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HAPLESS EAGLES ARE JUST WHAT BILLS NEED

With a 1-1 record, the Buffalo Bills don't exactly have great cause for overconfidence.

Only two weeks ago they were barbecued for a dreadful season-opening performance at Indianapolis. Last Sunday night, they had a nice victory over the New York Jets . . . but with a roster severely depleted by injuries, those weren't the real Jets.

So we begin to find out today, when they take on the winless and hapless Philadelphia Eagles at sold-out Ralph Wilson Stadium (1 p.m., Ch. 29; Radio 96.9 FM), the identity of the real Bills.

Are they the team that stumbled into the season with no running game, no third-down defense and no preparation? Or are they the club that steamrolled over the Jets with 224 rushing yards and a defense that stifled what was once one of the more potent offenses in the NFL?

Today should be an affirmation of the latter. The Bills should win big and should have a 2-1 record for their key AFC East showdown a week from Monday in Miami.

Of course, Bills players have spent the week being reminded and reminding themselves that what should happen is often quite different from what actually takes place in a game.

"If we go out there and just kind of play lackadaisical and say, 'We should beat them,' we're going to get our butts handed to us," fullback Sam Gash said.

Besides catching the Bills flat, the Eagles' best hope for success is a sudden offensive surge from rookie quarterback Donovan McNabb's second appearance of the regular season.

McNabb had a forgettable debut in the second half against Tampa Bay last week. He was sacked six times, but there were indications of the great athleticism and play-making that made the former Syracuse star the second overall pick of the draft.

The Bills hope that between McNabb and Philadelphia's less mobile No. 1 quarterback, Doug Pederson, they can significantly improve their paltry two-game sack total of two. To that end, they must adjust to the dramatically different styles of the two QBs.

"What we have to do is go in and do what our defense is doing well, what we as a team feel comfortable with and what we prepare all week to do," cornerback Ken Irvin said. "And if we do all those things to take care of ourselves first, then we should be able to adjust to the different style of offense throughout the course of a game."

"We feel we can play, physically, with anybody in the NFL," Gash said. "We have to keep that same mindset and the same preparation to go out and do that. It's not just going to happen."

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