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A winning division record the goal for Bills

Posted Dec 18, 2013

The postseason is not on the table for the Bills, but a winning record in the AFC East is there for the taking.

At 5-9 on the season and the playoffs no longer a part of the equation the Bills might appear to have little to play for over the final two weeks of the season. Head coach Doug Marrone and his players feel otherwise. With two AFC East opponents left on the 2013 slate Buffalo has an opportunity to finish above .500 in the division for the first time in six seasons.

“It’s critical,” said Marrone of the team’s last two regular season games. “We’ve got to keep finding ways to win and keep fighting through, and that’s what we’re doing.” 

Buffalo last posted a winning record in the division back in 2007 when they had a 4-2 mark in what was a 7-9 season. They have a chance to repeat that now in 2013 in their first season under Marrone. The Bills have a 2-2 division mark with a home game against the Dolphins and a road finale with the Patriots in New England the following week.

The streaking Dolphins have won three in a row and four of their last five games, including a 24-20 nail biting win over New England this past Sunday.

Buffalo won the first meeting with the Dolphins back in Week 7 in Miami 23-21.

“We went down to their house and got a win so I’m sure they’re hoping to do the same up here,” said Fred Jackson in his weekly appearance on Bills flagship station WGR Sportsradio 550 this week. “So hopefully we can get a lot of fans out at the Ralph and get them rowdy and we can feed off of them.”

The Bills have yet to win back-to-back games this season, but have another opportunity to do so Sunday after posting a 23-16 road win at Jacksonville last weekend.

“Our focus now is getting ready for Miami, a team that we played once,” said Marrone. “We came out on the winning side of it, but it was a tough game, a hard fought game. We’ve got two division games left and it starts with Miami and beating them. They’re playing well right now. They’re coming off a big win and have been playing well lately. And we have to try again to get this second win in a row, something we haven’t done since we’ve been here.”

For those outsiders who believe the Bills will be giving some extra playing time to younger players on the roster to get a better handle on their abilities with no shot at the postseason, Marrone set the record straight.

“A lot of times people will think, hey are you going to play this guy to get an evaluation,” said Marrone. “It’s the same thing with Kraig (Urbik), he went in there and played well so we didn’t have to put J.J. (‘Unga) in there, even though he’s been practicing well. We’ll look to do whatever we need to do to win, because it’s critical for us to win.  And I think when you win, you learn a lot from that.” 

Miami currently sits in one of the two AFC Wild Card positions after improving to 8-6 on the season this past Sunday. The Bills would like nothing more than to strike a major blow to the Dolphins’ playoff chances.

“This is a big game for us and has always been a big game for us,” said Jackson. “We’re excited about it. We have a tremendous opportunity to hit those guys in the mouth and kill their playoff chances a little bit.”

Weather looks as though it will be factor in this one as the forecast is calling for a wintry mix of sleet and freezing rain Sunday with highs in the mid-30’s. While those are certainly not conditions the Dolphins are accustomed to playing, the Bills haven’t played a home game in Orchard Park since before Thanksgiving.

Their last game at Ralph Wilson Stadium was Nov. 17th against the Jets, five weeks ago. After a bye in Week 12, their last three games have been in a dome (Toronto) and in the state of Florida at Tampa Bay and at Jacksonville.

Head coach Doug Marrone, who has frequently had his team practice outdoors leading up to home games intends to do the same this week to recapture the advantage of being used to playing in the cold and snow.

“We talked about it a couple weeks ago, how we were planning the practice schedule. I talked with the captains. We’ll go out just like we’ve done before on Wednesday and Thursday. Obviously it helped us the last time because of the wind and the conditions,” said Marrone in reference to their convincing win over the Jets in Week 11 (37-14). 

“I think I can say when I was a player in Miami and a player in New Orleans,  any time you come up to Buffalo late you realize that there are going to be elements to that game,” he said. “I don’t think it’s a big secret, I think a lot of players understand that. They’re coming up here, which is exciting to get a chance to play at home. I think individually how those players get ready for it, each person is different.  But for us, it’s our home. We should be used to it.”

Ultimately, the benefit of winning their last two games goes beyond a winning division record. For the team it would further solidify the foundation Marrone and his staff wanted to lay in their first season with the players.

“These next couple of games are critical,” he said. “Every play is critical. Our preparation is critical. I don’t want to lose sight of that. It’s very important. We have a lot of guys on this team that potentially can return, and I think it’s important that we play well.”

“It’s huge. It means a tremendous amount,” said Jackson. “We have two opponents coming up that we’re going to see a lot of so to be able to get wins against those guys is big. Focusing on Miami first is something we can take into the offseason. We have a road ahead of us and to be able to lay the foundation of beating those guys and have a winning record in our division is something we can lean on. That’s the opportunity that’s in front of us.”