Buffalo Bills. Photo: wallpapercave
Buffalo Bills. Photo: wallpapercave

The Buffalo Bills took a huge step last season. This year, it's time to compete for a Super Bowl.

After years of disappointment, the Bills returned to glory in 2020 with their first division title and their first playoff win since 1995. They kept it going with a trip to the AFC Championship Game before falling to the Kansas City Chiefs.

Josh Allen looked like the real deal in 2020 and will be a top contender to win the MVP award next season after totaling 37 passing touchdowns and eight rushing scores last year.

The Bills spent the offseason trying to keep its core intact and will head into next year with a brighter outlook than we have seen from this franchise in decades. The question is whether they can live up to lofty expectations.

Here is the schedule the team will take on during the 2021 season.

2021 Bills schedule

WEEK OPPONENT DATE TIME (ET) NETWORK

1

vs. Steelers

Sept. 12

1 p.m.

CBS

2

at Dolphins

Sept. 19

1 p.m.

Fox

3

vs. Washington

Sept. 26

1 p.m.

Fox

4

vs. Texans

Oct. 3

1 p.m.

CBS

5

at Chiefs (SNF)

Oct. 10

8:20 p.m.

NBC

6

at Titans (MNF)

Oct. 18

8:15 p.m.

ESPN

7

BYE WEEK

8

vs. Dolphins

Oct. 31

1 p.m.

CBS

9

at Jaguars

Nov. 7

1 p.m.

CBS

10

at Jets

Nov. 14

1 p.m.

CBS

11

vs. Colts

Nov. 21

1 p.m.

CBS

12

at Saints (Thanksgiving)

Nov. 25

8:20 p.m.

NBC

13

vs. Patriots (MNF)

Dec. 6

8:15 p.m.

ESPN

14

at Buccaneers

Dec. 12

4:25 p.m.

CBS

15

vs. Panthers

Dec. 18/19

TBD

TBD

16

at Patriots

Dec. 26

1 p.m.

CBS

17

vs. Falcons

Jan. 2

1 p.m.

Fox

18 vs. Jets Jan. 9 1 p.m. CBS

Analysis

Photo: buffalobills
Photo: buffalobills

A first-place schedule is always difficult, but it could have been much worse with only seven games against playoff teams from last year. That includes the Washington Football Team, which went 7-9 in 2020, and the New Orleans Saints, which could take a step back after losing Drew Brees.

There are still some tough games on the schedule against several explosive offenses, including the Chiefs, Saints, Tennessee Titans, Indianapolis Colts, Pittsburgh Steelers, and the Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

It will present some challenges for a Bills defense that regressed in 2020, finishing 16th in points allowed after ranking second in the category in 2019.

Retaining Matt Milano and Levi Wallace was important this offseason, while first-round pick Gregory Rousseau has plenty of talent, but the team will have to generate more of a pass rush after no players had more than five sacks last year.

Otherwise, there will be a lot of pressure on Allen and the offense to outscore the top opponents, which often isn't the best recipe for consistent success.

Pivotal Matchups

The Buccaneers won the Super Bowl, but it's likely the Bills will be more eager to face the Chiefs again.

The AFC title game rematch will take place on Week 5 on Sunday Night Football, with Buffalo trying to send a message that it should be taken seriously as a contender.

The Bills couldn't keep up in the playoff matchup, managing only field goals when the Chiefs were getting into the end zone. Patrick Mahomes had three touchdown passes, with Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce each having huge games in the passing attack.

Even with an early 9-0 Buffalo lead, the game wasn't especially close.

It was a similar story as the regular-season matchup last year when the Chiefs earned a 26-17 win. The Bills will need to have a better showing this time around to prove they can keep up with the best team in the conference.

The two games against the Miami Dolphins—Weeks 2 and 8—will also be important for Buffalo to defend as AFC East champions. The Patriots reloaded in the offseason, but the Dolphins could be more dangerous after going 10-6 with one of the top defenses in the NFL.

If Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa improves in his second year, Buffalo could have a tough time holding off Miami in the division standings, Bleacher Report wrote.

