In The Thick of Things
Buffalo, NY - Though they're in the playoff hunt for the first time in five years, the Miami Dolphins don't have any easy road to reach the postseason.
However, they may have been given one break - not having to visit the Buffalo Bills out in the December cold of upstate New York.
The AFC East rivals travel to the indoor Rogers Centre in Toronto on Sunday for the first regular season NFL game in Canada.
Oddsmakers from online sports book Sportsbook.com have made the Bills -1 point spread favorites (View NFL Football odds) for Sunday’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 62% of bets for this game have been placed on the Dolphins +1 (View NFL Football bet percentages).
Miami (7-5) hasn't made the playoffs since it went 11-5 in 2001, and hasn't been in the race this late in the year since 2003. The Dolphins finished 10-6 that season, but ultimately fell short.
The 2008 Dolphins have been surprisingly competitive, one season removed from a franchise-worst 1-15 record. Miami, though, has a tough schedule ahead of it, playing three of its final four games on the road including a season-ending matchup with the AFC East-leading New York Jets.
The Dolphins are one game behind both New York in the AFC East, and Indianapolis and Baltimore in the wild-card race.
"We know that we control kind of our own destiny right now," Miami coach Tony Sparano said. "When you're in those kinds of situations, the best thing that I know how to do is to put your head down, eliminate the distractions and think about the now, what's in front of you right now."
While this weekend's game is another road contest for Sparano and the Dolphins, Miami probably doesn't mind the trip to the domed Rogers Centre if it means missing out on the cold, damp weather of upstate New York. The Dolphins are just 4-10 in Buffalo since 1994, and 2-7 all-time there - including two playoff losses - after Dec. 1.
"The game is a big enough game wherever it was," Sparano said. "I would hope that the elements wouldn't have been a factor one way or the other."
The Dolphins have won five of their last six games, including a 16-12 victory at St. Louis last Sunday, when the defense held the Rams to just 278 total yards after giving up 530 in a loss to New England the previous week.
Although this is the first NFL regular season game in Canada, that nation is familiar territory for Miami running back Ricky Williams. Williams played in Toronto with the Argonauts of the CFL in 2006, after he was suspended by the NFL for violating the league's drug policy for a fourth time.
After being reinstated in 2007, Williams - the NFL's leading rusher in 2002 - has run for 512 yards and three touchdowns in 12 games this season. His attitude change has been the biggest surprise for his Miami teammates.
"What's different this year is he seems more into the guys, easier to approach, easier to talk to," defensive end Vonnie Holliday said. "He engages other people, whereas before he might have been more of a loner."
While the Dolphins are feeling optimistic this weekend, that feeling isn't shared by the Bills (6-6), losers of five of their last six.
"Right now, we have no room for error," receiver Lee Evans told the Bills' official Web site. "If we lose again, we'll be out of the hunt."
The Bills play three of their final four against division rivals, but it may be a moot point if quarterback Trent Edwards isn't healthy.
Edwards was pulled after the first half of Buffalo's 10-3 loss to San Francisco on Sunday due to a groin injury. He did not practice on Wednesday and remains day-to-day, according to coach Dick Jauron.
If he can't go, backup J.P. Losman would start. Losman, who has appeared in three games this season and was 11 of 17 for 93 yards against the 49ers, is 10-21 as a starter in his career.
The 2004 first-round draft pick has previously indicated he doesn't plan to re-sign with the Bills when his contract expires after this season, but said he isn't thinking about that now.
"Personally, it's a great opportunity for me to be able to get a chance to play well and do well for a numerous amount of reasons," Losman said. "But all that stuff is going to work out, so I'm not really focusing on that. I'm really focusing on this team and this opportunity that we have together right now."
Miami defeated Buffalo 25-16 at home on Oct. 26, snapping a four-game losing streak against the Bills. The Dolphins haven't swept a season series with Buffalo since 2003.
Top Betting Trends:
All games in this series since 1992
BUFFALO is 21-15 against the spread versus MIAMI since 1992
BUFFALO is 20-16 straight up against MIAMI since 1992
20 of 36 games in this series have gone UNDER THE TOTAL since 1992
Games over the last 3 seasons
BUFFALO is 4-1 against the spread versus MIAMI over the last 3 seasons
BUFFALO is 4-1 straight up against MIAMI over the last 3 seasons
4 of 5 games in this series have gone UNDER THE TOTAL over the last 3 seasons
Key Player Injuries
[CB] Mike Lehan IR - Hamstring - 10/24/08
[OG] Donald Thomas IR - Ankle - 09/10/08
[WR] Tab Perry IR - Achilles - 07/27/08
[LB] Alvin Bowen is expected to miss the rest of the season. - Undisclosed - 11/08/08
[LB] John DiGiorgio IR - Knee - 10/20/08
[CB] Ashton Youboty IR - Foot - 11/07/08
[SS] Donte Whitner is "?". - Shoulder - 11/18/08
[DE] Aaron Schobel is out at least 4 weeks. - Foot - 11/04/08
[LB] Angelo Crowell IR - Knee - 09/04/08
[WR] Josh Reed is out indefinitely. - Ankle - 10/27/08
[CB] Jabari Greer injured last game, "?" - Knee - 11/18/08
Posted: 12/3/08 10:37 PM ET