Players: Ryan Fitzpatrick
Buffalo Bills coach Sean McDermott answers questions after the Cleveland Browns defeated the Bills 19-16 in an NFL football game Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane)
Miami Dolphins defensive back Chris Lammons, left, hugs head coach Brian Flores, center, after an NFL football game against New York Jets, Sunday, Nov. 3, 2019, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores walks off the field after his first win of the season after an NFL football game against the New York Jets, Sunday, Nov. 3, 2019, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) rushes against the Washington Redskins during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 3, 2019, in Orchard Park, N.Y. (AP Photo/John Munson)
MIAMI (AP) The Miami Dolphins have been gaining ground the past few weeks on the Buffalo Bills, muddling the race between perennial AFC East also-rans.
Miami fell to 0-6 when it lost in Week 7 at Buffalo, which was 5-1 and off to its best start in 11 years.
But the Bills (6-3) have since lost two of three, quashing any illusions they were on the verge of challenging New England's supremacy in the division. The Dolphins (2-7), meanwhile, have quieted talk they're historically horrible by winning their past two games.
''The outside world, the media, maybe thought this wasn't possible,'' Miami defensive tackle Christian Wilkins said. ''We got two more wins than the rest of the world thought we were going to have this year, so that's pretty cool.''
The Dolphins did appear destined for a winless season after they gave up 22 points in the fourth quarter and lost at Buffalo 31-21 on Oct. 20.
The teams meet again Sunday.
''We're different than we were when we played Buffalo last time,'' Miami coach Brian Flores said. ''And so are they.''
Much of the Dolphins' improvement has come on defense. A month into the season, they ranked last in the league in points and yards allowed. In Weeks 6 through 9, they ranked 15th in scoring defense and 14th in yards allowed.
''When we played them, they were we felt a better team than what their record indicated,'' Bills coach Sean McDermott said. ''And that has been proven. They're playing hard and they're disciplined. They don't beat themselves.''
The Dolphins' winning streak has hurt their chances of landing the No. 1 draft pick in April, to the distress of their fans and the amusement of their players.
''It's an interesting narrative that obviously has been following our team the whole year,'' quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick said. ''It has been nice to get two wins and to kill the narrative a little bit.''
The Bills' offense has stagnated lately. They rank 25th in points and have totaled 29 in their past two defeats.
''We've got to score more points to enable ourselves to win games and to be a threat down the stretch,'' McDermott said.
Only two teams have allowed fewer points, but the Bills' run defense has become leaky lately. In their three games since the win over Miami, the Bills have allowed 492 yards rushing.
Because of soft run defense, opposing offenses haven't been forced into risky pass plays, and Buffalo's defense doesn't have a takeaway in the past three games.
''We have to do a better job in the run game, which will hopefully increase the number of shots people want to take,'' defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said.
Miami managed a season-high 109 yards rushing against Buffalo last month but is averaging a league-low 3.1 yards per attempt.
After losing the three best defensive backs on their Week 1 roster to a trade and injuries, the Dolphins have been winning with a patchwork secondary.
Undrafted rookie Nik Needham and waiver acquisition Steven Parker each had his first career interception last week, and Eric Rowe has been forced to switch from cornerback to safety.
''In this league, that's what you anticipate - stuff like that,'' defensive coordinator Patrick Graham said. ''If you're not thinking ahead and trying to anticipate those situations in a physical league, you're going to be behind, because it's going to happen.''
Cornerback Tre'Davious White made a diving interception at the Bills 2-yard line to spark their comeback against Miami last month. Fitzpatrick said that play will factor into his preparation in the rematch.
''Maybe not throwing an out route near the goal line this time, that's a pretty good lesson that I probably learned 100 times in my career,'' Fitzpatrick said. ''But learned it again the hard way in our first game.''
White also forced a fumble in the second half of that game.
''He does jump out on film,'' Fitzpatrick said.
One big reason for the Dolphins' improvement on defense is the 315-pound Wilkins, Miami's first-round draft choice this year.
