DAVIE, Fla. — The Miami Dolphins returned to work this week to get ready for the season’s first AFC East game.
The Dolphins will be the last team in the conference to play a division opponent when they face the Buffalo Bills at Sun Life Stadium on Sunday.
“I think this is the perfect recipe coming off a bye week,” defensive end Cameron Wake said following Wednesday’s practice. “A division opponent. Guys who like to run the ball — especially for us on defense, something we like to go after. Here at home and home crowd … all the pieces of the puzzle coming together. The stars are aligned for us.
“All we got to do is go out there on Sunday and make the plays.”
The NFC’s Carolina Panthers are the only other team that hasn’t played a division foe yet this season.
Some Dolphins would have drawn up Miami’s schedule a little differently.
“I would like to have played New England in game one,” wide receiver Brian Hartline said with a smile. “I guess you’d always want to play your division games earlier, especially if you feel like you’re ready coming out of the gate, ’cause they might not be as ready.”
Miami, 3-2 overall and loser of two straight, sits 1 1/2 games behind first-place New England. The Dolphins will visit the Patriots next week.
“We always think division games are worth two,” Hartline said. “One, it’s your division. Two, you’re gonna see them twice, so if you give them a loss and give yourself a win, it’s like a two-game swing.”
“Division games are the ones that you look forward to, the ones that you want to win the most,” quarterback Ryan Tannehill said. “You play each team twice. In order to win your division, the best way to do it is in your division.”
The Bills (2-4) have lost two straight since a knee injury sidelined rookie quarterback EJ Manuel. Buffalo was an 8-point underdog on Wednesday afternoon — and nobody had to tell the Dolphins what that meant.
“Winning football teams win games like this,” right tackle Tyson Clabo said.
Miami began the week ranked 28th offensively (316.6 ypg.), largely due to a struggling running game (69.6). There’s also the issue of a league-high 24 sacks.
Buffalo’s offense was ranked 16th overall (344.2) but third in the league averaging 148.8 rushing yards.
The Bills likely will try and run the ball again, especially with Thad Lewis replacing Manuel. Lewis injured his foot in last week’s loss to Cincinnati but was expected to start at Miami.
“You think about that kind of game,” Wake said, “and that’s where we know the guys on the front, that’s on our shoulders.”
Both defenses were ranked near the bottom — the Dolphins were 25th overall (393.0) and Buffalo 27th (395.0) — but don’t be surprised if the performances are better on Sunday.
“It’s a division game, so it’s going to be physical,” safety Jimmy Wilson said. “We usually go through battles with these guys. We just have to make sure come out on top Sunday and get back on the right track.”
Bills defensive end Mario Williams, who has been used at various spots on the line, has eight sacks in the six games.
“He’s definitely a force to be reckoned with and we’re going to have to handle that,” Tannehill said.