Friday, December 20, 2013
W2W4: Dolphins at Bills
By Mike Rodak
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- The Buffalo Bills are eliminated from the playoffs. No matter the outcome of their final two games, their offseason will start in a little over a week.
Just don't tell coach Doug Marrone that his team is only playing for pride.
"When people say, 'Miami is coming up, they have the playoffs, they have a lot on the line. They're playing Buffalo, they have nothing to play for except for pride, this and that,' that's not true," Marrone told WGR 550 on Friday. "That's a lie. We have a hell of a lot of things to play for."
So what are the Bills playing for? For one, Marrone wants the Bills to win back-to-back games, which they have yet to do this season. Secondly, Marrone wants to finish with a winning record in the division. The Bills are currently 2-2 with two AFC East games remaining.
Here's what to watch for when the Bills host the Miami Dolphins on Sunday:
1. What changes with Lewis? If Thad Lewis' three starts earlier this season were any indication, the Bills won't change their offensive scheme to adjust to not having EJ Manuel. When Manuel has struggled this season, the immediate reaction from Marrone and Manuel's teammates has been to stress that the entire offense needs to play better. So if Lewis has a strong outing Sunday with the same offensive pieces available to Manuel, does that mean Manuel -- and not those around him -- was more at fault for the struggles? It would be an interesting debate, although the sample size would be small.
2. Highlighting Lewis' fumbles: The last time we saw Lewis was a 35-17 loss to the New Orleans Saints. Scrambling on the game's first play, Lewis was hit from behind and fumbled. Two possessions later, Lewis was strip-sacked and lost the football again. Overall, in his three games as the starter, Lewis fumbled six times. Ball security with Lewis might be among the Bills' chief concerns entering this game. For the season, Lewis has a 19.1 QBR, which ranks 36th among qualified quarterbacks. That's about as low as it gets in the NFL this season.
3. Safeties in the spotlight: The Bills will be without safety Aaron Williams (ribs), which will likely force Da'Norris Searcy into the starting lineup. Searcy started in place of Jairus Byrd early in the season and the results were mixed. Searcy could again be an option to replace Byrd if he leaves through free agency this offseason, so Sunday will be another opportunity to evaluate the third-year safety in a significant role within the defense. It could also give the Bills a chance to give the two safeties they drafted this season, Duke Williams and Jonathan Meeks, their first substantial snaps on defense.
4. Sack record set to fall: The Bills will likely set a new franchise sack record on Sunday. With 49 sacks, they are already tied with the 1995 team for the most in franchise history. If they surpass 50 this season, they'll also break the unofficial record of 50 set by the 1964 Bills. Buffalo's pass rush has been ferocious this season and shows no signs of stopping against a Dolphins team that has allowed the NFL's most sacks.