Buffalo vs. Miami, Dolfans vs. Bills Mafia make this Miami’s biggest home game in 30 years | Opinion

Uncommon home underdogs Sunday night, the Miami Dolphins are counting on their stadium and fans to help lift them in a winner-take-all season finale for the AFC East championship against the nemesis Buffalo Bills.

Miami’s advantage from Hard Rock Stadium is quantifiable. The 7-1 home record is third best in the NFL. The Dolphins average 35.1 points at home vs. 26.1 on the road, and give up 16.9 at home vs. 29.4 away.

A troublesome question arises, though:

Will it even be a home game for Miami?

It will be by address, yeah. But will it look and sound and feel like a home game?

Turns out Miami’s biggest home game in 30 years by my estimate (more on that later) won’t just be Dolphins vs. Bills, but also Dolfans vs. Bills Mafia.

Both contests figure comparably close and rife with ill-will, with the Bills favored by 3 points by bettors, and Bills Mafia expected to account for at least half of the crowd -- 52 percent -- based on one rather startling report.

VividSeats.com, the major aftermarket ticket outfit, claims its “Fan Forecast algorithm” indicates western New York will be overrunning southern Florida and that blue jerseys will be awash in Miami Gardens on Sunday night. The Bills Backers local fan club chapter has organized three major events in Broward County Friday and Saturday leading to the game.

BUFFALO TAKEOVER’ trumpets the events flyer as loyal-traveling Bills fans a-swoon over a four-game win streak are paying $350-plus to gobble up the worst upper deck tickets and more than $500 for lower, better seats.

I find it hard to believe that so many Dolfans would sell their tickets for profit to a game so palpably huge. But who am I to argue with the “Fan Forecast algorithm” of one of the biggest scalpers, er, I mean sellers, of aftermarket tickets?

The point is, the idea Bills fans would steal Miami’s home-field advantage as the Bills try to steal the division title that seemed Miami’s all season just adds more intrigue to a matchup full of it. And to the point spread-backed narrative that the Bills arrive locomotive-strong while the Dolphins season has gone off the rails a bit.

Perception tends to be tantamount to reality until events dictate otherwise, and, in the NFL, things can change fast. They sure have with the Fins.

The team was sailing along way on top in the AFC East and regarded among Super Bowl favorites. Then came the stunning home loss to lowly Tennessee. Hand-wringing ensued as the choir of long-suffering Dolfans moaned, “Here we go again...”

Then arose the narrative that Miami couldn’t beat a good team. Ah, but then they beat the Dallas Cowboys! Order was restored. Flights to Las Vegas were being looked into again.

Then came last week’s 56-19 loss in Baltimore. Thud. (Can a team supposedly that good look that bad?)

Now the proving starts all over again for a suddenly doubted Dolphins squad beset by key injuries at just the wrong time.

Now, suddenly, the best, most exciting Dolphin season literally in this century seems at risk of unraveling. All at once, against odds, Miami faces what is all but a must-win home game in what could be a semi-hostile environment against a rival that has beaten them in 12 of the past 14 meetings including 48-20 earlier this season.

The winner gets not only the division crown (it would be Miami’s first since 2008) but also the AFC’s No. 2 playoff seed and a much friendlier path to the Super Bowl.

The loser tumbles in seeding and faces a more perilous path. Well, Miami even in losing is still assured a playoff ticket. Buffalo is not, so the Bills have an even greater need for a victory.

Miami must rally from the Ravens debacle without key defensive starters including Bradley Chubb, Jaelan Phillips and Xavien Howard. Receiver Jaylen Waddle seems unlikely to play and Tyreek Hill and Raheem Mostert are iffy with injuries though the team is hopeful both will be ready.

As if a metaphor for the Fins’ recent woes, Hill’s house caught on fire this week. (Nobody was hurt.)

Miami had a big six Pro Bowl selections this week led by Tua Tagovailoa as the first Dolphins quarterback selected since Dan Marino in 1995, ending the NFL’s longest Pro Bowl drought at that position. The team will need Tua to step up Sunday night and outpitch Josh Allen.

Because of how high hopes have been for this Dolphins season, and because how much winning Sunday means going forward, for me this is Miami’s biggest home game since January 17, 1993 when then-Joe Robbie Stadium hosted the AFC Championship Game with a Super Bowl ticket the prize.

It was Buffalo then, too. Marino vs. Jim Kelly. The Bills won, 29-10.

The betting public thinks Buffalo will win again.

Supposedly at least half of the fans at Hard Rock Stadium will, too.

The Dolphins, and their fans, have not been cast as underdogs quite like this all season.

If Miami --- city and team -- still believes this can be a Super Bowl season, the time to rise up and show the proof is now.

Because the playoffs start not next week, but here and now: In the AFC East Championship Game.