The Miami Dolphins fought till the end last week in the Motor City, but gave up a touchdown with 29 seconds left and fell to the Lions. That makes Thursday night’s game against the Buffalo Bills all the more critical. Miami has had the look of a playoff contender, but they simply must avenge an earlier, decisive defeat at the hands of Buffalo if they have any hope of writing their own ticket. Game time for the NFL Network-televised contest is at 8:25 PM ET at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens.

The Dolphins are a team that has, for the most part, made its living through defense, as Ryan Tannehill continues to grow and mature in the quarterback role. Last week he was hassled quite a bit by the Detroit defense, which sacked him three times, and things won’t get any more comfortable for him this week as he faces a Buffalo defense that leads the NFL with 34 sacks, and does so without his outstanding left tackle, Branden Albert.

Both of these teams have 5-4 straight-up records. Buffalo is 4-5 against the football point spread, while Miami is 5-3-1 versus the number.

In the Thursday night football odds that have been established on this game by the people at America’s Bookie, Miami is the favorite:

Miami Dolphins -5
Buffalo Bills +5

Over 42 points -110
Under 42 points -110

Albert tore both his ACL and MCL, and has been placed on injured reserve. What Miami will do now a shift first-round draft pick Ja’Wuan James from the right side to the left side, and insert veteran Nate Garner in as the new right tackle. They obviously have a very short amount of time to adjust to the new alignment. And as we mentioned, they are not going up against your average pass rush. Buffalo coach Doug Marone is likely to get just as aggressive as the Lions did last week, as they blitzed Tannehill 39% of the time. If the third-year starter gets rattled, this could become a rather long evening.

America’s Bookie customers have to have some doubts about the Miami running game coming into this one. Lamar Miller is really being bothered by a shoulder injury, and there’s not a lot of time to recuperate. LaMichael James has been signed and should get some playing time. Knowshon Moreno, who was supposed to carry much of the load, is out for the season with a knee injury. Tannehill is second on the team in rushing, so as you can imagine, there is not a lot of depth in the backfield.

These teams played in the second week of the season. Buffalo was coming off an overtime win at Chicago, while Miami overwhelmed New England in the second half of a 33-20 victory at home. But the Dolphins fell flat, with three turnovers and less than 300 yards of offense, and they suffered what was the first of back-to-back 19-point losses (29-10).

Tannehill averaged less than five yards an attempt in that first meeting, but he’s been making progress since then. Over the last four games, he has thrown seven touchdown passes with only two interceptions. He was said to be limited in practice with ankle and shoulder injuries, and naturally with a short week it’s kind of tough to recover if you’re sore.

America’s Bookie patrons might wonder how sore the Dolphins are over comments made by Buffalo defensive back Leodis McKelvin that his team was going to “kick Miami’s ass.”

Bulletin board material? If they really needed it for inspiration at this point in the season, THAT would be news.

By TheBoss