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Bills should treat Dolphins as inferior as they are

Vic Carucci

Here are my five takes for Sunday's game between the Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium.

1. Treat the Dolphins like the Dolphins.

This is a bad opponent. No spin can change that, including phrases such as "red-hot Dolphins" that emanated from the Bills' dressing room this week.

The Dolphins have earned their way to the bottom portion of the league on offense and defense. Back-to-back victories against the New York Jets and Indianapolis Colts, giving Miami a 2-7 record, don't change that. They can't be ignored, either, but treating them as if they've suddenly changed what the Dolphins are all about is going way too far.

The Bills hardly look as impressive as their 6-3 record might indicate. And even though it didn't happen during the earlier meeting at New Era Field, they still should be expected to take command from the start and show, once and for all, they're capable of dominating an inferior opponent.

That isn't for the sake of those of us on the outside. That's for the Bills. After the lame effort on offense and special teams that cost them dearly against the Cleveland Browns last Sunday, some doubt figures to have crept into the players' psyche.

2. Josh Allen trusts himself to make more plays than mistakes.

He seems to be caught in the worst possible place for an NFL quarterback: So worried about doing something wrong that it has impeded his ability to do something right.

The passing arm that allows Allen to throw the ball longer than most of the other QBs in the league has badly misfired throughout the season. His overthrows have become an embarrassment for him and the team.

After the Cleveland game, Allen shed some light on the heart of the problem: his fear of a possible interception if he doesn't lead his targets as far as he has. That is a guy playing to avoid mistakes rather than to make big plays.

Allen's mindset also could help explain why Sean McDermott felt compelled to tell his players this week to "play fearless." Although he said that in a general meeting, the message clearly was directed toward Allen.

3. Stop messing around with the running game.

There's no reason for the Bills to be as reluctant as they appear to consistently run the football.

They barely did it against one of the worst run-stopping teams in the NFL last Sunday, nor did they utilize it as much as strong winds suggested they should in a home beat-down against Philadelphia a couple of weeks earlier.

The Dolphins do a poor job of stopping the run. So let's see a whole lot of Devin Singletary carrying the ball -- a total far greater than the eight attempts he had against the Browns for an average of 5.3 yards per carry.

It's a fact of football life that good things tend to happen with the rest of the offense when the ground game gets rolling. And Singletary should be the focal point, with some complementary work by Frank Gore.

4. There's never an excuse for losing to Ryan Fitzpatrick.

Sorry, but for all of the occasionally wonderful accomplishments Fitzpatrick has had in a journeyman quarterback career with eight teams, allowing him to win should be unacceptable.

Fitz is merely keeping a seat warm for a long-term starter still playing in the college ranks. For that matter, Josh Rosen was supposed to have been filling that interim role, but he proved himself to be incapable.

Fitzpatrick's considerable intelligence and savvy can make him dangerous, and the Bills came close to letting him beat them on Oct. 20 in Orchard Park. But the NFL's third-ranked defense and No. 3 D against the pass has absolutely no business giving Fitz a chance to finish the job this time.

Tre'Davious White had the game-changing interception of a forced Fitzpatrick throw deep in Bills territory last month. At the very least, the Bills should intercept him at least twice Sunday, on the assumption they actually can take an early lead and build on it.

5. Stephen Hauschka has to provide the reliability that once was his signature.

If you can't be trusted to make field goals from 34 and 53 yards, when can you be trusted? The Bills have a problem with their kicker, and the solution had better show up soon or a change might be required.

A defensive-driven team that doesn't score a whole lot has to have a reliable kicker. Despite McDermott's public show of faith, each week should feel like a tryout for Hauschka -- if that isn't already the case.


Game details

Here is what you need to know for Sunday's game.

TV: CBS. Announcers: Spero Dedes (play-by-play), Adam Archuleta (analyst).

Radio: Bills Radio Network. Buffalo-WGR 550 AM; Toronto-Fan 590 AM; Rochester-WCMF 96.5 FM and WROC 950 AM; Syracuse-WTKW 99.5 FM and WTKV 105.5 FM. Announcers: John Murphy (play-by-play), Eric Wood (color analyst).

Series history: The Dolphins lead the series, 61-49-1. The Bills are seeking their fifth win in their last six games against the Dolphins.

Bills injury report: Questionable: DE Jerry Hughes (groin).

Dolphins injury report: Out: CB Ken Webster (ankle). Questionable: DE Taco Charlton (elbow), DE Avery Moss (ankle), LB Raekwon McMillan (knee), S Reshad Jones (chest).

Point spread: The Bills are a 6-point favorite at

Did you know: The Bills' 21-game streak of holding opponents to under 400 yards of offense is currently the longest in the NFL. It's the Bills' longest since 2004.

Next: After two games on the road, the Bills return to New Era Field next Sunday to face the Denver Broncos.

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