|2009 Bills at Dolphins Point Spread Odds & Matchup Report|
|Written by Anthony Rome|
|Wednesday, 30 September 2009 10:46|
Miami, FL - The Miami Dolphins made an improbable run to the AFC East title last year behind Chad Pennington.
Earning a second straight division crown will be considerably harder due to a season-ending injury to their quarterback and a winless start.
With Pennington finished for the year due to a shoulder injury, the Dolphins will give Chad Henne his first career start when they host the Buffalo Bills on Sunday.
Oddsmakers from online sports book SBGGLOBAL.com have made the Bills –1 point spread favorites (View NFL odds) for Sunday’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 77% of bets for this game have been placed on the Bills –1 (View NFL bet percentages).
Miami (0-3) went 11-5 last season after finishing 1-15 in 2007, but the Dolphins could be in for another long year.
Pennington's play was the key to the 2008 turnaround, as the veteran led the NFL with a 67.4 completion percentage was second with a 97.4 passer rating. He threw for a career-high 3,653 yards with 19 touchdowns and seven interceptions.
He won't be able to improve on those numbers this season. Pennington threw for 359 yards with one TD and two INTs in the first two contests before suffering a dislocated right shoulder last Sunday.
Only three teams since 1990 have gone to the postseason after losing their first three games.
Pennington was placed on injured reserve Tuesday and will be replaced by Henne, a second-round draft pick out of Michigan in 2008.
"We're going to have to go out there with Henne, who is a lot less experienced," tight end Anthony Fasano said. "There is definitely going to be a learning curve for Henne. He can learn as much as he wants in a classroom, but until he's out on the field, in-game experience he's not going to learn."
Henne showed promise last week, completing 10 of 19 passes for 92 yards with an interception. He appeared in three games last season, going 7 for 12 for 67 yards.
While Henne may lack experience, left tackle Jake Long has confidence in his former Wolverines teammate.
"He's poised. He's a leader," Long said. "When he gets his chance, he's going to do good."
The Dolphins acquired Tyler Thigpen from Kansas City on Tuesday to add depth behind Henne. The third-year pro threw for 2,608 yards with 18 touchdowns and 12 interceptions in 11 games last year.
Second-year coach Tony Sparano said he might make other lineup changes, but avoided specifics.
"I told this team (Monday), it's not OK to be 0-3," he said. "It's not acceptable. If there's a place where we can shake some things up, we will."
He may have no choice at linebacker, as Joey Porter is nursing a sore right hamstring that forced him out of last week's game. Porter, whose status for Sunday is uncertain, is the leader of the defense and has a team-high two sacks.
He finished second in the NFL last season with a career-high 17 1/2 sacks, four of them coming in two wins over Buffalo.
Miami's defense keyed the season sweep of the Bills, as the Dolphins outscored Buffalo 41-19 while allowing an average of 251.0 yards and forcing six turnovers.
The Bills (1-2) gained only 243 yards in last week's 27-7 loss to New Orleans, and coach Dick Jauron admitted afterward that he needs to utilize Terrell Owens more. The star receiver had his streak of 185 consecutive games with at least a catch - third longest in league history - snapped against the Saints.
"We'll take more shots," Jauron said. "We definitely have to get him more involved in the game no matter what the defense does."
Owens has five catches for 98 yards and a touchdown after signing with Buffalo in March, but has refrained from criticizing quarterback Trent Edwards.
"No, I don't want to answer that, because whatever I say you guys are going to turn it to however you want to say," said Owens, sixth all-time in receptions with 956.
Edwards has struggled at times this season, completing 61.5 percent of his passes for 598 yards with four touchdowns and two interceptions. He went 25 for 35 against the Saints, but none of the completions went for more than 18 yards.
"It's something that, for some reason or another, is going to continually be focused on and that's something I'm going to have to continue to answer," Edwards said of his reputation for going with short passes.
While the passing game has struggled, Buffalo's ground attack should get a big boost from the return of Marshawn Lynch, who was suspended for the first three games after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor weapons charge.
Lynch totaled 2,151 rushing yards and 15 TDs in his first two seasons, and he'll share time with the versatile Fred Jackson in the backfield.
Jackson has 291 rushing yards on 61 carries, and leads the Bills with 15 catches and 134 receiving yards.
"I'm a ballplayer and it's time for me to go to work," Lynch said, noting it doesn't matter to him who's considered the starter.
Buffalo won four straight meetings and seven of eight before being swept by Miami last season.
Posted: 9/30/09 3:46PM ET