Bills value progress as much as spoiler role

Despite their 3-10 record, and playoff hopes long since extinguished, the Bills still believe they have a lot to play for in the last three games of the season, all against division rivals.

In one regard, the Bills see Sunday's game at Miami as a chance to spoil the 7-6 Dolphins' playoff hopes.

"Whenever you can't make it to the playoffs, (you) have to play to spoil other people's seasons," safety Donte Whitner said. "I know it sounds bad, but not when they're in your division. We have the feeling that if we can't go to the playoffs, we don't want them going to the playoffs."

The Dolphins, currently ninth in the AFC, likely need to win out and get help in order to have a shot at the postseason.

After the Bills take their talents to South Beach this weekend, they host the 11-2 New England Patriots - who lead the AFC and have clinched a playoff berth - Dec. 26 before traveling to the Meadowlands to face the 9-4 New York Jets in the Jan. 2 season finale.

Tight end David Martin, cut by the Miami in the preseason after playing there since 2007, said it would be great to dash his former team's playoff hopes, but the Bills are more concerned about themselves.

"The effect of us winning may spoil some people's season," Martin said. "But right now we're just focused on winning and getting this team better."

While the Bills look forward to being a potential spoiler, they hope they can be on the opposite end of the equation in the near future.

"I'm not worried about messing it up for them," coach Chan Gailey said of the remaining opponents. "I'm worried about where our team can be at the end of the season. That's much more important to me."

Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick said he sees the last three games as a chance to send a message to the rest of the AFC East for next year.

"Obviously we're at the bottom right now, but in order to get out of that basement you've got to beat the teams in your division," Fitzpatrick said. "We'll see, starting with Miami, how we do. We think we're a better team than we were at the beginning of the year and hopefully it'll show up on Sunday."

Buffalo has lost five straight divisional games, with their last win coming Nov. 29, 2009 at home against Miami. This season, the Bills dropped a 15-10 decision to the Dolphins on opening day; lost to the Patriots, 38-30, two weeks later and were pummeled by the Jets, 38-14, the following week.

But the Bills believe they are a completely different team since their earlier meetings.

"I wouldn't say there's too much we're doing any different schematically," running back Fred Jackson said. "I just think we're doing things a lot better.  We're protecting Fitz and giving him time to throw the ball downfield. (This is) going to be a test for us, and can show how we've progressed through the season and where we rank against these guys."

From a defensive standpoint, linebacker Paul Posluszny agreed.

"We're much more comfortable now," Posluszny said. "Defensively, we're just so much further along than we were (earlier in the season) when it comes to understanding our defense, communicating to each other (and) understanding our assignments."

Whitner said the Bills have become noticeably better at formation recognition, creating turnovers and communicating lately, but their biggest improvement is in playing situational football.

"We have situations that we actually work on as far a third downs, as far as first-and-short and first-and-long and second-and-long, (that) we've gotten better (at)," Whitner said. "We're taking heed to the way that Coach Gailey wants us to practice throughout the week; how he wants us to get the entire installation in as early as possible. It's been working for us, and that's what we have to come out and show."

In the meantime, the Bills will accept having the opportunity to win some games and provide a blow to rivals' playoff hopes.

"I guess this isn't the role you want to be in, but now we're kind of in the role of the spoiler and that may add some motivation," Fitzpatrick said. "But just playing a division opponent is motivation enough to go out there."

"We're out of the playoffs and they're in a position to still make it, but we want to do the best job that we can," Posluszny said. "Even though we're not in the playoff hunt (and) our record isn't great, the matter of the fact is we still have three games left and we want to finish off the season on a high note."

While the remaining games may have some instant gratification, the Bills believe their outcomes can also carry significant weight for the future.

"Make no doubt about it, we want to spoil their playoff hopes," he said. "If you go out and win two or three of the last games, against two (or) three good football teams, people look at you as an exciting football team for next year and you get some of those Sunday (and) Monday night games. You play in the National Football League to play in prime time. That's what we want to set ourselves up for next year."

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