''He has really started to pick it up the last few games,'' Flores said. ''He's very talented. He's got size, he's got athleticism, he plays with a really good motor, and I think he's starting to come into his own.''
Wilkins leads defensive linemen in the 2019 draft class with 32 tackles and ranks seventh among all tackles.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers TE O.J. Howard's 'eyes should light up' at the opportunity to play with QB Tom Brady, according to head coach Bruce Arians. 'You have a quarterback who throws to the tight end, go earn it and get balls thrown to you,' Arians said.
Fantasy Spin: Despite playing four more games than he did in 2018, Howard finished with fewer yards and just one touchdown last year. The drop in production wasn't a surprise given the fact that Arians' system typically isn't kind to tight ends, but the arrival of Brady could change that in a big way. Howard is definitely worth grabbing as a TE1, and there is a chance he finishes as a top-five fantasy option at the position.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers RB Ronald Jones could face new competition for snaps on third down next season, according to head coach Bruce Arians. 'We'd love to have a pass-catching back,' Arians said.
Fantasy Spin: Jones rebounded in 2019 after a dreadful rookie campaign, tallying 1,031 yards from scrimmage and catching 31 passes. He should still handle most of the work on early downs, but if Jones isn't on the field in passing situations, it is going to limit his ceiling, especially with Tom Brady now under center. He's best viewed as a flex option for the time being.
Free-agent TE Blake Bell (Chiefs) agreed to terms with the Dallas Cowboys on a one-year deal worth $1.7 million with $450,000 guaranteed, according to a source.
Buffalo Bills QB Josh Allen had a league-high 7.2 percent of his pass attempts dropped last season.
Cleveland Browns QB Baker Mayfield had a league-high 20 passes batted down at or behind the line of scrimmage in 2019.
Minnesota Vikings QB Kirk Cousins enjoyed a league-high average of 2.7 seconds in the pocket in 2019.
Baltimore Ravens QB Lamar Jackson executed a league-high 173 run-pass option (RPO) plays in 2019 - 65 more than second-place Kyler Murray (108). Jackson also ranked third in play-action pass attempts with 163.
Kansas City Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes was hurried 54 times in 2019 - a significant drop from a league-high 121 times in 2018.
Miami Dolphins QB Ryan Fitzpatrick was hit while passing a league-high 66 times last season - tied with New York Giants QB Daniel Jones for the most in the NFL.
Atlanta Falcons RB Todd Gurley was charged with the dropped pass on a league-high 14.3 percent of his targets in 2019 as a member of the Los Angeles Rams. Denver Broncos RB Phillip Lindsay (12.5) and Minnesota Vikings RB Dalvin Cook (11.1) were the only other qualified running backs with a drop rate of higher than nine percent.
Denver Broncos WR Courtland Sutton led all receivers with 12 broken tackles on receptions in 2019. Pittsburgh Steelers WR Diontae Johnson, former Houston Texans WR DeAndre Hopkins and Los Angeles Rams WR Cooper Kupp tied for second among receivers with nine.
New England Patriots WR Julian Edelman was charged with a league-high 13 drops in 2019 - five more than he had in 2018.
New York Jets RB Le'Veon Bell (1.2) averaged 1.2 yards before contact per attempt in 2019 - tied with Benny Snell for the worst mark in the league among qualified rushers last season.
Jacksonville Jaguars RB Leonard Fournette finished fifth in the league among qualified rushers in fewest yards before contact per attempt (1.4) in 2019. Meanwhile, his three yards after contact per attempt was good for the third-best mark in the league.
San Francisco 49ers RBs Raheem Mostert (3.5) and Matt Breida (3.3) ranked first and second, respectively, in the league among running backs in average yards before contact per attempt last season.
Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers was charged with a 'bad throw' on a league-high 21.2 percent of his passes in 2019.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB Tom Brady was charged with 116 'bad throws' in 2019, six fewer than league leader Jameis Winston - his predecessor in Tampa Bay.
San Francisco 49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo was 'on target' - defined as a throw that would have hit the receiver - on 80.7 percent of his passes in 2019 - the fourth-highest mark in the league.