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Dolphins, possibly without cornerback Xavien Howard, preparing for showdown vs. Bills

MIAMI GARDENS — Resolve is being hardened and focus is being honed as the Miami Dolphins (11-5) prepare for this Sunday’s monumental battle against Buffalo (10-6) at Hard Rock Stadium.

“I think that with that bad taste being in our mouth it’s just going to fuel us to be better,” safety DeShon Elliott said in reference to Miami’s 56-19 blowout loss at Baltimore.

Lots is on the line this week for Miami. It can win the AFC East with a victory and earn a home playoff game.

The best news of all is December is over.

The Dolphins are 2-4 in December under coach Mike McDaniel.

The defense won’t have Pro Bowl edge rusher Bradley Chubb (knee) for the Buffalo game and it likely won’t have Pro Bowl cornerback Xavien Howard (foot), which would be two huge losses.

It’s unclear whether Raheem Mostert (knee/ankle), Miami’s 1,000-yard rusher, or Jaylen Waddle (ankle), one of Miami’s two 1,000-yard receivers, will be available. Both missed last Sunday’s drubbing by the Ravens.

Either way, coach Mike McDaniel has a message for his players.

“The bigger thing is people focus on the job at hand, not, ‘What did we lose?’ ” he said.

McDaniel said quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who sustained a left (throwing) shoulder injury in the game, should be OK, which is a good starting point for an offense that only produced two touchdowns against the Ravens.

Right guard Rob Hunt (hamstring), who has missed the past four games, could also return to action.  

Offensively, it’d help if the high-scoring ways surfaced against quality teams.

While going 1-4 against the best teams on its schedule (Buffalo, Philadelphia, Kansas City, Dallas and Baltimore) the Dolphins have scored more than two touchdowns just once, and that was in its three-touchdown performance in a 48-20 blowout loss to the Bills earlier this season.

Miami’s offense scored one touchdown in its 31-17 loss to Philadelphia (linebacker Jerome Baker had an interception return touchdown).

Miami’s offense scored two touchdowns in its 21-14 loss to Kansas City in Germany.

Miami’s offense scored one touchdown in its 22-20 win over Dallas (kicker Jason Sanders made five field goals).

And Miami’s offense scored two touchdowns in the crushing loss to Baltimore, a game that saw wide receivers Tyreek Hill and Chase Claypool drop potential touchdown passes.

“It was a tough loss for sure,” left tackle Terron Armstead said. “They beat the (expletive) out of us in all three phases.”

It’s been that kind of season for the Dolphins, who scored 70 points against Denver but allowed 48 against Buffalo and 56 against Baltimore.

The good news defensively is that Baker (knee) is eligible to come off injured reserve and possibly play this week. 

The Dolphins will need all the eligible players they can round up to beat a Buffalo team that’s on a four-game winning streak.

Without edge rushers Chubb and Jaelan Phillips (Achilles), the Dolphins defense changes greatly. They can’t dominate opponents from both the front and the back any longer. And if Howard has to miss any time, and it appears things are headed that way, things become dire defensively from that standpoint. 

Players have enacted the “next-man-up” philosophy.

“We’re all in the NFL, bro,” safety DeShon Elliott said. “Those guys are here for a reason.”

The Dolphins are basically down to a one-game season when it comes to meeting their goal of winning the AFC East.

Fullback Alec Ingold said the Dolphins have been trained for this. He said they’ve been preparing for such a scenario all season.

“For me, going back to my upbringing, I was taught that in life you’re either walking into a storm, you’re in a storm, or you’re walking out of one,” he said. “That’s life. It’s a series of storms.”

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