Marrone acknowledged Brown will now have a chance. "I have no problem bringing up Bryce. We talked about him last week -- which I hope wasn't a jinx," Marrone said, chuckling.
  • The Bills won this game, but you wouldn't know it. Marrone generally had a frustrated tone when speaking about the game, saying the Bills will be hard-pressed to make the playoffs if they play like they did Sunday. Many players were gone by the time reporters entered the locker room. One of those who did speak, defensive tackle Kyle Williams, acknowledged the Bills' poor play for long stretches Sunday but added, "They're all beautiful [wins] as far as I'm concerned. I don't think there's such a thing as an ugly win."
CHICAGO -- Observed and heard in the locker room after the Miami Dolphins' 27-14 win over the Chicago Bears:

Wallace
Wallace
On the rebound: The Dolphins felt vindicated after their bounce-back performance Sunday evening. Many questioned if Miami would bounce back from last week's deflating, last-second loss to the Green Bay Packers. But the Dolphins put forth one of their most impressive games on both sides of the football, proving they have the talent to play with most teams. Now, the Dolphins must work on their consistency. "People just last week were telling us we were trash," receiver Mike Wallace said. "So we've got to keep our head up and stay focused, no matter good or bad."

Win for the little guys: Much was made of the size difference this week between Bears receivers Brandon Marshall (6-foot-4) and Alshon Jeffery (6-3) against Miami cornerbacks Brent Grimes (5-10) and Cortland Finnegan (5-10). But the corners won this matchup. Marshall and Jeffery combined for just eight receptions for 57 yards. Finnegan and Grimes were physical and covered well for most of the game. "You guys made a story of it," Finnegan said afterward. "But Brent said it earlier; we go against receivers who always are bigger than us. It's just one of those things."

Tannehill's wheels: Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill is running the ball more and it's paying dividends. Head coach Joe Philbin praised Tannehill's wheels after the quarterback rushed for 48 yards on six carries. Tannehill made a long run of 30 yards that gave the Dolphins a lot of momentum. He now has a 30-yard run and a 40-yard run in back-to-back weeks. "He's done a very consistent job in it," Philbin said. "I think it's repetition, repetition, repetition. It paid off today a couple times."

Rapid Reaction: Miami Dolphins

October, 19, 2014
Oct 19
3:51
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CHICAGO -- A few thoughts on the Miami Dolphins' 27-14 win Sunday over the Chicago Bears.

What it means: The Dolphins continue their roller-coaster ride by picking up a key road victory and improving to 3-3. This was a complete performance on both sides of the ball. Miami cashed in on three red zone touchdowns and forced three turnovers on defense, bouncing back from a last-second loss in Week 6 to the Green Bay Packers. The Dolphins, who have yet to win two in a row, will try to work on their consistency.

Stock watch: Dolphins fans have been clamoring about the lack of fast starts. Miami finally got it going early by jumping out to a much-needed 14-0 halftime lead on the road. The offense moved the chains and had early touchdown catches by tight end Charles Clay and receiver Mike Wallace. The defense also picked off quarterback Jay Cutler and held the Bears scoreless in the first half. The second half wasn't as clean. The Dolphins allowed two touchdowns defensively and had a field goal blocked. However, Miami was good enough in the first half that it didn't matter.

Jones, Shelby make impact: The Dolphins received key contributions from two players who were recently suspended. Miami starting safety Reshad Jones had his best performance of the season in his second game back. He recorded seven tackles and a second-quarter interception to set up a Miami touchdown. Sunday also marked the first game back for Derrick Shelby, who missed one game after being arrested at a nightclub. He registered an early sack off the bench.

Game ball: Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill gets his second game ball of the season. Tannehill was locked in and threw for 277 yards and two touchdowns. He had a 123.6 passer rating. Tannehill produced a near-perfect first half by completing his first 14 passes. His first incompletion happened with 54 seconds left in the second quarter.

What's next: The Dolphins will continue their stretch away from Miami with another road game against the Jacksonville Jaguars (1-6). The Dolphins will play four of their next six games on the road.

Mike Williams active for Buffalo Bills

October, 19, 2014
Oct 19
11:45
AM ET
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Buffalo Bills wide receiver Mike Williams is active Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings.

