Ryan Fitzpatrick says his Buffalo Bills have nothing to lose, though another defeat could put a serious dent in their playoff chances.
The Miami Dolphins have little chance of making the postseason, but they've finally started to play like a competitive team.
The Bills look to avoid a third straight loss while the host Dolphins go for their first three-game winning streak since 2008 on Sunday.
Buffalo (5-4) has stumbled since its 3-0 start and is tied for second in the AFC East, one game back of New England. If the Bills can't catch the Patriots, earning a wild-card spot could be even more difficult with Baltimore and Cincinnati at 6-3 and Tennessee at 5-4.
Buffalo didn't look like a playoff team Sunday, falling 44-7 at Dallas.
"We will regroup and continue to work to get better,'' coach Chan Gailey said. "But you have to go do it. Nobody's going to give you anything in this league.''
The Bills have to do something about an offense that has committed seven turnovers and scored 18 points in the last two games. Buffalo averaged 30.1 points in the first seven.
The defense has also come up short the last two weeks, giving up 433 yards to the Cowboys and 348 to the New York Jets in a 27-11 loss Nov. 6.
"We haven't shown up two weeks in a row. It's disheartening,'' said Fitzpatrick, who has completed 56.5 percent of his passes with two TDs and five INTs in two games since signing a $59 million, six-year contract.
Despite raised expectations for a team that hasn't been to the playoffs since 1999, the Bills quarterback seemingly prefers the role of underdog.
"Nobody expects anything out of us again,'' Fitzpatrick said. "We've got to play loose. We've got no pressure on us.''
That's definitely the case for the Dolphins (2-7), whose 0-7 start had them competing for nothing more than the right to pick first in next year's draft.
Miami, though, has rebounded nicely - and quieted the calls for coach Tony Sparano to be fired - with a 31-3 victory at Kansas City on Nov. 6 and a 20-9 win over Washington on Sunday that snapped a team-worst seven-game home skid.
"The first seven games we were kind of in disarray,'' said Reggie Bush, who rushed for two TDs on Sunday and is in the midst of the best three-game rushing stretch of his career with 242 yards. "We were trying to find our identity. The difference now is we're playing 60 minutes and finishing at the end of games.''
Miami has a 27-3 scoring edge in the second half of the last two games after getting outscored 92-51 following halftime in the first seven contests.
The Dolphins, who last won three straight during a five-game run Nov. 30-Dec. 28, 2008, haven't allowed a touchdown in the last eight quarters.
Miami, though, is only team in the East with a losing record.
"We've been worrying about one game at a time and not worrying about where we're going to be at the end of the season, the division, if we can make the playoffs or not,'' Bush said.
Buffalo won 17-14 in its last visit to Sun Life Stadium on Dec. 19 to eliminate Miami from the playoff race.
Fred Jackson ran for just 36 yards in that game, but the veteran arrives in Miami as the NFL's leading rusher with 917 yards. He is second in the league in yards from scrimmage per game with 145.4, though he hasn't reached the end zone in the last three contests.
The Dolphins are 10th in the league in run defense at 105.1 yards a contest, and running against them could be even more of a challenge for the Bills after center Eric Wood suffered a right knee injury last Sunday. He will be replaced by left guard Andy Levitre.
"We know we've got a lot to prove. There's still a lot of season left, and we have to go out and earn everything we get for the rest of the season," Jackson said. "We know that, and it's a challenge we're looking forward to.''
The Dolphins last won two straight at home Nov. 15 and Dec. 6, 2009.