By JOHN WAWROW
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — Growing up in Houston, and spending his college career at Alabama, Dolphins receiver Jaylen Waddle acknowledged having never played in a snow game in his life.
And the potential of finally doing so on Saturday night, when Miami (8-5) travels to play the Buffalo Bills (10-3) in an AFC East showdown, barely registers for the second-year player given what’s at stake.
When asked if he’s packing extra clothes to brace for a forecast calling for cold and snow, Waddle responded by saying: “Our competitive spirit. Shoot. That’s what I’m going to bring.”
Putting aside the distraction of weather, and how it might affect two teams with players who mostly hail from warm climates, Waddle is more focused on furthering the Dolphins’ bid to clinch a playoff spot for the first time in six seasons and their outside shot to claim the division title.
The Dolphins have an opportunity to sweep the season series with Buffalo following a 21-19 win in September, and just as important, snap a two-game skid that dropped them to sixth in the AFC playoff race after a 23-17 loss at the Chargers on Sunday.
Miami faces an opponent that has won four straight, while also dealing with an altogether different set of elements after the Bills wore down in the 89-degree South Florida heat in their previous meeting.
“Yeah, it’s a little ironic or I don’t know what type of word it is,” Bills quarterback Josh Allen said of what could be a 60-degree difference in temperature — not including the heat index and wind chill — between the two meetings.
“Poetic, yeah, I guess you can say,” Allen added. “Playing in December in Buffalo is not the easiest task to do.”
The Bills are far more accustomed to the elements, having gone 10-1, including the playoffs, in home games played on Nov. 29 or later since 2020. The Bills are 7-2 in their past nine December home games against Miami, not including a 16-3 loss in Buffalo’s “home” outing played indoors in Toronto in 2008.
The AFC-leading Bills are one win from clinching their fourth straight playoff berth, and have the inside track to claiming their third straight division title. Buffalo is also driven to make up for the last meeting, in which it blew a 17-14 third-quarter lead and lost despite outgaining the Dolphins 497 yards to 212.
While both coaches, Buffalo’s Sean McDermott and Miami’s Mike McDaniel, played down the impact of the elements by saying they affect everyone equally, Bills safety Jordan Poyer said the mere prospect of playing in the cold can have a mental effect.
Poyer recalled his first time experiencing wintry Buffalo, while playing for the Browns in 2014, three years before signing with the Bills.
“You get off that plane, and that wind chill hits you for the first time, it definitely plays a factor in your head,” Poyer said, laughing. “I’m like, ‘I don’t want to be here right now.’”
‘I WISH IT WERE COLDER’
During training camp this summer, McDaniel and Dolphins players wore “I Wish It Were Hotter” shirts as they practiced in South Florida’s scorching 90-plus degree temperatures. On Wednesday, McDaniel wore an “I Wish It Were Colder” shirt, and the Dolphins blasted the air conditioner inside their indoor practice facility.
The Dolphins are 29th in the league in rushing and have been inconsistent all season, but McDaniel said he doesn’t want those past outcomes to dictate what Miami can do moving forward. Saturday’s weather conditions could be a chance for Miami to establish the run early in the game.
“I think the cold really makes it a lot harder to catch,” said Dolphins running back Raheem Mostert, “but it’s definitely a game where it’s also like a rainy game where you’re going out there and running backs do a little bit better in the cold because they’re ready for handoffs.”
After being eased in during his first two games since missing a year with a torn knee ligament, Bills cornerback Tre’Davious White played all 74 defensive snaps in a 20-12 win over the Jets last weekend.
Defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier called White’s outing encouraging, while cautioning it will take more time for the player to regain his dominant form.
“He’s still very, very good, even though he’s still recovering from major knee surgery,” Frazier said.
DON’T FORCE IT
McDaniel said the Chargers’ ability to take away the middle of the field against the Dolphins was not anything Miami hadn’t seen, adding that Los Angeles simply played more physically and executed their game plan better.
Tagovailoa said the key in future games will be to get a few short, easy completions early in the game instead of forcing throws down the field.
“Finding the rhythm of the game for the guys up front,” Tagovailoa said, “for the receivers, for myself, and not just always wanting to take deep shots, essentially, even when it’s not there.”
AP Sports Writer Alanis Thames contributed to this report.