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Bills-Dolphins Preview

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In this Sunday, Sept. 13, 2020, file photo, Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) throws a pass during the second half of an NFL football game against the New York Jets in Orchard Park, N.Y. If Brian Flores' rebuilding project with the Miami Dolphins is to end atop the AFC East, he must find a way to beat Josh Allen and the Bills. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes, File)


Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick scrambles to pass against the New England Patriots in the second half of an NFL football game, Monday, Sept. 14, 2020, in Foxborough, Mass. The Miami Dolphins self-professed placeholder at quarterback played like one in the season opener, amplifying questions about the teams timetable for turning to rookie Tua Tagovailoa. (AP Photo/Steven Senne, File)


MIAMI (AP) If Brian Flores' rebuilding project with the Miami Dolphins is to end atop the AFC East, he must find a way to beat Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills.

Lately the rivalry has gone the Bills' way, and Miami fans in the stands - their numbers limited because of the coronavirus - will be rooting for a reversal when the teams meet in the Dolphins' home opener Sunday.

''I would agree that the Bills are trending upward,'' Flores said. ''This is a good team. We want to put our best foot forward.''

(For more in-depth coverage of the NFL, listen to the AP Pro Football Podcast apple.co/3iGiX8a)

Flores went 0-2 against Buffalo last year, and the Bills are 5-1 against Miami since Sean McDermott became their coach in 2017. Buffalo has won three in a row in the series, with Allen throwing eight touchdown passes and one interception.

In 2020, Buffalo is off to the best start among the three AFC East teams hoping to overtake the Patriots in the post-Tom Brady era. The Bills opened last week by beating the New York Jets, while the Dolphins began Year 2 under Flores with a disappointing loss at New England.

IMPROVED

Last week Allen threw 33 completions for 312 yards, both career highs, and directed an offense that controlled the ball for more than 41 minutes, the Bills' highest total since at least 2005.

''He has grown a lot,'' said Dolphins defensive end Shaq Lawson, who was Allen's teammate on the Bills in 2018-19. ''He looks a lot better than he was last year - 10 times better.''

Flores said Allen is coming into his own in his third NFL season.

''He has made incredible growth from the time we first saw him until now - from an accuracy standpoint, just an overall presence,'' Flores said. ''He's got command of the offense, and his leadership - that team rallies around him.''

ON THE GROUND

The Dolphins expected to be better at stopping the run this year, but in the opener, they couldn't even stop quarterback keepers.

Cam Newton ran for 75 yards and two scores, and Miami gave up a league-worst 217 yards rushing. There were no fans at the game, but the Dolphins still heard about the disappointing performance from their re-tooled defense.

''We gave up 217 yards rushing, so we should get criticized,'' linebacker Kyle Van Noy said. ''That's not good enough.''

Allen is likely to test the Dolphins on the ground himself. He carried a career-high 14 times last week and led the Bills with 57 yards rushing.

FOUR-WIDE

Buffalo offensive coordinator Brian Daboll didn't take long to unveil several new wrinkles following the offseason addition of receiver Stefon Diggs, and they included playing five receivers at the same time.

''He's the mastermind,'' said Diggs, who had a team-leading eight catches for 86 yards as Allen completed passes to eight players. ''As far as getting me involved, I'm more than thankful, but more so from the standpoint of he got everybody involved. A lot of people touched the ball.''

REBOUND?

The Bills are familiar with Ryan Fitzpatrick's inconsistency, so they're braced for his best after a wobbly performance in the opener.

Fitzpatrick threw three interceptions, which sparked a fresh round of questions about Flores' timetable for turning to rookie Tua Tagovailoa.

Answer: Not yet. Instead, the Dolphins expect Fitzpatrick to bounce back from a bad game, as he has done so often in a 16-year career.

''You don't want to have weeks like I had last week,'' Fitzpatrick said. ''That can't happen if we're going to win games. For me and the roller-coaster I've been on, I have an easy way of putting things like that behind me and moving on.''

Allen is familiar with Fitzpatrick's long career, especially his time in Buffalo from 2009 to 2012. They've hung out together at the Masters golf tournament.

''He's fun to be around,'' Allen said. ''You hear all the stories about him in Buffalo, and how much joy he still has playing the game.''

OPENING THE GATES

Because of the coronavirus, only one NFL stadium allowed fans to watch the action on the season's opening Sunday. But the Dolphins will allow up to 13,000 masked, socially distancing fans to attend their home opener.

The Bills won't have fans for their first two home games, at least, and last month McDermott complained there was no uniform NFL policy about allowing fans during the pandemic. The Bills always draw well in Miami, however, and Allen figures not all of the spectators will be Dolphins rooters.

''I'm sure there's going to be a good amount of Bills fans,'' Allen said. ''It's going to be exciting to be back in front of people, and having that experience of the energy and excitement in the building.''

Whatever their allegiance, fans must cheer and boo with their masks on.

