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Bills 2011 Slate Not Filled With a Ton of Huge Games

There remains a lot of uncertainty as to whether or not we’ll have football in 2011, but let’s not let that little hiccup stop us from being excited about the release of the Bills’ regular season slate.

However, with the Bills coming off a 4-12 season, there’s not a whole lot of excitement to generate abou their schedule.  Predictably, the Bills were given no prime time games and for the second straight year Buffalo won’t play any night games.  Thankfully though, the Bills’ schedule won’t consist of all 1 p.m. games.  Buffalo has two 4 p.m. games – Week Eight against the Washington Redskins in their Toronto-style “home” game and Week 14 at San Diego.

The Bills kick off the season at Kansas City on Sept. 11, making this their fourth straight trip to Arrowhead Stadium;  Buffalo has won two of their last three against the Chiefs, but lost last season in Kansas City in the waning seconds of overtime.  Buffalo’s home opener comes a week later, Sept.18, against another AFC West opponent, the Oakland Raiders.

Now let’s dissect the schedule and forecast what’s in store for Buffalo in 2011….

* After their season opener on the road at Kansas City, the Bills return to Ralph Wilson Stadium where they’ll have three home games in four weeks against the Oakland Raiders, New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles.

* Buffalo will play just one game versus the AFC East in the first eight weeks of the season after facing all three division rivals in the first four weeks of last season.

* Five of Buffalo’s final nine games are against the AFC East.

* The Bills play only one team (Week 4 at Cincinnati Bengals) with a losing record last season before their Week Seven bye week.

* In their first six games, the Bills will face three playoff opponents from last season:  Kansas City, New England and Philadelphia.

Best non-divisional game:  Week 5 vs. the Philadelphia Eagles (Oct.9).   Like him or not,  Michael Vick knows how to draw a crowd and garner attention.  Depending on how the draft shakes out on Thursday night, could the Bills counter with their own attention grabber?  Like, say….Cam Newton or Blaine Gabbert??

Dog game of the year:  Week 4 at Cincinnati Bengals (Oct. 2). Two teams with top five picks(Bills pick third, Bengals follow at No.4) and two teams not likely headed to the playoffs in 2011.  The Bills could get their first look at the post-Carson Palmer Bengals.  After blowing a 28-7 early first hald lead, the Bills went on to outscore the Bengals in the second half 35-0 en route to a 49-31 win.  That loss is something the Bengals will likely haven’t forgot and they’ll have redemption on their minds.

Happy Holidays? On Christmas Eve, the Bills host the Denver Broncos at 1 p.m.  On paper that seems like a winnable game, and hopefully Buffalo delivers an early Christmas present.  But the holiday fun times may not last.  The Bills ring in 2012 on New Year’s Day in New England.

Bad stretch of road. Buffalo will have to find a way to elevate their game if they have any chance to survive a difficult road schedule.  Beginning Week 10, the Bills will play four games away from home in five weeks.  They’ll start Week 10 when they make their first visit to Jerry’s World against Dallas, followed by Week 11 and Week 12 road contests against the New York Jets and Miami Dolphins.  The Bills round out their fourth road game in a five-week span  Week 14 at San Diego.

Easiest Part of ScheduleWeek 13-16. The Bills will have three home games against winnable opponents: Tennessee, Miami and Denver.

Worst Portion of Schedule:  Week 9-12. During that stretch, the Bills will play the Jets twice in 21 days, including three straight road games against Dallas, Miami and New York.

Winnable games:  Oakland, Cincinnati, Washington, Tennessee, Miami, Denver

Forget about ‘em? :  New England (twice), New York Jets (twice), Philadelphia, New York Giants, Dallas, San Diego.

Bottom Line:

–  I have an extremely difficult time understanding how and why the Bills drew the league’s second toughest schedule.  Granted Buffalo draws the Patriots and Jets twice – Patriots were 14-2 in 2010, Jets went 11-5 – and the Chiefs and Eagles were 10-win teams.  I may be wrong and I may be in the minority on this, but shouldn’t the teams that did the best and won the most games draw the toughest schedules?  Now I’m not advocating the Bills’ schedule should be packed with games against Cleveland, Carolina, Denver and Cincinnati.  I just have a hard time understanding how a four-win team draws this strength of schedule.  I’m sure those down in Carolina will agree, giving the fact that the Panthers were the worst team in the NFL in 2010 and they were given the league’s toughest strength of schedule in 2011.

– Is this finally the year the Bills can beat the Patriots?

– If there was any year to win their first game in Toronto, this would be it.  Washington isn’t likely to have Donovan McNabb at quarterback again, and unless a football miracle happens, the Redskins won’t be able to land Cam Newton and unless they put together a fancy package, a trade up isn’t likely either, so that takes Blaine Gabbert out of the running.  Right now, that leaves Rex Grossman as the Redskins’ quarterback of choice and if the Bills can’t beat him, then all hope may be lost.

– Call me totally nutty, but the Bills could conceivably be 3-3 going into their bye week.   The Bills get Kansas City, Oakland and Cincinnati in the first four weeks of the season.  It’s likely a pipe dream, but those are three winnable games early on for the Bills.

Prediction:   6-10 record, fourth in AFC East.

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