by Greg Gabriel, Buffalo Sports Page NFL Expert

Buffalo Bills fans in their 20’s and 30’s probably don’t know about the early days of the Bills/Dolphins AFC East Rivalry.  But as a former Bills season ticket holder and the son of a season ticket holder from 1962 thru 1983, I certainly do.

In the eyes of Bills fans, the games against the Dolphins were the biggest games of the season if only because the Bills couldn’t beat Miami. In the decade of the 1970’s, the Buffalo Bills went 0-for-the-decade with not so much as a win the dreaded Dolphins. Twenty straight times the Bills went down at the hands of the Dolphins and I was at 10 of those games. It was always so heartbreaking. The Bills finally ended that streak on September 7, 1980 when they beat the Dolphins 17 – 7 at New Era Field (then called Rich Stadium)

Now it’s nearly 40 years later since the Bills ended that losing streak and those days are long gone, as is the attitude of Bills fans in games against Miami. The games are important because the Dolphins are an AFC East Division opponent, but they don’t feel as important as they once were.

South Florida Forecast

Sunday the Bills travel to Miami to meet the Dolphins in the first of two meetings between the two clubs in this 2018 season. Miami comes to Buffalo on December 30th to close out this season. Somehow I feel it’s fitting that the Dolphins have to play in Buffalo on the last day of the season when temperatures could be in the teens. That gives the Bills a distinct advantage.
Speaking of the weather, the Bill having to travel to South Florida in early December is also a big advantage for Miami. The Bills are practicing in 20 and 30 degree weather in Buffalo and having to play in the hot, humid weather of Miami late in the season helps the Dolphins tremendously.

In October, the Chicago Bears played in Miami following their bye. The Bears had won three in a row and were playing great football but with the game temperatures in the low 90’s and the high humidity the Bears looked very sluggish and lost in overtime. It was probably the worst game the Bears defense played all season.

This Sunday when the Bills play at Miami, the forecast is for sunny weather and mid 80’s temperatures along with high humidity. That weather could very well have the same effect on the Bills as it did on the Bears.

Because of that, the Bills have to be ready to play a lot of guys and rotate on defense more than usual. Miami is not that good of a football team, but the home field advantage they hold is huge.

Tannehill Back At QB

Last week in Indianapolis the Dolphins played well against a good Colts team but not well enough and feel 27 – 24. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill played for the first time in almost two months for Miami and that helped their passing game.

Tannehill is a more accurate passer than Brock Osweiler as well as quicker and better decision maker. He also has far more mobility and is able to extend and make plays with his feet. With Tannehill at quarterback, Albert Wilson and Kenny Stills become much more dangerous for the Bills defense. The Miami run game is strong with Frank Gore and Kenyon Drake splitting the carries. Drake has been limited in practice this week with a shoulder injury but he should be ready Sunday.

A key for the Bills defense in this game will be their ability to rush the passer. Miami has given up 28 sacks on the year, so if Buffalo can create pressure and hurry Tannehill they can force him into making mistakes. In five games he has thrown five interceptions.

Run The Football

The Bills also have to be able to run the football. Miami gives up an average of almost 140 yards a game on the ground. It’s imperative that the Bills comes close to that number and wear down the Miami defense.

With rookie Josh Allen at quarterback, we don’t know what to expect. Allen has his hot streaks but like most rookie quarterbacks, he can be inconsistent. Josh has to get the help from his run game in order to help his passing efficiency.

The Bills currently sit at 4 – 7 on the season. It’s very possible they finish with a 7 – 9 record. I have them losing this week in Miami as well as losing at New England later in December. If the Bills can win their remaining home games they will have a better than expected season. The key for them to finish at .500 is to win in Miami. While it is unlikely, it is also very possible but like I always say, they have to play just about a perfect game.

Greg Gabriel

Gabriel has spent most of his adult life as an evaluator for various NFL clubs. He started his career in 1991 working for the Buffalo Bills as a part time scout under dormer Bills Director of Player Personnel Norm Pollom. He left the Bills in June 1984 to become the Great Lakes area scout for National Football Scouting. Following the 1984 season, Gabriel joined the New York Giants as their Midwest area scout and was promoted to Director of Player Development in 1996. The Giants went to three Super Bowls and won two during Gabriel’s time with the club.

Following the Giants appearance versus the Baltimore Ravens in Super Bowl XXXV, Greg became Director of College Scouting for the Chicago Bears under General Manager Jerry Angelo. He held that position until June of 2010. During his time with Chicago, the Bears won three Division titles and the 2006 NFC Championship. In his nine Drafts with the Bears, the team drafted 12 future Pro Bowl performers such perennial Pro Bowler Matt Forte, Tommie Harris, Devin Hester, Lance Briggs and Charles Tillman.

In the 2012 – 2013 season, Gabriel was a consultant for the Philadelphia Eagles Scouting Department and has since done some small scouting roles for various NFL clubs.

Since leaving the NFL Gabriel has been a contributor for the National Football Post, the Bleacher Report and more recently Pro Football Weekly. He also is both a writer and contributor for WSCR (670the Score) in Chicago. The last three years he has authored the Pro Football Weekly Draft Guide.
Gabriel grew up in Amherst and is a 1974 graduate of Canisius College where he was a member of the football team. He and his wife Robin currently resides in the Chicago area.

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