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IT'S MIAMI WEEK, AND BILLS ARE ALREADY FIRED UP

You could sense the intensity level going up a notch at Ralph Wilson Stadium Monday.

The Buffalo Bills know they have a hard week of work ahead of them and a potentially great reward awaiting Monday night in Miami.

"It's Miami," said cornerback Thomas Smith. "There's no need to say any more, you know what I'm saying? It's on Monday night. It doesn't get any bigger than this.

"Anybody who has been on this team even a year knows what it means," Smith said. "The rookies are probably the only guys who don't know what Miami Week means, but they'll know by Monday."

"I think if some guys don't know, they're going to find out on that first hit," said tight end Jay Riemersma. "Once you've played in these kind of games, you realize the intensity level you need. We're going to have to be on top of our game."

The Bills can make a statement this week that they are a strong contender to win the AFC East if they can beat their archrivals.

It would be a sweet victory for many reasons, among them:

The Dolphins ended the Bills' season last year, 24-17, in the wild-card round of the playoffs in Miami.

Miami has won five of seven meetings with the Bills since Jimmy Johnson took over as coach in 1996 and is 4-0 at home against the Bills the past three years.

Miami has started off the season in impressive fashion, with a dominating victory at Denver and a narrow decision over Arizona.

Johnson's Dolphins consistently frustrate the Bills by winning the turnover battle. In seven meetings the past three years, the Bills have made 17 turnovers to just six for the Dolphins.

The Bills enter the game with momentum, having given good performances the past two weeks in beating the New York Jets and Philadelphia Eagles. Even though they beat the Eagles, 26-0, they know they probably will have to play better in Miami.

"We made mistakes in the Philly game," said defensive end Phil Hansen. "There were some mental mistakes that need to be corrected. Ted (Cottrell, the defensive coordinator) said there were six missed tackles. We don't want to miss any tackles against Miami. We're going to need a full effort and be at our best.

"Right after this victory in the locker room I started thinking about them," Hansen said. "It's going to be a good battle. We're going to have to do a lot of things right this week -- keep our fluids up and eat right because we want to be in the best shape possible physically and mentally."

The Bills have had nine months to figure out how to improve on their last visit to Pro Player Stadium. In that game, on Jan. 2, the Bills out-gained the Dolphins, 416-345, but were foiled by four lost fumbles and an interception.

"We've been looking at them -- even in the offseason -- as a team we need to beat to get to some of our goals," Riemersma said. "So we've really done some things and got some things installed in training camp with the idea that we'll run them against the Miami Dolphins.

"It was extremely frustrating," Riemersma said of the playoff loss. "One thing we came away from that game realizing -- and it was obvious -- is that we can not turn the ball over. We can't make those kind of mistakes against a good football team. If you do, they're going to capitalize and that's what they did last year."

"It's a game that lifts you up to a point that's unbelieveable," said linebacker Sam Rogers. "We always look forward to playing them."

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