Bills’ challenge: Handle being big favorites vs. Dolphins

Field Level Media

October 17, 2019 at 2:50 am.

It’s been more than a quarter of a century since the Buffalo Bills have been favored by more than 16 points.

But that’s where we’re at as the Bills (4-1), favored by 16.5 points, get set to host the Miami Dolphins (0-5) on Sunday.

The Bills haven’t won a playoff game since 1995 and haven’t been this big of a favorite since 1992.

But Buffalo, which is coming off its bye week, has won its first three road games in a season. It marks the first time the Bills have accomplished that feat since 1993 — also the last season they reached the Super Bowl.

So, how has this all happened?

The short answers are: quarterback Josh Allen and a ferocious defense.

Start with Allen, Buffalo’s first-round pick last year. He went 5-6 as a starter in his debut season, and the Bills went 1-4 without him. He ended the season on a high note, accounting for five touchdowns (three TD passes, two TD runs) in a blowout win over the Dolphins.

This year, Allen — a 6-5, 237-pounder out of Wyoming — has improved his accuracy to 62.6 percent from 52.8 percent the previous season.

His leadership has also skyrocketed. In the offseason, as the Bills signed 18 free agents — included 13 on offense — Allen repeatedly asked management for the newcomers’ phone numbers so he could welcome them to the Buffalo family.

“It’s a great quality to have — the humility that Josh possesses and is part of his DNA,” Bills coach Sean McDermott said. “That’s the first step into leadership.”

Allen has been helped by Ken Dorsey, who is in his first season as Buffalo’s quarterbacks coach. Dorsey won a national title during his college playing days as a Miami Hurricanes quarterback, and his work as an assistant coach helped Cam Newton win NFL MVP honors with the Carolina Panthers in 2015.

As for Buffalo’s defense, no team has scored more than 17 points against the Bills this season, and that includes the undefeated New England Patriots.

Middle linebacker Tremaine Edmunds leads Buffalo with 35 tackles, former Dolphins defensive tackle Jordan Phillips tops the Bills with four sacks, and cornerback Tre’Davious White is on top of the team’s interception list with two.

On Sunday, Buffalo’s defense will deal with a Dolphins team that is making its second quarterback switch of the young season. Miami started the season with veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick for two games, then went with Josh Rosen for three.

Now it’s back to Fitzpatrick again.

“Kind of came to that conclusion over the past couple of days,” said Miami’s Brian Flores, who is a rookie head coach. “Fitzpatrick gives us the best opportunity to go into a tough environment (in Buffalo) and pull out a win.”

Fitzpatrick led a 13-point, fourth-quarter comeback last Sunday against the previously winless Washington Redskins. But the Dolphins lost 17-16 when they gambled and failed to convert on a two-point conversion with six seconds left in the fourth quarter.

After the game, Flores said he would stick with Rosen as his starting quarterback. But Flores had a change of heart on Wednesday.

It was a bitter pill for Rosen, who was drafted in the first round last season by the Arizona Cardinals. He was selected 10th overall — three spots after Allen — and was traded to Miami after his rookie season.

“I’m bummed out,” Rosen said. “But it’s a long season. I’m going to continue to push ‘Fitz’ and be there for him like he was for me.”