Dolphins, Bills close out disappointing seasons
When the Miami Dolphins visit the Buffalo Bills on Sunday, a spot in the playoffs won't be at stake.
The Dolphins (7-8) and Bills (5-10) have already been eliminated even though they started the season with legitimate optimism.
Buffalo was coming off its first playoff season since 1999 and Miami was getting its quarterback, Ryan Tannehill, back from a season lost to injury in 2017.
But the Dolphins were hit hard by injuries again this season. Thirteen players landed on injured reserve, helping to crush a 3-0 start.
"I wish everybody hadn't gotten hurt," Dolphins head coach Adam Gase said. "That would've been nice.
"There's a reason why we started 3-0 when all of our guys were there. Then we started losing guys ... "
With a win, the Dolphins would at least avoid a second straight losing season.
"Like Coach (Gase) said, '8-8 sounds better than 7-9,'" said Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard, who will miss his fourth consecutive game with a knee injury. "We just want to finish strong."
But beyond that potential team achievement, the every player on the roster is playing to enhance his stock.
Tannehill, for example, will want to show he is worth his bloated $26.6 million cap hit. Whether he returns or is let go will be Miami's biggest offseason decision.
"Every position has its faults. Start with me, and go all the way down the line," Tannehill said.
Safety Reshad Jones, with a $17.2 million cap hit, could be another salary-cap casualty as the Dolphins have T.J. McDonald and Minkah Fitzpatrick to plug in at the two safety spots.
"We put in a lot of work in the offseason," Jones said. "To not make the playoffs -- it's tough."
Wide receiver DeVante Parker ($9.4 million) almost certainly won't be back, meaning that Sunday will be one final audition for the former first-round pick.
Because of their age, running back Frank Gore, 35, and defensive end Cameron Wake, 36, are in precarious positions.
Defensive end Robert Quinn ($12.9 millon hit) and wide receiver Kenny Stills ($9.8 million hit) have been solid but would love to have big performances on Sunday because they carry big price tags.
"Every year brings changes," Wake said. "There will be changes this year just like the year we made the playoffs. I'm sure the (undefeated) '72 Dolphins made changes."
The Dolphins won the most recent game against Buffalo, beating the Bills 21-17 on Dec. 2. Buffalo had a chance to score a go-ahead touchdown with 65 seconds left, but Josh Allen's pass to an open Charles Clay in the end zone was a bit short and fell out of the tight end's hands.
Bills head coach Sean McDermott chose to remain upbeat about the team going forward after the lackluster 2018 season. One of the disappointments was the play of running back LeSean McCoy.
"Overall, I'm really excited about where we're going and LeSean being a part of that," McDermott said. "I know this year wasn't what he had hoped it would be and the biggest thing I want to see is what we're going to do to get it to back to where it needs to be. And so I think he's committed to that cause, as are we."
McCoy, who will turn 31 before the start of the 2019 season, has rushed for 488 yards, nearly 200 fewer than his previous low mark of 637 as a rookie with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2009.
Last week, McCoy was benched for the first play of the game against New England because of a disciplinary situation.
"Yeah, that's between LeSean and myself and I appreciate him being accountable," McDermott said, referring to the fact that McCoy admitted he was in the wrong and that McDermott put him in his place. "We've moved on and that's where we're headed. That happens from time to time. Nobody's perfect."
Clay is another underachiever who may have played his last game for the Bills. The veteran, who has been Buffalo's starter for four years after he signed a free-agent contract in 2015, was a healthy inactive for the first time with the Bills last week.
Clay is enduring the worst season of his NFL career with just 21 catches for 184 yards and no touchdowns.
"You're looking at production and looking at young guys," McDermott said. "And when you have opportunities, you've got to make plays and then looking at some young guys."
Updated December 26, 2018