Miami Dolphins vs. Buffalo Bills: Playing for postseason position Thursday night

The National Football League starts Week 11 with a prime-time encounter between Miami and Buffalo, two longtime AFC rivals.

Bill Wippert/AP
Miami Dolphins running back Damien Williams, left, is stopped by Buffalo Bills inside linebacker Preston Brown during the first half of an NFL football game on Sunday, Sept. 14, 2014, in Orchard Park, N.Y.

In a matchup with NFL playoff implications, the Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins hit the field Thursday night at Sun Life Stadium in South Florida.

With identical 5-4 records, the AFC East division rivals are trying to stay relevant in the conference playoff picture. That's why Thursday night's encounter in Miami is an important contest here in Week 11 of the 2014 NFL season.

Both teams are experiencing playoff droughts. The Bills last reached the playoffs in 1999. The Dolphins were in the playoffs following the 2008 season.

Ten weeks into the season, the Bills and Dolphins remain in the playoff hunt in the AFC. Even though they have the same won-loss record, Buffalo is slightly ahead of Miami due to a better division record within the AFC East. Both teams are tied for second in the division behind the 7-2 New England Patriots.

Miami's offense, led by young quarterback Ryan Tannehill, is 11th in the NFL in scoring, averaging just over 25 points per game. Tannehill has wide receivers like veteran Mike Wallace. Wallace has averaged 13 yards per catch this season. Running back Lamar Miller averages nearly five yards per carry and has scored five touchdowns so far.

The Buffalo defense is rated seventh-best in terms of total points allowed, averaging just over 20 points per game. Bills defensive tackle Kyle Williams has noticed a slight change in the Dolphins quarterback's approach recently.

"I think Tannehill's carried the ball a little more. I think against us [in Week 2], he might have carried it twice, maybe three times," Williams told this week. "He's kind of taken that a little bit and it expands their offense. They really make you cover every yard of the field with their spread [offense]. They've been really efficient."

Since taking over at quarterback from an ineffective E.J. Manuel, NFL veteran QB Kyle Orton has led the Bills to three wins in their past five games. Back in the second week of the season, Buffalo beat Miami, 29-10. Bills rookie wide receiver Sammy Watkins had eight catches for 117 yards and a touchdown. Running back C.J. Spiller returned a Dolphins kickoff 102 yards for a Buffalo touchdown in the victory.

Tannehill says for the Miami offense, there will be a lot they can take away from the first encounter, heading into Thursday night.

"You always want to go back and watch that game closely, see how they played, see how we played, things we could have done better, things that we attacked them on that they’ll probably change. That’s the beauty of division games, it’s a chess match. You play each other one time, make adjustments and then you go back and play again. That’s why it’s fun," the third-year quarterback told Wednesday.

Miami's offensive line will be playing without one of its stalwarts. Left tackle Branden Albert suffered a leg injury last Sunday and is out for the season. That means some switching of positions on the Dolphins' offensive front, not necessarily a good thing when you're trying to win an important game against a good Buffalo defense, led by Marcell Dareus's ten quarterback sacks.

Speaking of defense, Miami's features talented contributors as well. Veteran defensive end Cameron Wake has 8.5 quarterback sacks, tied for seventh in the NFL. Dolphins cornerback Brent Grimes is second in the NFL with five interceptions.

You can watch the Bills-Dolphins game on the NFL Network. Kickoff is scheduled for 8:25 p.m. Eastern time Thursday.

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