Williams, who was deactivated last week, might have benefited from a hamstring injury Thursday to wide receiver Marquise Goodwin.

Goodwin is among three injured Bills who will not play Sunday.

The final four Bills inactives are all healthy scratches, including running back Bryce Brown.

Here is the full list of Bills inactives:

WR Marquise Goodwin (hamstring)
WR Marcus Easley (knee)
LB Ty Powell (ankle)
RB Bryce Brown
OT Cyrus Kouandjio
CB Ross Cockrell
S Kenny Ladler

Miami Dolphins inactives

October, 19, 2014
Oct 19
11:39
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CHICAGO -- Here are the Miami Dolphins (2-3) players you won’t see in Sunday’s game against the Chicago Bears (3-3):
The most interesting scratch is veteran receiver Brandon Gibson, who practiced all week and was listed “probable” with a hamstring injury. But rookie Jarvis Landry had a strong game against the Green Bay Packers and will get a lot of snaps.
A look at what's going on around and inside the New York Jets:

1. Help for Geno: I'm not really buying this, but, in theory, the addition of Percy Harvin should help the Jets with their evaluation of Geno Smith, who has only nine more games to prove he can be the long-term answer at quarterback. In 23 games, he's never had a true speed receiver, a player who can turn a 5-yard pass into a 55-yard gain. Smith had one of those players at West Virginia, Tavon Austin, and they both enjoyed tremendous success.

Harvin has been one of the most prolific screen-pass receivers in the NFL. Since 2010, he has 49 receptions on screen passes, behind only Antonio Brown (68) and Pierre Garcon (64), according to ESPN Stats & Information. Look for offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg to dial up more screens than usual. It's already part of the offensive package, as Smith is fifth in screen-pass attempts (24). The problem is, they're not very productive. His passer rating is 75.5, second worst in the league.

[+] EnlargeGeno Smith
AP Photo/CharlThe Jets hope the addition of wide receiver Percy Harvin will help the development of quarterback Geno Smith.
Harvin wasn't an every-down receiver with the Seattle Seahawks, part of the reason he became unhappy, but he'll eventually become a full-time guy for the Jets. Whether he can elevate Smith's play remains a question. He's not a traditional receiver, meaning he doesn't use his speed to stretch defenses vertically. If anything, he stretches them horizontally, as most of his touches come within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage -- quick passes and handoffs.

He didn't do much for Russell Wilson, evidenced by this stat: Wilson's QBR with Harvin on the field this season was only 45.3; it was 71.o when he was off the field. For all his speed and acceleration, Harvin's career average is only 11.3 yards per reception. And if he takes a 5-yard hitch and goes 55, it'll be the longest pass play of his career.

Basically, the Jets put an expensive hood ornament on a Ford truck. That's just my opinion. Obviously, the Jets believe he will bolster their moribund offense.

2. The need for speed: They were so desperate to put speed on the field Thursday night that Mornhinweg used kickoff returner Saalim Hakim for seven snaps at wide receiver. Technically, Hakim is a receiver by trade, but he has no career catches. The New England Patriots must have been laughing to themselves. They put Darrelle Revis on Eric Decker, so that should've created opportunities for the other wideouts, but they combined for only three receptions.

It reminded me of the New Orleans Saints game in 2009. The Jets' wide receivers couldn't gain any separation, Mark Sanchez struggled and they traded for Braylon Edwards a few day later. Here's the difference: The Jets were 3-1 at the time. Now, at 1-6, they're too far gone to make a run.

3. Loaded question: The Jets' hope is that Harvin's presence will alter the way defenses attack them. With no threats on the perimeter, opponents overplay the run, daring Smith to beat them by throwing the ball. ESPN Stats & Information compiles the number of times a team faces a "loaded" defense -- defined as a defense having more players in the box than available offensive blockers.

The Jets have rushed a league-high 51 times against a loaded box, averaging an impressive 4.7 yards per carry. So now you're wondering, "How well do they pass the ball against a loaded box?" Good question. The answer is, not well. The Jets are 24th in passer rating (76.5) -- 40-for-74, 375 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions. When you're averaging only 5.42 yards per attempt against mostly man-to-man coverage, it's not efficient offense.

