ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — The Miami Dolphins were the team featured on Hard Knocks last summer. Funny, the Buffalo Bills haven't needed a TV series title to define their past 12 seasons.
This year in Buffalo so far has been no different. Defying the high preseason expectations, the Bills have bumbled their way into an all-too-familiar position of challenging to be the AFC East's least for a fifth consecutive season.
That's right, it's the same spot supposedly reserved for the Dolphins after their shortcomings were exposed to HBO's national cable audience.
Bills linebacker Nick Barnett wasn't paying attention then. And he couldn't care less about the projections now.
I don't make money judging expectations and things like that, Barnett said, before turning his attention to the Bills. I think in this locker room, we would definitely not have foreseen us being in this predicament and the record we have.
The Bills (3-6), with the offseason addition of high-priced defensive end Mario Williams, weren't supposed to be this bad. And the Dolphins (4-5), with rookie coach Joe Philbin, rookie quarterback, Ryan Tannehill and many holes to fill, weren't supposed to be this good.
Jim Kelly vs. Dan Marino this is not. But on Thursday night, the prime-time lights will once again shine on these two longtime division rivals in a game that will determine who stays in the postseason picture for at least another week.
The Bills haven't given up hope, despite a 1-5 stretch that's put them in serious jeopardy of missing the playoffs for a 13th consecutive season, the longest current streak in the NFL.
It only takes a spark to start a fire, and that spark is winning one football game, defensive tackle Kyle Williams said. If we win one, I think guys feel good about making a run here at the end of the year.
The Dolphins understand what's at stake, too, and are eager to rebound from a two-game skid that included last weekend's sloppy 37-3 loss to Tennessee.
I don't think by any means are we ready to shut this thing down, Tannehill said. Our guys are resilient. We're realists. We know we didn't play well. We know we didn't perform like we're capable of. But we're ready to move forward.
Moving forward is key for Tannehill, whose development regressed Sunday after throwing three interceptions.
Ryan is very poised, running back Reggie Bush said. I told him these types of games build character. These games are going to come and go, make us stronger in the long run.
Miami at Buffalo
TV: 8 p.m. today, NFL Network