One week at a time. That's the approach the Buffalo Bills are taking at the moment - and after an 0-3 start to the season, that approach has helped the Bills win 4 of 5 and crawl back to .500 on the season. Behind a scrappy, big-play defense and one of the game's premiere young talents in rookie RB Marshawn Lynch, the Bills travel to Miami this weekend looking for their fourth straight victory, and their third overall in the AFC East.
The Dolphins, meanwhile, are scratching their heads, attempting to figure out how 8 games have produced 8 losses. Missing two of their most important players in RB Ronnie Brown and LB Zach Thomas, the Dolphins are coming off of their bye week eager to pick up their first win of the season against a divisional opponent daring to think "playoffs". Here's what you can expect to see when the Bills and Dolphins clash early Sunday afternoon:
Offense: Lynch, Lynch and More Lynch
Buffalo is coming off of their most impressive offensive showing of the season, in which they piled up 33 points and 479 yards of offense in a win over the Cincinnati Bengals. Lynch enjoyed a break-out performance in the game, picking up 153 rushing yards, a rushing score and throwing the decisive TD in the game. Expect Lynch to be the centerpiece of Buffalo's attack once again as the Bills face Miami's 31st-ranked run defense in this contest. Fun fact (lifted from The Phinsider: the Bills are unbeaten (4-0) this season in which Lynch totes the rock at least 21 times.
Meanwhile, J.P. Losman will make a second consecutive start this weekend after shredding the Bengals for 295 passing and 21 rushing yards a week ago. Losman, who led the Bills to two victories over Miami last year, may have fewer options to throw to in this contest, however: wideouts Josh Reed (back) and Roscoe Parrish (thigh) are both questionable. Lee Evans (14 catches, 294 yards, 2 TD in the last two games) will obviously be a factor, but if one or both of Reed/Parrish miss the contest, expect to see tight ends Robert Royal and Michael Gaines involved in the passing attack early. Lynch may be a receiving threat on Sunday as well - either way, the Bills will be throwing early to loosen up Miami's front seven for Lynch on the ground. This is how Buffalo has achieved balance since the bye week, and not much will change tomorrow.
Players to Watch: QB J.P. Losman, RB Marshawn Lynch, WR Lee Evans
Defense: All About One Dimension
Just as they are banged up at the offensive skill positions, the Bills may be without two of their more important defenders on Sunday as well. Both DE Aaron Schobel (illness) and LB John DiGiorgio (concussion) are listed as questionable on the injury report; if they miss the contest, they'll be replaced by Anthony Hargrove and Coy Wire, respectively. Both Schobel and DiGiorgio are solid against the run - and stuffing the run has been a key component to Buffalo's success over the last five games. By stuffing the run (as they will look to do tomorrow), the Bills have routinely forced opponents to become one-dimensional offensively, and opposing quarterbacks haven't beaten us often (which is what they'll try to make Cleo Lemon do).
If the Bills are able to neutralize Miami's rushing attack - a feat, considering Miami's success along the offensive line this season - the Bills can then focus on unleashing their playmakers on Lemon and the Dolphins' young wideouts. LB Angelo Crowell, CB Jabari Greer and the team's two safeties, Donte Whitner and George Wilson, could all have a big impact on this one; Terrence McGee has been stepping up his defensive playmaking of late as well.
Players to Watch: DT John McCargo, LB Angelo Crowell, SS Donte Whitner
Special Teams: No More Let-Downs
The Bills had a rare mishap on special teams last week, as Bengals return man Glenn Holt's 100-yard kickoff return kept the Bengals in the contest until the fourth quarter. With a winnable road game in front of them this Sunday, the Bills must avoid a similar let-down - which won't be easy to manage, as they face a supremely talented return man in rookie Ted Ginn, Jr. this weekend.
P Brian Moorman, whose punting has been a bit inconsistent of late, must do all he can to flip the field on Miami and make their offense earn their yards (and points). As far as the return units goes, expect backup safety Jim Leonhard to field punts with Parrish questionable for the contest. McGee - who hasn't had an explosive return since the Monday Night loss to Dallas - may get another break-through on Sunday.
Players to Watch: P Brian Moorman, KR Terrence McGee, WR Sam Aiken