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Coming off a lopsided loss to the reigning Super Bowl champions and without one of their top defenders for the rest of the season, the Miami Dolphins still believe they're in a better place than the last time they faced the Buffalo Bills.
Looking to bounce back from Dan Campbell's first loss as coach, the visiting Dolphins can avenge an earlier defeat to the Bills by handing them a third consecutive loss Sunday.
Riding high after totaling 82 points to win its first two games under Campbell, Miami (3-4) came crashing down with a 36-7 loss at New England on Oct. 29. Though the Dolphins haven't completely turned the corner and must overcome the loss of four-time Pro Bowl defensive end Cameron Wake (torn Achilles), their confidence doesn't appear to be shot.
"It wasn't a step back," left tackle Branden Albert said. "It was a learning experience. Everybody is going to start panicking and saying this and that about us, but (the Patriots) beat six teams before this, so we just move on."
Perhaps the attitude would have been less optimistic more than a month ago when the team was mired in dysfunction under coach Joe Philbin. Since Campbell replaced the fired Philbin on Oct. 5, the Dolphins have rallied around their new boss.
"Looking at these players (after the loss in New England), you could tell the attitude was right," Campbell said. "It burned at them, and they didn't feel good about it, and they knew they didn't play well. They're far better than what was put out there."
After rushing 67 times for 428 yards in wins over Tennessee and Houston, Miami was held to 15 on 13 attempts by New England. Ryan Tannehill threw for four touchdowns and no interceptions during the 44-26 win over the Texans in Week 7, but was picked off twice without a TD against the Patriots.
The Dolphins also allowed the NFL's highest-scoring team to take a 19-0 lead into halftime and received a bigger blow in the third quarter when Wake went down.
"He's going to be missed," Campbell said. "Guys look up to him."
But those same guys believe they can successfully move on and get back to their winning ways under Campbell, who was the Dolphins' tight ends coach when they were battered 41-14 by Buffalo (3-4) on Sept. 27. Miami, however, insists it's a different team than the one that trailed 27-0 at the half and allowed the Bills to total a season-high 428 yards.
"I think we're competing more and I feel like our team's going to be more ready to go," center Mike Pouncey said. "We feel like they came into our home and beat us up pretty bad, so it's going to be a good matchup and we're going to be ready to play this weekend."
Buffalo's Tyrod Taylor was 21 of 29 for 277 yards with three touchdowns, Karlos Williams ran 12 times for 110 with a TD and Percy Harvin caught seven passes for 66 at Miami.
Taylor is expected to start after missing the last two games with a knee injury. In his absence, former first-round pick EJ Manuel threw three TDs, but turned the ball over four times. Manuel had a fumble and an INT returned for scores in a 34-31 loss to Jacksonville in London on Oct. 25.
Taylor is 3-2 as a starter, and his nine touchdowns passing and two rushing accounted for all but four of the team's 15 before he was hurt.
"We expect him 100 percent for this game," Bills coach Rex Ryan said. "That's huge."
While Williams returned to practice following a three-game absence due to a concussion, it's uncertain if a hip injury will keep Harvin, who was also said to be dealing with some personal issues, out for a third consecutive contest.
Buffalo receiver Sammy Watkins is set to return from an ankle injury, saying he'll "definitely be out there" Sunday after missing three of the last four games. Watkins is listed as questionable.
A defense that's yielded 34 points in each of the last two games could get a boost from cornerback Leodis McKelvin, who is expected to be activated after missing the first seven games while recovering from a broken right foot.
"We expect better results right now," Ryan said. "I know our fans deserve better than 3-4, there's no question."
Watkins apologized to fans for a recent message on his Instagram account in which he called his naysayers "losers" who were envious while "working y'all little jobs."
The fourth overall pick in 2014 has 11 receptions for 147 yards and two TDs this season. He had eight for 117 yards and a score in last year's 29-10 home win over Miami.
Tannehill threw two TDs and was picked off three times against the Bills in September. He's done the same while posting a 59.1 passer rating during Miami's three-game skid at Buffalo.