KICKOFF: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET
SITE: Ralph Wilson Stadium
TV: CBS (Gus Johnson, Steve Tasker)
PREDICTION: Dolphins, 24-16
KEYS TO THE GAME: The Bills will start rookie RB C.J. Spiller, and it will be interesting to see how coach Chan Gailey utilizes his most versatile big-play threat. Buffalo has to establish the run, because QB Trent Edwards is playing behind a very suspect line and has no proven downfield threats outside of WR Lee Evans. The Bills also debut a big change with their 3-4 defense, which must provide some pressure on Dolphins QB Chad Henne. Miami will be run-heavy early on with RBs Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams in an attempt to bring the safeties toward the line and prevent Bills ballhawking FS Jairus Byrd from playing centerfield.
FAST FACTS: The Bills have won the past five meetings at Ralph Wilson Stadium (Miami won in Toronto in 2008). ... Williams needs 975 rushing yards to break Larry Csonka's all-time franchise record of 6,737.
INSIDE THE CAMPS
The latest reminder of the premium the Dolphins place on durability came Thursday with the surprising news that oft-injured center Jake Grove had been released after losing a training-camp battle with journeyman Joe Berger.
Grove signed a five-year, $29.5 million contract in March, 2009. That deal included $14.5 million in guarantees, which means Dolphins owner Steve Ross paid the former Oakland Raider close to a million and a half bucks for each of his 10 games of work.
"In a million years, I never expected that for Grove," Dolphins cornerback Vontae Davis said of his locker-room neighbor. "Just being in the league, going on my second year, I've seen a lot of things. No matter what it is, you can always be that guy."
Especially if you get hurt or dinged up for any period of time.
Grove, a seven-year pro, sat out four games late last season with a high ankle sprain and failed to regain his starting job for the final two games, both losses.
This summer, Grove was bothered early in training camp by a bone bruise in his lower leg, then he came down with a left shoulder injury in the third preseason game against the Falcons.
At that point, Grove had played six of the Dolphins' nine offensive series, including four of the first five. He seemed on the verge of reclaiming his starting job, and then he got hurt again, missed the final preseason game at Dallas and that was that.
"That's tough, but it does say something," outside linebacker Ikaika Alama-Francis said. "It doesn't matter how much money you make, doesn't matter who you are. This is a no-nonsense organization."
When the Bills spent the No. 9 overall pick on Clemson running back C.J. Spiller last April, he was considered a luxury pick on a team that had two proven veterans at his position.
Now he's the team's starter.
Spiller, who had a terrific training camp, rushing for 122 yards and three touchdowns on 26 carries, while also catching three passes for 35 yards, will make his debut Sunday when the Bills host the AFC East rival Miami Dolphins at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
Coach Chan Gailey said Spiller earned the right to start over Marshawn Lynch, whose career is languishing, by his play in the preseason and because he's had the most work.
Also, last year's leading rushing Fred Jackson is still nursing a broken hand. Jackson has practiced all week with extra padding on his hand but protecting the ball is a concern. Jackson will be available against the Dolphins if needed and Lynch will get some carries.
"I think we have to be really smart with how we handle him, especially early in the year," Gailey said of Spiller, who isn't expected to get 25 to 30 carries, more like high teens. "I think it's incumbent upon us to make sure we don't throw him out there and work him overly. With that being said and everyone stays healthy and everything goes according to plan, that should never be an issue with the backs that we have."
Spiller, one of the most prolific players in NCAA history, said he found out he was starting by reading the team's website.
"You're always surprised. You never know what's going to happen," he said. "That's why you just have to go out there and prepare yourself. It just goes to show you I've put in a lot of hard work, but there are two other great guys (at my position) and everybody is always capable of being the starter."
Jackson, who goes for an X-ray Thursday followed by fitting for a special cast, became the first player in NFL history to rush for 1,000 yards and return kickoffs for 1,000 yards last year. He wasn't surprised Spiller was named to start and is confident Gailey will find a way to use all three of his backs.
"I'm happy for him, but at the same time I'm disappointed because I wanted to be that guy," Jackson said. "I'll make the adjustment and do what I've got to, coming out there whenever I do get on the field. We'll see how it goes. I think the main thing is just to win. If we're winning, it will make anything go well. Hopefully we can go out and get a 'W' and I think we'll all be happy."
While Spiller brings some needed electricity to a Buffalo offense that ranked 28th in scoring last season, what the Bills also need is consistency from its quarterback and offensive line.
Trent Edwards won the starting quarterback job back while the line, decimated by injuries a year ago, has been put back together with left tackle Demetrius Bell (ACL surgery) and right guard Eric Wood (broken leg) returning to the lineup.
n his last two career games vs. the Dolphins, he's thrown one TD vs. four interceptions with passer ratings of 67.2 and 51.0.
"I'm fortunate to be in the position I am with the head coach I have right now," said Edwards, who lost his starting job to Ryan Fitzpatrick last year and had fallen out of favor with Buffalo's old coaching regime.
"I can't sit here and be proud of myself by any means. I'll be proud of myself if we take this team to the playoffs this year. That's what my mind is focused on. I thought we had a good preseason (2-2 record) -- a lot better than last year -- and I think we're kind of finding our stride offensively and that's what's most important to me."
The game also marks Gailey's debut as Bills coach. He was 18-14 as head coach of the Dallas Cowboys in 1998-99. Oh yeah, 1999 was the last season Buffalo made the playoffs.
Gailey isn't one for sentimentality.
"No, I don't feel re-born," he said. "I feel like I've got a job to do and it's my job to get this team headed in the right direction. I don't get in to that emotional stuff."