Player Notes
Joey Slye Oct 30 12:40am ET

Carolina Panthers kicker Joey Slye made one field goal and a pair of extra points in a 25-17 loss to the Atlanta Falcons. Slye didn't get many opportunities in this one, as Carolina made just one trip to the red zone against a surprisingly resurgent Falcons' defense. There's not much that a kicker can do when he's simply not seeing the opportunities. With that said, Slye may be needed more in Week 9 against Kansas City, as the Panthers will probably have to put up a lot of points to win.

From RotoBaller

Carolina Panthers Oct 30 12:40am ET

The Carolina Panthers Defense had an average day in a 25-17 loss to the Atlanta Falcons. Carolina registered two sacks and an interception, holding strong on Atlanta's first two trips to the red zone. However, they couldn't stop the Falcons from marching down the field, ultimately surrendering 25 points to their division rival. At this point, there's nothing to suggest that the Panthers' defense is worthy of streaming for fantasy purposes. Don't even think about starting them in Week 9, as they face the Chiefs.

From RotoBaller

Curtis Samuel Oct 30 12:30am ET

Carolina Panthers wide receiver Curtis Samuel enjoyed his most productive game of the season in a losing effort against Atlanta. Samuel caught four of five targets for 31 receiving yards and carried the ball three times for 23 rushing yards. The 24-year-old made a nice run in the red zone to start the scoring for the Panthers, then hauled in a deep pass from Teddy Bridgewater on a flea-flicker. It's Samuel's second straight game with a rushing touchdown. This was an encouraging performance from the former Buckeye, though it's worth noting that he was held under 50 receiving yards for the seventh time in eight games. He'll be a low-end flex at best in Week 9 against the Chiefs.

From RotoBaller

Ian Thomas Oct 30 12:30am ET

Carolina Panthers tight end Ian Thomas caught all three targets for 28 receiving yards in a 25-17 loss to the Atlanta Falcons. It was a juicy matchup for Thomas, but he certainly didn't exploit it, as his modest stat-line will support. His three targets were the most he's seen in weeks, though he seemed to surrender some playing time to fellow tight end Chris Manhertz. It's best to avoid Thomas completely until he picks up his production.

From RotoBaller

D.J. Moore Oct 30 12:10am ET

Carolina Panthers wide receiver D.J. Moore had a quiet game in a 25-17 loss to the Falcons on Thursday Night Football. Moore caught two of six targets for 55 receiving yards, including a huge 42-yard reception on a 3rd-and-17 in the fourth quarter. In a strange turn of events, Moore went without a catch until the final drive of the fourth quarter. Fortunately, the 23-year-old still saw six targets, second on the team to only fellow wideout Robby Anderson. There should be better days ahead for Moore, as he had compiled at least 93 receiving yards in three straight contests coming into this one. He'll get a Week 9 matchup against Kansas City in what could turn out to be a high-scoring affair.

From RotoBaller

Mike Davis Oct 30 12:00am ET

Carolina Panthers running back Mike Davis carried the ball 13 times for 66 rushing yards and caught one of two targets for 11 receiving yards in a loss to the Falcons. The 27-year-old disappointed in likely his last ride as the Panthers' lead back, as Christian McCaffrey (ankle) is expected to return in Week 9 against Kansas City. Davis was a PPR machine in McCaffrey's absence, with at least six targets in four games as the starter. He was so impressive at times that it's possible he earned himself a bigger role, though it likely won't amount to much with McCaffrey around to gobble up the majority of the touches. Keep Davis rostered until we find out McCaffrey is back for sure.

From RotoBaller

Russell Gage Oct 30 12:00am ET

Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Russell Gage finished Thursday's win with two receptions for 25 yards on three targets. Gage continued to show his inconsistency on Thursday after coming into the game having gotten at least 54 yards in the past two contests. The WR is definitely streaky, which makes him a risky play most weeks. An ankle injury suffered by fellow wideout Calvin Ridley is worth monitoring. If Ridley cannot play next Sunday, Gage's value will surely go up, but it would still be hard to trust him for good production given his lackluster numbers this season.

From RotoBaller

Robby Anderson Oct 30 12:00am ET

Carolina Panthers wide receiver Robby Anderson hauled in five of eight targets for 48 receiving yards in a 25-17 loss to the Falcons. It could have been a bigger day for the former Jet, as he nearly made a one-handed touchdown grab on a throw from backup P.J. Walker, who came in relief of Teddy Bridgewater for one series. It certainly didn't help Anderson that Bridgewater was under constant pressure the whole night. However, his fantasy managers can take solace in the fact that he's now seen at least eight targets in six of eight contests this season. That sort of volume should keep him in the WR2 mix next week, even in a tough matchup against Kansas City.

From RotoBaller

Julio Jones Oct 29 11:50pm ET

Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones had seven receptions for 137 yards on 10 targets in the Week 8 win over Carolina. For the past three weeks, the WR has been playing at a tremendous level and has gotten at least seven receptions, nine targets, and 97 yards the past three games. His volume keeps him in the WR1 tier each week.

