The rivalry between the Miami Dolphins and Buffalo Bills dates back to 1966, when the Dolphins joined the American Football League. That is the year that the two franchises met on the field for the first time. Since the beginning of the 1970’s, the two teams have faced off at least twenty times each decade, and they’re scheduled to do so again in the future. Although the rivalry has almost been broken up by league action, executives understood the importance of the rivalry and made sure that it continued.
History of Dolphins vs. Bills Rivalry
After Miami joined the American Football League for the 1966 season, it played Buffalo for the first time in franchise history later that season. The Bills posted 48 points in the first half of the game and went on to beat the Dolphins by 34 points. In the first match up to be played in Miami, the Bills shut out the Dolphins 29–0.The following year, Miami defeated Buffalo for the first time and then in another first, in 1968, the teams played to a 14–14 tie, the only one in the rivalry’s history.
Following the 1969 season, the AFL and NFL completed the AFL–NFL merger and re-aligned the NFL’s divisions. The Bills and Dolphins joined the NFL’s new AFC East division, guaranteeing that they would play twice per year. In the 1970s, Miami won all 20 meetings between the teams; 12 of the victories came by 10 or more points. In other words, the Dolphins completely dominated this series in the longest winning streak between two teams in NFL history.
Probably the most notable and definitely the closest game of this era came in the Dolphins undefeated season of 1972. In that year, the closest that Miami came to being defeated was in the first game against the Bills where Miami held on for a victory by a score of 24-23 in Miami. Of course, the Dolphins went on to win the Super Bowl that year in a stretch of back-to-back Super Bowls for Miami.
The 1980’s marshaled in a new era of competitiveness between the two franchises. On September 7, 1980, the Bills recorded their first victory versus the Dolphins in 21 games. Buffalo won the game 17–7 in Buffalo, and the fans proceeded to rush the field in celebration, tearing down one of the goal posts in the process. In 1983, the Dolphins hosted the Bills in rookie Dan Marino’s first NFL start, starting a continuing presence in the rivalry for the next decade or so. Other than two wins early in the decade, Miami won 11 of the other 12 games between the teams from 1980–86. In 1983, even the press was referring to this rivalry as one of the most lopsided in NFL history. The Bills ended the decade by winning the last six games between them and Miami.
The rivalry in the 1990’s had familiar faces. Most of the match ups featured the aforementioned Marino and Jim Kelly as quarterback for the Bills. From 1986 to 1996, they had a total of 21 matchups, counting postseason games. In 1990, the Bills and Dolphins met for the first time in the playoffs, which ended with a Buffalo victory in the divisional round. Two years later, the teams met again in the playoffs, this time in the AFC Championship Game.
The teams met twice more in the playoffs during the 1990s. In 1995, Buffalo broke the league record for rushing yards in a game with 341 on their way to victory in what was Miami head coach Don Shula’s last game in the NFL. In 1999, the two divisional foes met for their fourth playoff game of the decade, which the Dolphins won 24–17.
After the Houston Texans joined the league as an expansion team, the NFL reshuffled its divisions. There was talk of moving one of the teams out of the division, but executives on both sides lobbied to keep the rivalry going. Therefore, the two teams remained in the AFC East. However, the rivalry stagnated in the 2000’s due to the lack of success by both teams. In the 2000’s, the teams only made a combined three playoff appearances. In 2008, the two teams squared off in Toronto, marking the first time a game had taken place on Canadian soil.
The 2010’s also endured a period of low success for both teams in this rivalry, and to this day they have not broken out of that funk. The most notable game of the series in the 2010s was the Buffalo victory over Miami in 2017 that gave them their first playoff berth in 18 years. The Buffalo victory that day was memorable, but Buffalo fans will also remember the Cincinnati Bengals victory over the Baltimore Ravens that allowed the Bills to clinch.
Head to Head Analysis of Dolphins vs. Bills
The overall record between these two gives the Dolphins an advantage of 61-48-1. The Miami advantage can largely be attributed to the stretch in the 1970’s that saw the Dolphins go 20-0 against Buffalo. Since that period, the rivalry has been much more balanced, with the Bills holding the head-to-head advantage 44-37.
A Glance at Postseason Success in Dolphins vs. Bills
The Bills hold the advantage in playoff matchups as they have won 3 of the 4 meetings between the two. Overall, the Dolphins have two Super Bowl championships while the Bills are still seeking out their first, after infamously losing four in a row from 1991-1994.
Dolphins vs. Bills Rivalry Outlook
Both of these teams have struggled since the 1990’s, with only glitches of moderate success since then. Buffalo is completing a rebuilding process and appears to have their quarterback of the future in first round pick Josh Allen. Miami is still searching for a quarterback, as incumbent Ryan Tannehill has not lived up to expectations.
Both franchises will be buoyed by the impending retirement of Tom Brady and possible decline of the New England Patriots. The Patriots have had a monopoly on the division since the early 2000’s, and both the Bills and Dolphins have been unable to overcome them. One thing is for sure, though, and that is that when Miami and Buffalo are successful, this rivalry will reignite. As the two teams climb in the rankings, expect this rivalry to be as hot as ever.