Just like reboots, prequels, and sequels are all the rage in Hollywood these days, so, too, are rematches on Super Wild Card Weekend in the NFL. Every single game will feature a rematch from the regular season, the fifth time -- also 1992, 1994, 2004, and 2009 -- since the 1970 AFL/NFL merger that every opening-round playoff game has been a regular-season rematch. Sunday's game between the Miami Dolphins and Buffalo Bills in Orchard Park, New York, will serve as the trilogy between these two teams.
The first meeting this season, a 21-19 Week 3 Dolphins win down in Miami, was 89 degrees at kickoff, the second-hottest NFL game this season. The playoff game will be reminiscent of the second part of this season series, also played in Buffalo, with the forecast showing a high of 29 degrees in Western New York on Sunday with wind gusts of 5-10 miles per hour. Their Week 15 matchup in Buffalo, a 32-29 Bills victory that came via game-winning field goal with no time remaining, was a frigid 30 degrees with snow coming down in the fourth quarter. That weather heavily favors Buffalo as Miami has lost nine consecutive outdoor games below 40 degrees, the longest active streak in the NFL.
The Bills are also heavily favored this weekend as the spread soared to 13.5 points after Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel's announcement that quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was ruled out while dealing with another concussion. Miami will be trying to replace Tagovailoa, the NFL's leader in yards per pass attempt (8.9) and passer rating (105.5), with seventh-round rookie Skylar Thompson -- who had the worst yards per pass attempt (5.1) and passer rating (62.2) among 47 quarterbacks with over 100 pass attempts this season. Veteran backup Teddy Bridgewater is dealing with a hand injury of his own.
On the other side, Josh Allen will be looking to continue his dominance against the Dolphins as he's the only player in NFL history to throw for over 700 yards (704) and rush for over 100 (124) against a single team in the regular season.
Can the Dolphins pull off a miracle victory for what would be one of the top five biggest playoff upsets based on the spread in the Super Bowl era? Or is this a decisive win for the host Bills?
Here's everything you need to know:
How to watch
Date: Sunday, Jan. 15 | Time: 1 p.m. ET
Location: Highmark Stadium (Orchard Park, New York)
TV: CBS | Stream: Paramount+
Follow: CBS Sports App
Odds: Bills -13.5, O/U 43.5 (courtesy Caesars Sportsbook)
When the Dolphins have the ball
For the first time this season, Miami will face Buffalo without Tagovailoa, who is still dealing with a concussion he suffered in Week 16 against the Green Bay Packers. Instead, it will be Thompson, and the results for the Dolphins offense simply haven't been as good without Tagovailoa. The gap of 9.2 points per game between when Tagovailoa starts versus anyone else for the Dolphins in 2022 is the same gap between the NFL's highest-scoring offense -- the Kansas City Chiefs' 29.2 points per game -- and the NFL's 21st-ranked scoring offense -- the Arizona Cardinals' 20.0 points per game.
Dolphins by starting QB in 2022
* Highest by any starting QB this season (min. 10 starts)
Making matters worse is that Thompson has looked overwhelmed during most of his NFL action this season, ranking as arguably the worst quarterback in the entire NFL among the 47 with over 100 passing attempts this season.
Skylar Thompson by the numbers
* Only New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson (54.5%) was worse
The game plan for the Dolphins is obvious: get their dynamic wide receiver duo of Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle the football as much as possible in as many ways as possible. Hill's 1,710 receiving yards this season set the franchise's single-season record as well as the record for the most in a player's first season with a team in league history. Prior to Tagovailoa's concussion issues, Hill's mere presence made a quarterback much-maligned for his deep ball one of the league's leaders in going deep.
Waddle, only in his second NFL season, led the entire league by averaging 18.1 yards per catch. Much of that figure came against the Bills this season as he totaled 216 receiving yards and a touchdown on seven catches for an eye-popping average of 30.9 yards per reception across the two meetings. Both receivers had big-play scores in the last meeting, a 32-29 Bills win in Week 15. Waddle's was a 67-yarder after he simply outran the entire Bills secondary by finding a hole behind Buffalo's zone defense. Hill's went for 20 yards after he burned the defense by simply running down the right sideline in a straight line.
The Dolphins offense has the highest motion rate (75.1%) and play-action rate (24.1%) by any team in the past five seasons, and expect plenty of it to try and ease Thompson into this game.
When the Bills have the ball
Let Allen cook: he is 8-2 in his career against Miami and a perfect 5-0 at home. Allen averages 268.4 passing yards per game and 55.4 rushing yards game across his 10 matchups with the Dolphins, making him the only player in NFL history with over 250 passing yards per game and over 50 rushing yards per game in their career against a single team with a minimum of five games played. He also has multiple passing touchdowns in all 10 career games against Miami, which is tied for the most consecutive games with multiple passing touchdowns by a quarterback against a single team in NFL history with Dolphins Hall of Famer Dan Marino's dominance against the New York Jets.
Josh Allen career vs. Dolphins
* Only QB in NFL history with 250+ pass YPG & 50+ rush YPG vs one team minimum five games played
Allen also put up humongous numbers, both good and bad, overall in 2022. His 5,045 total yards and 42 total touchdowns were both the second-most in the NFL behind only the NFL MVP favorite, Kansas Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes. On the flip side, Allen led the league with 19 turnovers, becoming the first to do that and make the playoffs since Eli Manning in 2007. Six of those giveaways came at the most inopportune time -- in the red zone -- the most turnovers inside an opponent's 20 since Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshone Kizer's eight in the 2017.
While one would think that blitzing Allen would be the way to force him into these turnovers, that hasn't necessarily been the case as he leads the NFL in passing yards per attempt (8.1), passing touchdowns (13), and passer rating (96.7) when under pressure this season. However, blitzing is what the Dolphins do as they have the second-highest blitz rate (38%) in the NFL this season behind only the New York Giants' 43.9% rate. Allen, however, hasn't had any trouble with Miami's blitzes this season, completing 22 of his 29 passing against it for 264 passing yards for four touchdowns, no interceptions, and a 142.8 passer rating this season.
Josh Allen vs. Dolphins blitz in 2022
Despite that success, it would make sense for Miami to stick to its bread and butter. The Dolphins blitzed Allen on 33.8% of his dropbacks, the second-highest blitz rate he's faced in a game all season, in their 21-19 win against the Bills in Week 3. Even though he didn't throw an interception when facing it, Allen made some crucial mistakes in the red zone including a turnover on downs 2 yards from the end zone after throwing the football into the ground while his target, receiver Isaiah McKenzie, was open in the right corner for a score in the fourth quarter. The game Allen faced the blitz the most, 35.7% of his dropbacks, was a 23-20 win at the Baltimore Ravens in Week 4, but it was ugly. When the Dolphins didn't blitz Allen as much in Week 15, 20% of his dropbacks, the dual-threat dynamo shredded Miami's defense for 304 passing yards and four passing touchdowns.
For the Dolphins to win on Sunday, they need to muck things up and blitz as much as possible with the hope that Allen -- the NFL's most turnover-prone player this season -- gets sped up by the incessant blitzing and perhaps makes a mistake or two one of the few times the Dolphins don't bring the house in anticipation that the cavalry is coming. However, Allen can be far from the near-perfect standard of play he has set when facing Miami, and the Bills will still likely waltz to the AFC divisional round with ease.
Prediction: Bills 38, Dolphins 13