Although the Miami Dolphins are alone in first place in the AFC East, first-year coach Nick Saban wants his team to forget the standings even exist.
Miami, coming off its bye week, will be trying to maintain its hold on the top spot in the division when it visits the Buffalo Bills.
The Dolphins went 4-12 last season before giving Saban the job of returning the organization to its winning ways. After three games, he has Miami in sole possession of first place in the East for the first time since it was 4-1 in 2003.
Saban, however, doesn’t want his team to worry about other clubs’ records.
“All I hear is, ‘This team lost, that team lost, this happened to this guy, this happened to that guy,”’ Saban said Monday. “So what? We’ve got to play to win our games. None of that other stuff matters. It’s clutter and poison and lethal in terms of attitude development and thinking about the right things to get ready to play a game.”
Miami, though, didn’t have to play a game to move into first. While the Dolphins were on their bye following a 27-24 win over Carolina on Sept. 25, New England, Buffalo and the New York Jets lost Sunday.
“What happens to everybody else has nothing to do with us. Understand?” Saban said. “What we can control, we can control. … What they do doesn’t matter. What we do is what matters.”
What Miami has done thus far is play better than last season, its worst since the 1960s, when it lost nine of its first 10 games.
“Now the guys are approaching practice more seriously, and the intensity is there all the time, not just on game day,” tight end Randy McMichael said. “You don’t see guys coasting through a week of practice trying to save their bodies for the game.”
The Bills are searching for some intensity after another lackluster performance Sunday.
Buffalo lost its third straight since a season-opening win, falling 19-7 to the New Orleans Saints in San Antonio.
The Bills have struggled offensively behind quarterback J.P. Losman, who took over for the departed Drew Bledsoe. Losman was 7-of-15 for 75 yards with an interception and was sacked three times before he was replaced by Kelly Holcomb at the start of the fourth quarter.
Though coach Mike Mularkey has yet to officially announce a change at quarterback, wide receivers Eric Moulds and Lee Evans both acknowledged that Holcomb is replacing Losman as the starter this week.
“It takes a good coach to say, `I’m going to sit the starting quarterback down and be able to go with somebody else and try to get a spark from Kelly,”’ Moulds said. “A lot of coaches wouldn’t have done it so we respect him and we’re going to back him 100 percent.”
Buffalo has just two touchdowns in its last 14 quarters, and managed only 208 yards against the Saints. The Bills are 31st in the NFL in total offense, averaging 219.8 yards per game.
In four starts, Losman has gone 45-of-94 for 433 yards and a touchdown. He’s thrown two interceptions, has lost a fumble and has been run out of the end zone for a safety.
“The onus is to win now, and because we weren’t winning, they thought that they had to make a change,” Evans said.