Bills gear up for key three-game run

Buffalo has a crucial stretch of division games ahead. The Bills haven't won the division since 1995. Taking the crown this year starts Sunday...

San Diego running back LaDainian Tomlinson had high praise for the Bills after his team lost a key AFC showdown to Buffalo last Sunday.

"I do think the Bills are a legitimate 5-1," said Tomlinson, after being held to 41 yards rushing in the Chargers' 23-14 loss. "They don't make mistakes and we saw that today. They didn't turn the ball over. They play solid defense and good special teams and that's the formula for success. They will be a team to reckon with late in the season."

The appreciative Bills aren't looking that far down the road.

They know there won't be any playoffs to be reckoned with if they don't keep winning games and for them it starts close to home, capturing the AFC East, which would guarantee them a postseason berth and maybe a home game in the playoffs.

Buffalo hasn't won its division since 1995 and is 17-19 overall against division foes New England, the New York Jets and Miami since 2002 when the NFL re-aligned divisions. And just imagine what their record would be had Indianapolis and Peyton Manning not been shipped elsewhere.

The Bills haven't played a division opponent yet but make up for it in a big way with three consecutive division games starting Sunday in Miami (2-4). The Jets (3-3) and Patriots (4-2) follow.

"This is what it is all about," linebacker Paul Posluszny said. "You have to be able to win in your division and this is our first opportunity for that, so we are excited, especially playing against Miami. They are always a tough team for us, so it is always fun to start your division games."

"It seems like forever and I've never really gone this long without playing a division team, so it should be exciting," wide receiver Lee Evans said. "I think we have a real competitive division this year and it's kind of wide open. The Patriots are still the team to beat, but we're in a good position right now."

The Bills are in great position to put some distance between them and the field.

Miami made a buzz early with upsets of New England and San Diego but have come back to earth with losses to Houston and Baltimore.

"It's important for a lot of reasons," said Miami rookie coach Tony Sparano of the game. "We need to win another home game. We need to win a game in our division. We don't want to fall behind these people. We're not conceding anything here. This is an important game, it really is, and I think our players understand that."

The Bills will see a familiar face at quarterback for Miami in Chad Pennington, the ex-New York Jet who faced Buffalo twice a year. He was picked up by the Dolphins in the aftermath of Brett Favre's arrival in New York.

"Over the last couple of years, they've just been getting better and better," Pennington said of the Bills. "They've turned some close losses over the past few years into close wins this year."

Pennington was amazed how the Bills seem to have "eight, nine, 10 guys," around the ball defensively when he's studying game tape. He said the Dolphins have to match that kind of intensity.

This is the latest Buffalo has ever opened its division schedule. Miami, New York and New England each played two AFC East games so far.

"It is what it is," linebacker Kawika Mitchell said. "We've got three in a row and it should be fun to see how that plays out. Everybody's playing pretty well right now. You can't count out New England (after its easy win over Denver). Hopefully we can continue to be strong in all four quarters and these are the most important games, so we need to get it done."

SERIES HISTORY: 85th regular-season meeting. Dolphins lead 49-34-1. Bills have enjoyed a big edge in the series of late, winning seven of the last eight games and sweeping both games the past two seasons. In Buffalo's 38-17 victory last year at home, Fred Jackson (115 yards) and Marshawn Lynch (107) topped the 100-yard mark rushing.


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