For the first time in the league’s illustrious 92-year history, there has been an NFL game scheduled for each Thursday night of the 2012 season. This experiment has come with mixed reviews from fans and players alike, with complaints ranging from players not having enough time to recover from the previous game to fantasy owners forgetting to update their rosters in time.
On these weekly occasions, the product itself has suffered. Scoring is down on these Thursday night games, and aside from the highly anticipated Giants-Cowboys clash to kick off the season and an old school Bears-Packers battle in Week 2, most of the matchups have been, well, boring.
But don’t expect things to stay that way when the Dolphins travel to Buffalo to battle the Bills tonight. Both teams have caught some bad breaks and struggled of late, but with second place in the AFC East on the on the line, you can expect the fireworks to go off early and often at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Below are the major storylines to keep an eye out for in this clash of division rivals.
CJ Spiller Unleashed
With Fred Jackson sitting out due a concussion, CJ Spiller should have free reign to run rampant on a struggling Dolphins D. He’s tops in the league with 7.3 yards per carry, and has cracked the century mark in terms of yards from scrimmage in eight straight games in which he’s had at least 16 touches. Spiller torched Miami in Week 15 last year for 167 yards and two touchdowns, and he should be in line for a repeat performance Thursday night. Coach Chan Gailey said Spiller could have “as many as 30 carries this week”, and for his team to win, that is exactly what needs to happen.
Can Ryan Tannehill Bounce Back?
Ryan Tannehill had his worst outing since Week 1 last Sunday, throwing three picks and no touchdowns in the Dolphins 37-3 thrashing by the Titans. The rookie out of Texas A&M was never able to get the ball moving, and it marked the first time in his young career that he failed to get the Fins into the end zone. Luckily for him, no team in the league has allowed more points this season than the Bills (31.7 per game), so a bounce-back performance should be in order. But if Ryan’s struggles continue in Buffalo, there will definitely be some cause for concern in the Sunshine State.
Miami’s Jekyll And Hyde Defense
Few defenses outperformed Miami’s unit over the first half of the season. The Dolphins were sixth in the league in points allowed, third in rush defense and were getting to the quarterback with ease. But things quickly took a turn for the worse last Sunday when they got absolutely annihilated by a mediocre (to be generous) Titans squad.
Miami let Chris Johnson run wild, and Tennessee as a whole rushed for 177 yards, nearly 100 more yards than the Dolphins D had been giving up on average this season. The matchup doesn’t get any easier for them this week as they face off against Spiller and a potent Bills offense that just hung 31 on the Pats. Whether or not last week’s defensive mishaps were a fluke or a preview of what’s to come could be the difference maker in Buffalo.
The Reggie Bush Backlash
Running back Reggie Bush was benched for fumbling in the first half of the Dolphins loss to the Titans on Sunday. Afterwards, the former Heisman winner took to the airwaves on the Paul and Young Ron Radio Show in Miami where he admitted to being upset by the benching. Then, things got a little off topic.
Reggie was asked by one of the hosts whether or not he thought that women were going to be topless in the cold on Thursday night, to which the other co-host responded “You don’t want to see that.” Bush agreed and said ”Not Buffalo women“.
In hindsight, Reggie should have let the DJs do the joking, but it was too late—and right on cue the internet erupted with scorned upstate New York women calling for Bush’s head. Reggie responded to both his haters and supporters on Twitter:
Still, you can bet he’ll hear plenty more in person as soon as he takes the field for warm-ups. But this shouldn’t be a distraction for the seventh-year back, and I fully expect for Bush to let his play do the talking and quiet the crowd with his feet.
Prediction: Bills 28, Dolphins 24
Spiller shines as top dog in the Buffalo backfield and the Bills pull out the AFC East showdown.