4. Money matters: If the Harvin experiment is a success and he returns for 2015, he'll be due to make a non-guaranteed $10.5 million. I wonder if the cap-conscious John Idzik would try to renegotiate the remaining four years to lower his cap number.

5. Mulligan? The Harvin acquisition is a tacit acknowledgement by Idzik that he botched the wide-receiver position in the offseason. The depth chart at the start of training camp, starting at the top, was Decker, Stephen Hill, Jeremy Kerley, David Nelson, Jacoby Ford, Jalen Saunders and Shaq Evans. Only Decker and Kerley remain on the active roster. So does this mean Idzik will give Rex Ryan a mulligan for the first seven games? Doubt it.

6. It's never dull: Even at 1-6, the Jets will hold the public's fascination for the next two months. Think of the storylines: A coach fighting for his future. A quarterback fighting for his future. And a new wide receiver just ... well, fighting. See Golden Tate's black eye at the Super Bowl.

7. Coples fading away: Ryan gave a technical, convoluted explanation for why linebacker Quinton Coples played only 19 snaps against the Patriots. He said he started Jason Babin and safety Antonio Allen because he was "trying to show (Tom Brady) some 46 looks, some Cover 1 looks. I wanted Brady to think we were going to play a lot of Cover 1, and I was trying to set the table for the game plan. So, I did a lot of that, some mix and matching of different guys." That may be true, but the fact that Coples -- a former No. 1 pick -- didn't factor prominently in the plan is a bit alarming, no?

8. The AWOL CB: Had to laugh Friday when Ryan made a passing reference to Dimitri Patterson. Saying that injuries, not lack of talent, have caused the demise of the cornerback position, Ryan claimed, "When you lose a (Dee) Milliner, you lose (Dexter) McDougle – two guys you’re really counting on. You have a guy go AWOL on you, that’s hard to anticipate." True, but Patterson was hurt and struggling before he disappeared.
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Welcome to Ralph Wilson Stadium, where the Buffalo Bills (3-3) host the Minnesota Vikings (2-4) at 1 p.m. ET.

Weather conditions: There's a chill in the air this morning. The current temperature is 39 degrees with a wind chill of 33 degrees, with temperatures expected to rise only into the low 40s by kickoff. Skies will be cloudy but there is no chance of rain. Winds will be about 15 mph.

Four more inactives: With wide receiver Marquise Goodwin (hamstring), special-teams ace Marcus Easley (knee) and linebacker Ty Powell (ankle) already declared out, the Bills will need four additional inactives. There are no players who are doubtful or questionable on the injury report, so expect those final four scratches to be healthy players. Meanwhile, wide receiver Mike Williams is expected to be active after being deactivated last Sunday. We'll monitor his playing time closely.

Van Miller honored: Longtime Bills broadcaster Van Miller will be inducted into the Bills' ring of honor in a halftime ceremony.

Hochuli gets the call: Ed Hochuli is today’s referee.
Percy Harvin is officially a member of the New york Jets, who formally announced the trade shortly after noon on Saturday.

Harvin
"Percy is a versatile, dynamic player who has been productive on offense and special teams," general manager John Idzik said in a statement. "We’re excited about adding him to the Jets."

Seahawks GM John Schneider released this statement: "Although this was an extremely difficult decision, we are constantly evaluating our team and believe at this time, that this is in our best interest to move the team forward. We thank Percy for his efforts that contributed to a Super Bowl XLVIII victory and wish him well."

Neither the Jets nor the Seattle Seahawks disclosed the terms of the trade, except to say it's a conditional draft pick in 2015.

Harvin (thigh) was listed as questionable on the Seahawks' injury report for Sunday's game against the St. Louis Rams. He flew to New Jersey and passed his physical Saturday morning. The Jets are off this weekend after playing Thursday night. They return to practice Monday, when Harvin will be introduced to the media.

