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All eyes on Bills’ journey as Dolphins scramble at QB

Jan 8, 2023; Orchard Park, New York, USA; Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) against the New England Patriots during the second half at Highmark Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

The No. 7 seed Miami Dolphins are preparing to start seventh-round draft pick Skylar Thompson at quarterback for their first playoff game since 2016 when they face the second-seeded Buffalo Bills on Sunday afternoon in Orchard Park, N.Y.

Tua Tagovailoa remains in concussion protocol, his third stint there this season, and has been ruled out. Teddy Bridgewater could return this week from a dislocated pinkie finger on his throwing hand provided he has no setbacks, according to Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel.

Thompson completed 20 of 31 passes for 152 yards in last week’s 11-6 win over the New York Jets that locked up the Dolphins’ playoff spot. In seven appearances (two starts) in the regular season, he completed 57.1 percent of his passes with one touchdown and three interceptions.

“I feel like I got a pretty good feel for what a playoff game kind of would look like just last week,” Thompson told reporters. “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.”

He faces the tall task of leading Miami against division-rival Buffalo, which ended the regular season on a seven-game winning streak and will be riding an emotional high from the latest positive news about safety Damar Hamlin, who suffered a cardiac event in a Week 17 game against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Hamlin was discharged from a Buffalo hospital Wednesday after passing a series of cardiac, neurological and vascular tests. Hamlin has returned home to continue recovering with his family at his side.

Bills coach Sean McDermott said that the Bills are looking forward to welcoming Hamlin back whenever he feels ready.

“For us, as Damar’s dad has said to us multiple times and Damar has mentioned as well, they want us to go do our job and that’s what we’ve got to do,” McDermott said Wednesday.

In their first game since Hamlin’s cardiac arrest, the Bills returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown, one of Nyheim Hines’ two return scores on the day, and they defeated the New England Patriots 35-23.

The Bills and Dolphins split their season series, with the Dolphins winning 21-19 in Miami during Week 3 and the Bills prevailing 32-29 in Buffalo during Week 15, though Tagovailoa played both games for the Dolphins.

Josh Allen had 400 passing yards in the loss to Miami and threw for four touchdowns in the victory. He’s 8-2 in his career against Miami, a team that ranked second in the NFL this season in blitz rate.

“They bring a variety of pressures … You’ve got to go in with a really good plan, whether it’s blocking it up or getting the ball out quick,” Allen said.

A Super Bowl favorite since the offseason, the Bills had an impressive year, featuring the second-ranked scoring offense (28.4 points per game) and the second-best scoring defense (17.9 points allowed). Allen threw for 35 touchdowns and ran for another seven as the team’s second-leading rusher (762 yards) behind Devin Singletary (819).

The Dolphins, who last won a playoff game in 2000, started the season 8-3, with the addition of Tyreek Hill (119 catches, 1,710 yards, seven TDs) boosting the offense before Tagovailoa’s head injuries interrupted his availability.

Miami’s injury woes run much deeper than the quarterback position.

Leading rusher Raheem Mostert (891 yards) has a broken thumb. He didn’t practice Wednesday, nor did linebacker Bradley Chubb (ankle, hand) or offensive linemen Terron Armstead (toe, pec, knee, hip), Liam Eichenberg (hand), Kendall Lamm (ankle) and Brandon Shell (knee, ankle).

Backup Miami running back Jeff Wilson Jr. (illness) and wideouts Jaylen Waddle (ankle) and Cedrick Wilson Jr. (hip, groin) were limited, as was Bridgewater, who has an ailing knee along with his finger.

For the Bills, defensive tackle Jordan Phillips (shoulder) did not practice Wednesday. Wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie (hamstring) was limited.

–Field Level Media