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Marino hoping to avoid Buffalo’s Smith

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Nothing much changes with the Buffalo Bills' defense, a fact Miami learned in the first game this season between the AFC East rivals.

Bruce Smith, anchoring one of the best pass rushes in the league, leads the AFC with 11 sacks and remains the central problem for the Dolphins (6-4) in Monday night's rematch with the Bills (5-5) at Miami."As far as rushing the passer, the thing he's hung his hat on, he's still the best," said Miami offensive guard Keith Sims. "The strength, the quickness, the tenacity, he's got incredible moves."

Smith nailed Dan Marino in Buffalo's 9-6 victory earlier in the season, leaving the Miami quarterback limping on a sore ankle.

"Obviously, Bruce Smith is a guy that you really have to know where he's at and get help on him when you can," Marino said.

Marino is hoping his offensive line, which has been one of the best in the league at pass protection this year, can keep Smith, and the rest of the Bills front four - Bryce Paup, Ted Washington, and Phil Hansen - out of the Miami backfield. Buffalo has 35 sacks on the year, best in the AFC and fourth best in the NFL.

The flip side is the danger Marino poses to any defense.

The Dolphins have tried to balance their passing attack with a running game in recent weeks, but the Bills know that Marino's quick release makes him hard to pressure.

"He still completes passes when he has to," Hansen said of Marino. "You can never, never, never forget about Dan Marino."

The Bills managed to check Marino in the earlier game, limiting him to 5-of-15 in a cold, rainy game before getting hurt.

"Obviously, the weather had a lot to do with that," Buffalo linebacker John Holecek said. "When it's 40 degrees and rainy and windy, it's going to be different than whatever weather we play in down there. We expect a different quarterback."

All four of the Bills' front men are veterans. Washington and Hansen are in their seventh NFL seasons, Paup is in his eighth, and Smith is in his 13th.

Bills coach Marv Levy, who at 72 is the oldest head coach in the NFL, said that while the defense may be anchored by veterans, the Buffalo offense is mostly young.

"We've got a young offensive team overall, and they're just working to get their own confidence," Levy said.

Third-year quarterback Todd Collins, will be the starter at Miami. He got the nod this week after the Bills had two unsuccessful games with second-year quarterback Alex Van Pelt running the offense.

"Todd has a great deal of confidence," Levy said. "One of the great assets Todd Collins has is confidence."

Collins said he is looking forward to going against Marino in a nationally televised Monday night game that has important divisional race implications.

"It's kind of like playing in a playoff atmosphere. Everyone knows you're on national television, and it's just fun," Collins said. "There are a lot of guys watching, and you get fired up."

A win by Miami would tie Oakland for the most victories in Monday Night Football history - partly because the Dolphins have played on Monday night more than any other team, 55 times.

But their only other Monday night game this year - originally scheduled for a Sunday but moved because of a conflict with Game 7 of the World Series - was a disaster for the Dolphins. They blew a 15-point lead in the final six minutes to lose 36-33 in overtime to the previously winless Chicago Bears.