The Jets picked up the remainder of Harvin contract, meaning there was no renegotiation, according to a source. His salary for the remainder of the season is guaranteed -- $7.1 million. There is no guaranteed money beyond this season, meaning the Jets can cut him after this season without any future cap implications. The rest of the contract looks like this:

2015 -- $10.5 million

2016 -- $9.9 million

2017 -- $9.95 million

2018 -- $11.15 million
In comes one former Gator, out goes another.

To make room for Percy Harvin, whose trade still hasn't been formally announced by the the New York Jets, the team is releasing fellow wide receiver David Nelson, a league source confirmed.

Nelson and Harvin were teammates at the University of Florida.

Nelson
Nelson was essentially a starting receiver for the Jets, which makes this a surprising move. In Thursday night's loss to the New England Patriots, he played 63 of 87 offensive snaps. He finished with one catch for 11 yards. His numbers for the season: Eight catches for 65 yards. He missed one game because of an ankle injury.

This is another curious move by general manager John Idzik. Basically, the Jets' receiving corps is Eric Decker and a bunch of slot/undersized receivers -- Harvin, Jeremy Kerley, Greg Salas, T.J. Graham, Saalim Hakim and Walter Powell. They have Chris Owusu (6-foot-2), but he has yet to dress for a game.

At 6-foot-5, Nelson offered great size and possession-receiving skills. He also has consistent hands, an attribute in short supply on this receiving corps. He also was a good influence in the locker room, a quality they might miss, considering Harvin's reputation as a diva.

It will be interesting to see how offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg pieces it together. The Jets must see Harvin as an every-down player, which the Seattle Seahawks didn't. He played only 59 percent of their snaps this season.

Top slot receiver Jeremey Kerley has faded in recent weeks, having compiled only seven catches in the past four games. Mornhinweg's new flavor of the month was Salas, who missed this week's game because of wrist and ankle injuries. Graham, signed less than a month ago, has seen his role expand over the past three games. He played 22 of 87 snaps against the Patriots, probably absorbing some of Salas' reps.

W2W4: Vikings at Bills

October, 17, 2014
Oct 17
4:30
PM ET
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- The Buffalo Bills (3-3) look to bounce back at home when they host the Minnesota Vikings (2-4) on Sunday.

Here is what to watch for:

1. Bigger game than it seems: On paper, this is one of the NFL's duller games of the weekend, a matchup of two teams that have lost a combined seven of their past 10 games. But consider the implications for the Bills. They are entering a critical stretch of their schedule that is heavy on home contests against some of the NFL's bottom-tier teams. If Buffalo loses Sunday to the 2-4 Vikings, it will be 1-3 at home and effectively three games behind the Patriots in the AFC East, as the Patriots currently own the tiebreaker. The Bills then have to head on the road to a face a Jets team on extra rest after a close loss in New England. On the flip side, a Bills win would mean they are taking advantage of their schedule and are keeping pace with the Patriots. It's a big swing and an important game.

Williams
Williams
2. Shuffle at wide receiver: An injury Thursday to Marquise Goodwin changes the Bills' picture at wide receiver. While indications before Goodwin's injury were that Mike Williams would be inactive for a second consecutive game, that is expected to change with Goodwin ruled out Friday. The Bills' top three receivers should be Sammy Watkins, Robert Woods, and Chris Hogan, with Mike Williams having the potential to see some playing time as a fourth receiver. It's not the ideal situation for Williams, who was a starter in the preseason, but his wish to see the field might now be granted.

3. Status quo at running back: The Bills have been the NFL's worst rushing team over the past two games, which prompted speculation that they could shake things up by giving Bryce Brown a chance in the backfield. Indications are that won't happen. Offensive coordinator Nate Hackett said Friday that he wants to continue "feeding" C.J. Spiller the ball, even after Spiller played a season-low 12 snaps last Sunday. The problem, according to Hackett and coach Doug Marrone, is that Spiller is trying to make too many big plays. The team wants him to "see three [yards], get three [yards]," or simply take what he can get on each play. It's hardly a new problem for Spiller, but the Bills still have patience with him.

