THE CRYSTAL BALL

The low point of the Dolphins' season came when they faced the Buffalo Bills at Pro Player Stadium back in October. Having turned things around, the Dolphins just might be peaking as they travel to Ralph Wilson Stadium on Sunday. Here's how we think the game will unfold.

This is a totally different Dolphins team than the one Buffalo saw last time, just like it's a different — and reeling — Bills team the Dolphins will see.

For Miami, the big difference is quarterback Ray Lucas, who has come a long, long way since that disastrous performance on Oct. 20.

If Buffalo is counting on Lucas handing them another game on Sunday, they're in for a rude awakening. Lucas has getting more and more comfortable every week and he has been nearly flawless the last two weeks.

Now, with the weather expected to be cold on Sunday, it's possible that throwing the ball will be more difficult and Lucas might have a more difficult time passing downfield than he did against either Baltimore or San Diego.

But you can also count on Lucas avoiding the key turnovers that cost Miami the first meeting against Buffalo.

The other factor on offense is the offensive line, which is playing much better than a month ago and should be able — unlike last time — to open some holes for Ricky Williams.

The Bills figure to focus heavily on defense on stopping Williams, but the feeling here is that Williams will be good for about 110 yards on about 30 carries.

The Dolphins offense won't cruise as easily as they did the last two weeks because they're on the road.

But 21 points should be enough with the way the defense has been playing. And it's not just at home that the Dolphins has excelled.

The Dolphins gave up two offensive touchdowns to Green Bay and only one to the Jets, and that came on a 6-yard drive after a fumble.

The Dolphins sacked Drew Bledsoe five times in the last meeting, and should have similar success against a mediocre offensive line.

Also look for the Dolphins to have much better success against Travis Henry, who piled up some yardage running outside in the first meeting.

The Dolphins have struggled in December in recent years, but there's a different feeling this year because Miami is getting healthy this year at this time, because the Dolphins already have had their slump, and because Ricky Williams makes them better equipped to play in the cold.

We're not suggesting winning at Buffalo will be easy, but the Dolphins already have won at Indy and Denver, and the Colts and Broncos are much better than the Bills.

Make it a close one, but a Dolphins victory nonetheless.

The call: Dolphins 21, Bills 16.


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