Bills key games

  • Week 2 at Dolphins: Huge swing game in the tough AFC East, Buffalo, and Miami will be must-see TV at Hard Rock Stadium. The Dolphins have lost five consecutive games to the Bills, so this matchup will be circled on the calendar. If the Dolphins want to win the division, holding serves at home will go a long way toward accomplishing that.
  • Week 11 vs. Colts: A rematch of the AFC wild-card thriller, Indianapolis improved with the addition of Carson Wentz at quarterback. This is one of the toughest games on Buffalo's schedule, but it certainly helps the Bills will be at Orchard Park for this one.
  • Week 14 at Buccaneers: Josh Allen faces Tom Brady for the first time since he left New England -- and he's a much better quarterback. Buffalo may be the division's biggest challenge to beat Tampa Bay, especially if the revamped pass rush can get to Brady. Expect a shootout in Tampa, according to Cbssports.

Bills strength of schedule

Photo: twitter
Photo: twitter

When looking at least year's records, the Bills' schedule doesn't look too difficult. They're facing teams that had a combined 130-142 record. That makes for a 0.478 strength of schedule marker, which ranks 23rd in the NFL.

Of course, some of the teams on the docket for them are bound to improve. Within the division, the Patriots and Jets should be better after drafting first-round QBs and adding talent in free agency and the draft, and with an extra year under his belt, Tua Tagovailoa and the Dolphins could threaten the Bills and earn some wins.

Toughest Tests: The Bills have a daunting road schedule this year, and that could limit their overall upside. They have four road contests that could be especially challenging. Notably, their games against last year's Super Bowl participants, the Bucs and the Chiefs could prove difficult, as the Chiefs were able to beat them by double figures in the playoffs while the Bucs may be able to render them one-dimensional if their run defense is among the league's best once again.

Traveling to the Superdome to take on the Saints won't be easy either. New Orleans may be in a rebuild, but the Saints have one of the best home crowds in the league. Playing the Patriots on the road is never easy either, and after dropping both games to the Bills last year, Bill Belichick will be after some revenge in that one.

Biggest Breaks: The Bills have a big-time home-field weather advantage in Buffalo. Thus, since the team is taking on five teams that are used to warmer weather and playing in domes (the Colts, Dolphins, Falcons, Panthers, and Texans), that could work out in their favor.

Of the contests on their schedule, that game against the Texans looks mighty appetizing for the Bills. They'll either be able to take on a team that is led by Deshaun Watson and not much else, or Tyrod Taylor or Davis Mills will be at the helm of the team. Either way, that roster isn't good, they're a dome team, and they're coming to Buffalo. There's no such thing as a sure win in the NFL, but this looks as close to one as you may find.

Bottom Line: Buffalo's schedule is a bit of a mixed bag this year. On the one hand, their home schedule isn't terribly difficult. Could the Colts and the Steelers be tough tests? Sure, but the rest of the schedule isn't too bad. Washington, another first-place team from last year on the Bills' schedule, had a losing record.

On the other hand, the road games this year will be very tough for Buffalo. It's easy to imagine them having issues with the Bucs, Chiefs, Patriots and Saints because of how tough those teams are to play against and their home stadium environments. In addition to those four, they have two more divisional games against the Dolphins and Jets, and those could prove to be trickier than expected.

Still, the Bills should be favored to win the AFC East again. They have the best roster in the division and did well to add depth in the trenches during the 2021 NFL Draft. With a tougher schedule, it may be a bit more difficult for them to earn wins compared to last year, but they are the prohibitive favorites in the AFC East.

2021 season prediction

Projected to win 10.5 games according to Vegas win totals, the Bills should have that number highlighted as a floor. With their “17th game” being against the worst division winner from 2020 in the Washington Football Team, Buffalo has gained another advantage on other top AFC teams from 2020.

However, the games against the Miami Dolphins and New England Patriots will present a significant challenge. Combine that with a tough road schedule, and if Buffalo cannot take advantage of those easier games on the schedule, then serious question marks could be raised about this team come to the end of the season.

Projected 2021 record: 11-6

Buffalo Bills

Buffalo Bills, an American professional gridiron football franchise that plays in the American Football Conference (AFC) of the National Football League (NFL) and is based in Buffalo. As a member of the American Football League (AFL), the Bills won two league championships (1964 and 1965), and, while playing in the NFL (after the merger of the AFL and the NFL in 1970), they appeared in a record four consecutive Super Bowls (1991–94), losing on each occasion.

The Buffalo Bills began their pro football life as the seventh team to be admitted to the new American Football League. The franchise was awarded to Ralph C. Wilson on October 28, 1959. Since that time, the Bills have experienced extended periods of both championship dominance and second-division frustration.

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