4. Tightening up the defense: For a Bills' defense that had earned its share of praise through the first five games, that unit fell apart in the second half of Sunday's loss to the Patriots. It's hard to blame injuries; the Bills have a few banged-up players in Kyle Williams, Brandon Spikes, and Da'Norris Searcy, but were only missing one starter (Aaron Williams) in that game. Aaron Williams is probable to play Sunday, so the defense will be back to full strength for the first time this season. The Vikings allowed eight sacks last Sunday and have the NFL's worst Total QBR this season. If Buffalo's defense commits some of the same mistakes it did against New England, significant questions will be raised Monday.
The Miami Dolphins (2-3) will play the Chicago Bears (3-3) Sunday in a big game for both teams.

Here is the final injury report for Miami:

Doubtful: S Jimmy Wilson (hamstring)

Questionable: C Samson Satele (hamstring)

Probable: LT Branden Albert (elbow), RB Lamar Miller (knee), QB Ryan Tannehill (ankle), CB Cortland Finnegan (neck), WR Brandon Gibson (hamstring), WR Brian Hartline (finger), LB Koa Misi (ankle), G Shelley Smith (knee), G Dallas Thomas (shoulder), LB Philip Wheeler (shoulder, thumb),

Analysis: The Dolphins are going into this game relatively healthy. Wilson is the only player not expected to play in Chicago. He has missed practice all week with a hamstring injury and will leave a void as the nickel cornerback. Young corners Will Davis and/or Jamar Taylor must step up in sub packages and could see more reps this week when the Bears use three-receiver sets. Satele will be a game-time decision, but the Dolphins have options. If Satele can’t go, Pro Bowl center Mike Pouncey will go back to his natural spot after playing guard last week in his first game back. I always thought Pouncey should play center anyway, where he is most comfortable. Minor injuries to Miller, Tannehill and Albert will not impact their playing status. All three will play.
When it's the New York Jets and New England Patriots, there's always a subplot. On Thursday night, it was Nick Folk's potential game-winning field goal from 58 yards, which was blocked by Chris Jones as time expired.

Did the Patriots get a helping hand from the officials?

Moments before the snap, the umpire tapped the Patriots' Dont'a Hightower on the back and reminded him he was lined up illegally over the center. He moved, avoiding a penalty. A split-second later, Jones -- he of last year's field-goal controversy -- got a meaty hand on Folk's low kick, securing the Patriots' 27-25 win.

There was a mini-controversy over whether the officials overstepped their authority by moving Hightower. On Friday, Rex Ryan claimed he had no issue with it.

"I'll say this: I think that's the best officiating crew in the league," Ryan said. "This league is about protecting the players and that's the way it should be. ... Now, would I have liked to have seen it snapped there and Tanner [Purdum, the long-snapper] take one for the team and get us another chance? OK, of course. It's to protect the players and the official wasn't wrong for doing what he did."

What Ryan meant was that a quick snap would've caught Hightower in an illegal spot, perhaps resulting in a penalty. A similar situation played out last year, except the Jets benefited. Jones was penalized for illegally pushing a teammate into the formation on a 56-yard attempt by Folk, which missed. After the penalty, Folk drilled it from 42 yards, lifting the Jets to an overtime win.

The NFL's vice president of officiating, Dean Blandino, said the officiating crew handled it correctly.

"This is a standard officiating mechanic," he said on the NFL Network's "NFL AM" show. "We call it preventative officiating. Because it’s a player safety rule, we’re trying to avoid a situation before it happens, so the umpires will get in there and move that player out of there. More often you see it when a player is in a three-point stance and he's down on the line of scrimmage, and you’ll see the umpire tap the player to move him out of that because we have to be outside the framework of the center. So this is really no different than the line-of-scrimmage officials pointing out the line to the wideouts, and it’s a standard mechanic. Not something that would be unusual by any means.”

Asked if it's the player's responsibility to know where he can and can't line up, Blandino said:

“If you watch the play, what Hightower is actually going to do, he’s going up to the line to make a line call, because then you’ll see the defensive line shift. Then he’s going to back out. So it is on the player to understand that but we will in certain situations warn players to prevent things from happening, especially when it’s a player safety issue and trying to prevent a potential injury situation. Ultimately, it’s on the player, but this is something that has been a mechanic ever since this rule has been in place and like I said, not unusual.”

 

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