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Underachieving Bills to host resurgent Dolphins

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Underachieving Bills to host resurgent Dolphins

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) 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 state of 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 versus 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 suddenly regressed Sunday after throwing three interceptions to match his worst outing he had three picks in a season-opening loss at Houston.

Tannehill bounced back from that game; Miami win four of the next six, although Matt Moore was behind center for most of the victory over the Jets when Tannehill was hurt early on. The Dolphins are confident the No. 8 draft pick out of Texas A&M can get them back on track.

``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.''

Bush needs to rebound, too. He was benched after losing a fumble six minutes in against the Titans.

``I think we're all a little happy to have this game on Thursday, because it gives a chance to erase this last game and get back to football very quickly,'' Bush said. ``I know that I've bounced back before. I'll bounce back again, and we'll be OK.''

It might help Bush's outlook knowing he had a career-best 203 yards rushing and scored on a 76-yard run in a 30-23 win at Buffalo last December.

The Bills' defense isn't much better this season despite the addition of Williams, who signed a six-year, $100 million contract in free agency. Buffalo has allowed 285 points, fewer only than Tennessee - no one is giving up more than the Bills' 36.6 points per game - and 1,473 yards rushing, while Williams has hardly made a dent in improving the pass rush. Williams has 4 1/2 of the Bills' 20 sacks, which is five ahead of where they were at this point last season.

``The biggest thing for us is to make a stand,'' Williams said. ``Definitely, it's got to start some time. We've got seven games, but if you don't start it sooner than later, then we're basically just spinning our wheels.''

The Bills have spent plenty of time stuck in neutral. And it's become difficult to keep count the number of times they've been asked how important it is to win the next game.

``As we continue to lose, people keep asking that question. I feel like we had to have them all,'' quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick said. ``We're disappointed. We're not where we want to be. But we've got to start winning at some point, and this is a great week to do it.''

The Bills are coming off a 37-31 loss at New England, which once again exposed their inability to compete against division rivals. Buffalo's lost eight straight against AFC East opponents, and is 4-23 in division games since 2008.

``Our backs are against the wall,'' Barnett said. ``We have to win every game, I feel. And it starts with this game.''

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Wizards vs. Hornets: TV, live stream and radio info, things to watch

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USA TODAY Sports

Wizards vs. Hornets: TV, live stream and radio info, things to watch

Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, Kelly Oubre, Jr. and the Washington Wizards battle Kemba Walker, Dwight Howard, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and the Charlotte Hornets on Friday night.

Here is all you need to know: TV, live stream and radio info, tip-off time, plus three things to watch:

WASHINGTON WIZARDS VS. CHARLOTTE HORNETS

Where: Capital One Arena
Tip-off: 7 p.m.
TV: NBC Sports Washington (coverage begins at 6 p.m.)
Live stream: NBCSportsWashington.com
Radio: 1500 AM

On a roll

The Wizards have some serious momentum going right now. With an impressive win over the Cavs on Thursday, they have now won three straight games and eight of 10 since John Wall went down with a left knee injury. They had a week off due to the All-Star break, but didn't show any rust at all in their first game back.

The Wizards are now 34-24, 10 games above the .500 mark. They are fourth in the East and could move into third on Friday if they win and the Cavaliers lose. Even with Wall out, things continue to look up for Washington.

PODCAST: BIGGEST STORYLINES COMING OUT OF ALL-STAR BREAK

Hornets have had their number

The Wizards haven't done so well against the Hornets so far this season. Charlotte has taken both meetings and that includes a 24-point win on Jan. 17. That game featured Dwight Howard taunting the Wizards late in the fourth quarter.

Howard has killed the Wizards through two games with averages of 22.0 points and 14.0 rebounds. Jeremy Lamb (20.0 ppg vs. Wizards) has been a big factor as well as All-Star Kemba Walker (21.5 ppg vs. Wizards).

The last time these teams played about a month ago frustrations boiled over in an incident that got Tim Frazier ejected. Michael Carter-Williams picked a fight with Jason Smith and Frazier went off:

RELATED: BEAL IMPRESSED BY LEBRON AT ALL-STAR GAME

Hornets coming in hot

The Hornets are outside the playoff picture at the moment at eight games below .500, but they have won two straight games and Walker and Howard are coming off huge games. In a win over the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday, Walker dropped 31 points and Howard grabbed 24 rebounds.

Those guys will be riding a high coming into Washington on Friday. But it should be noted that Howard complained after the game how tired he is at this point in the season. That exhausion could affect him more in the second game of a back-to-back.

RELATED: LATEST NBA POWER RANKINGS

 

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5 must-see moments from Wizards' huge road win over Cavaliers, including Markieff Morris' alley-oop

5 must-see moments from Wizards' huge road win over Cavaliers, including Markieff Morris' alley-oop

Here are the five best plays or moments from the Washington Wizards' 110-103 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Thursday night...

1. The Wizards didn't start out well, as they trailed by nine points at the end of the first quarter. Kelly Oubre, Jr. stumbled early by missing four of his first six shots and it looked like a carryover of his slump before the All-Star break.

But Oubre got hot in the second quarter and helped the Wizards turn the game around. This was one of his best plays, a two-handed slam that he celebrated with an emphatic scream to the crowd:

RELATED: BEAL IMPRESSED BY LEBRON AT ALL-STAR GAME

2. Tomas Satoransky was one of the stars of the game. He had 17 points to go along with eight assists, four rebounds and two steals. 

Here's one of his dimes, a perfect alley-oop lob to Markieff Morris, who finished with nine points and eight rebounds:

3. Satoransky has reached double-figures in six of the 10 games since John Wall went out with an injury. This was a very impressive move, a stepback fadeaway that was super smooth:

RELATED: GET TO KNOW NEW WIZARDS FREE AGENT SIGNING

4. Ian Mahinmi made some key contributions including four offensive rebounds and a steal. This was his best basket, a powerful slam that came at a key time:

5. This play helped seal the victory. It was a smart after-timeout set drawn up by head coach Scott Brooks and it worked to perfection:

RELATED: LATEST NBA POWER RANKINGS