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STRUGGLING BILLS, RAMS DESPERATE FOR A VICTORY

History shows that, while an 0-2 start in the NFL might significantly reduce a team's chances of reaching the playoffs, it does not automatically render the club a corpse for the rest of the season.

The worst part about being 0-2 is the fear of going 0-3. And that is something the winless Buffalo Bills and St. Louis Rams share while preparing to face each other in the Bills' home opener today.

In Buffalo's case, another loss would not only make for its poorest start since 1985, but also set up the distinct possibility of an 0-4 record. That's because, after next weekend's bye, the Bills have an Oct. 4 home date with the high-flying San Francisco 49ers.

"If we go 0-3, it's going to be a long season," defensive tackle Sean Moran said. "We have to win this game."

The Bills will try to end a five-game losing streak and extend a three-game winning streak over the Rams before a crowd in the range of 65,000, which would be their smallest home-opening crowd since 1984. Their offense is looking to rebound from a horrendous showing in Miami last week and ease at least some of the pressure on their defense, which has been pushed to the limit in keeping the last two games close to the very end.

Defensive end Bruce Smith is expected to make his second consecutive start, even though swelling in his right knee has bothered him the past two days. Moran has been slowed by the lingering effects of reconstructive knee surgery he underwent in January, and is expected to be replaced as a starter today by Shawn Price, who has performed well while spelling Moran in the last two games.

No changes are expected on the offensive side, despite speculation that coach Wade Phillips was ready to shake up a line that allowed eight sacks and was heavily penalized last week, and has provided little running room in two games.

"We're so close," wide receiver Eric Moulds said. "If we can eliminate all the mistakes we made, we can be a good team. Of course, it's an important game and the guys are anxious to show what we can do. We really worked hard on it this week."

The Rams are in an equally desperate mode.

"We're going to be clawing and scratching for that first win," said big-play wide receiver Isaac Bruce, who has been bothered by a tight hamstring since Wednesday. "It's going to be a tough game. It's their first home game and I'm pretty sure their fans are going to be going crazy."

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