After a rollercoaster of a regular season, the Buffalo Bills (13-3) will kick off their postseason run by facing the Miami Dolphins (9-8) in the Wild Card round on Sunday, January 15. This marks the third time that these two AFC East rivals will play each other this season, however, this playoff matchup will look drastically different.
While quarterback Josh Allen will lead the Bills’ offense, the Dolphins will look toward third-string quarterback Skylar Thompson to start. Miami’s No. 1 quarterback, Tua Tagovailoa, has not been cleared to play since he experienced concussion symptoms ahead of their Week 16 matchup and backup Teddy Bridgewater is dealing with a dislocated pinkie on his throwing hand.
Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel said on Wednesday, January 11, that the team is preparing for Thompson, a seventh-round pick from the 2022 NFL Draft, to start.
Thompson will be making his third-ever career start against on Sunday, and while he has zero NFL playoff experience, the 25-year-old didn’t seem too stressed about facing the No. 1 team in his division with the franchise’s postseason hopes on the line.
“The good thing for me, I feel like I got a pretty good feel for what a playoff game kind of would look like just last week,” Thompson said, as the Dolphins edged out the New York Jets 11-6 in Week 18 in order to clinch a spot in the playoffs. During the matchup, Thompson completed 20-of-31 passes for 156 yards and zero touchdowns.
“It was a win-or-go-home type of situation for us, so getting to experience kind of what that felt like last week I think was helpful. This week is just going to be like any other week for me this entire season. It’s preparing like I’m going to be the starter and getting reps where I can build some confidence throughout the week and build continuity with this offense to where when we go out there, we can play fast and play with confidence on Sunday.”
The 6-foot-2, 217-pound quarterback will need to have the best game of his young career to defeat Buffalo, especially in Orchard Park. Ever since Sean McDermott took over as head coach, the Bills have gone 3-0 in playoff games at home. CBS Sports Tyler Sullivan reported, “Thompson’s 62.2 passer rating and 5.1 yards per attempt are the worst among the 47 quarterbacks with 100 or more pass attempts this season,” which lowers the possibility of either Tyreek Hill or Jaylen Waddle having explosive performances.
Making matters worse for Miami, Thompson likely won’t be able to rely on their No. 1 running back, Raheem Mostert, who ran circles around the Bills’ defense in Week 15. Mostert, who rushed the ball 17 times for 136 yards at Highmark Stadium, suffered a broken thumb in the Dolphins/Jets matchup, and underwent surgery on Monday, per ESPN. Mostert did not practice on Wednesday.
Thompson Acknowledged the Bills Have a ‘Very Good Defense’
Thompson was on the sidelines when the Dolphins defeated the Bills 21-19 in the sweltering heat back in Week 3, and he was at Highmark Stadium when the Buffalo beat Miami 32-29 in blizzard conditions.
“They’re a very good defense and you can tell that they have a lot of veteran guys that have played a lot of football,” Thompson said. “They play fast. They’re very disciplined. And they play hard. For me, it comes down to just executing and doing our job each and every play and not getting ahead of ourselves, not trying to press. Just take what the defense gives me and gives us and just take it as the game comes. It’s going to be a great challenge for us. I got the experience of seeing it in person, what the atmosphere is going to look like, getting snowballs chucked at us, all that. It was awesome. (laughter).”
The Bills Odds to Win Jumped After Thompson was Named as the Expected Starter
Buffalo was already favored to defeat Miami by 11.5 points, but with Thompson expected to start, they are now considered 13-point favorites. Despite the double-digit odds not being in Miami’s favor, McDaniel believes Thompson can make some magic happen.
“I’m not sure if anyone really understands the gravity of what he was able to accomplish, where he, himself, had started one game previous and then was injured, was out and then didn’t have the routine,” McDaniels said of Thompson’s performance against the Jets.
“So to jump in with a fully operated machine and do it – I’m very aware of the score. But you’re talking about no turnovers, I think one sack, and I believe the offense had – I think we had more yards than this offense had against Buffalo earlier in the season when the team did win. And I believe the Jets statistically, I mean they’re neck and neck but they’re both two great defenses.”