From RotoBaller

Teddy Bridgewater Oct 29 11:50pm ET

Carolina Panthers quarterback Teddy Bridgewater completed 15 of 23 passes for 176 yards and a touchdown along with 30 yards rushing on five attempts in a 25-17 loss to Atlanta. Bridgewater left the game after taking a nasty hit in the third quarter, but he was able to return after making it through the league's concussion protocol. The 27-year-old made some nice throws when he was given time, including a beautiful deep ball to Curtis Samuel on a flea-flicker. Unfortunately, he was constantly under pressure, as he was sacked twice and hit six times by the Falcons Defense. A bounce-back could be in the cards next week- Carolina may need to rely on Bridgewater's arm in Week 9 against Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs.

From RotoBaller

Calvin Ridley Oct 29 11:50pm ET

Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley finished with three receptions for 42 yards on four targets in Week 8. The WR went down with an ankle injury in the first half of the game and didn't return. Managers will now have to monitor the status of the WR heading into the Week 9 clash against the Broncos.

From RotoBaller

Hayden Hurst Oct 29 11:50pm ET

Atlanta Falcons tight end Hayden Hurst finished with five receptions for 54 yards on seven targets in the Week 8 win over Carolina. Hurst has now seen seven targets in the past two games and has gotten at least 50 yards in four of the past five games. The TE has a decent role in this offense and the latest numbers are backing that up. Hurst should be considered a low-end TE1 each week given his consistency.

From RotoBaller

Brian Hill Oct 29 11:40pm ET

Atlanta Falcons running back Brian Hill finished with 11 carries for 55 yards and two receptions for nine yards on Thursday. It was the RB2 of the team who surprisingly led in rush yards, but this was a rare occurrence. Hill doesn't see enough weekly touches to merit good fantasy value going forward.

From RotoBaller

Todd Gurley Oct 29 11:40pm ET

Atlanta Falcons running back Todd Gurley II finished Thursday night's win with 18 carries for 46 yards and a score. The back still had a decent night despite Brian Hill getting more rushing yards total. Gurley has now had at least 18 carries in the past three games and has three rushing touchdowns in the past two games. With a steady number of carries each week, the RB should remain in the low-end RB1/high-end RB2 tier every week.

From RotoBaller

Matt Ryan Oct 29 11:30pm ET

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan went 21-for-30 and gained 281 yards and one interception in the Thursday night win over the Panthers. It was a rainy game and many players were clearly affected by the conditions. Ryan finished with an average night, which he has sometimes had this season. With a high-powered offense, the QB should remain in the starting tier most weeks, but is most effective in favorable matchups.

From RotoBaller

Teddy Bridgewater Oct 29 10:40pm ET

Teddy Bridgewater, after being tripped while trying to scramble, took a shot to the head as he fell to the ground against the Falcons. Obviously, the first concern after a hit to the head is a concussion. Bridgewater's head abruptly twisted to the side and he went into the tent shortly thereafter. The Panthers' backup tonight is XFL sweetheart, P.J. Walker.

From RotoBaller

Calvin Ridley Oct 29 10:10pm ET

Calvin Ridley has been ruled out for the Falcons' Week 8 game against the Panthers. He was tackled by a defender and his left foot got caught under the defender. Ridley immediately grabbed his left foot and went to the locker room. His status for Week 9 will now be in question.

From RotoBaller

La'Mical Perine Oct 29 9:50pm ET

New York Jets running back La'Mical Perine has been buried on the depth chart for most of the season. However, head coach Adam Gase mentioned last week that he wants to get Perine more involved. Perine was on the field for 70 percent of the offensive snaps during the Week 7 loss to the Buffalo Bills. He saw 11 carries for 40 yards and a touchdown in the loss. He'll get a decent matchup here against the Kansas City Chiefs who are average against the run this season. Perine could be worth looking at as a desperation option for owners in need of a running back.

From RotoBaller

Jamison Crowder Oct 29 9:50pm ET

New York Jets wide receiver Jamison Crowder (groin) was able to go through limited practice on Thursday. That is actually an upgrade since Crowder sat out of practice the day prior. Crowder has been basically the only bright spot for this team all season long. His absence would doom the Jets chances of doing anything at all on offense versus the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 8. Crowder has seen 10 or more targets in each game that he has played in this season. He'll be a reliable WR2, assuming he suits up here.

From RotoBaller

Frank Gore Oct 29 9:40pm ET

New York Jets running back Frank Gore has seen a significant role in the backfield this season. The departure of Le'Veon Bell has opened up lead back duties for Gore over the last few weeks. Sadly, the Jets offensive line and team as a whole is horrible this season. Gore has done what he can, but will likely see his role decrease going forward. Head coach Adam Gase wants to see La'Mical Perine more involved in the offense. That means, Gore is going to be a tough option to trust versus the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 8.

From RotoBaller