THE CRYSTAL BALL

The Buffalo Bills have looked almost unstoppable in the early part of the 2003 season, but are the Dolphins just the team to slow them down. We offer our thoughts on how the game will play out.

The Bills do look very intimidating on paper because their defense has added a few big-name players since last season, such as Sam Adams, Takeo Spikes and Lawyer Milloy.

The offense is just as formidable, despite the loss of wideout Peerless Price, who was traded in the offseason to Atlanta.

In Drew Bledsoe, Travis Henry and Eric Moulds, the Bills still have more than their fair share of playmakers.

The Bills also have a young and talented offensive line, led by perennial Pro Bowl guard Ruben Brown and 2002 first-round pick Mike Williams.

So how can the Dolphins, who have not looked overly impressive early on, possibly win this game?

Well, first off, the Dolphins will get better, we can assure of that. The question is just when that will happen.

And the Bills are much improved over last year, but they're not as good as their performance of the first two weeks might indicate.

For one thing, let's examine the circumstances behind their 2-0 start. They faced a Patriots team in the opener that was reeling from the release of Milloy just days prior. Then they faced a mediocre Jacksonville team.

The Dolphins have had their problems getting adjusted to new players and a new scheme on defense, but we see it as the day things come together.

Look for Jason Taylor to break out with a big game after two relatively quiet outings. Look, in particular, for the secondary to rebound and make things difficult for Bledsoe.

The Dolphins defense played very well against Buffalo at home last year, and we expect the same kind of thing to happen.

Offensively, Ricky Williams will have another big game against Buffalo, although he may have to be content with 125 yards instead of 227 like he had last December at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

The Dolphins offensive line can handle the Buffalo pass rush, which isn't great, which will give Jay Fiedler time to throw. And we expect Randy McMichael to have a big game, as will Derrius Thompson, whose size advantage will come in handy.

It's going to be a close game, but we see the Dolphins, buoyed by the home crowd, pulling out a close game.

The call: Dolphins 23, Bills 20.


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