The Bills come into the bye week standing at 5-3 and holding down the last playoff spot thanks to some tiebreakers. The Bills have eight games remaining with an even split of road and away games, though three home games are in November compared to the one in December. It appears that the team is in the upswing, but let’s review each upcoming opponent and what’s in store.
Week 10: Kansas City Chiefs (4 – 3)
The Chiefs are a direct threat to the Bills playoff hopes. Beating them gives them not only breathing room, but also a tiebreaker. The team is pretty much the same as it was last year when they came into town. Jamaal Charles is a threat running and the defense still possesses a scary pass rush, but the Bills come in with a major upgrade at quarterback and the defense has been strong in stopping the run.
Week 11: at Miami Dolphins (4 – 3)
The Bills play the division rival on a short week, meaning that if they lose both games against the Chiefs and Dolphins it could dash their playoff dreams. The Dolphins have been getting improved play out of quarterback Ryan Tannehill, but the offense still lacks a true running back, and needed defensive help to get past the Jaguars. The Dolphins secondary finally seems to be rounding into form, and Cameron Wake and company will always be looking to apply pressure on the quarterback. The difference could come down to how well the Dolphins Tannehill plays as he carries a 1-4 career record against the Bills.
Week 12: New York Jets (1 – 7)
The Jets appear to be competing with the Raiders for the first overall draft pick this year, and after an extended break face the stalling Jets back in Buffalo. Depending on how the first two games after the bye this game could substantially give the Bills a big lead in the wildcard hunt, and possibly the divisional crown. If the Bills do win this game then if Rex Ryan hasn’t been fired yet, he probably will be after this one.
Week 13: Cleveland Browns (4 – 3)
Buffalo’s old defensive coordinator, and Browns new head coach, Mike Pettine leads his team into Buffalo for the battle of Lake Erie. The Browns have beaten some tough teams and don’t appear to be the push over they once were. Brian Hoyer has performed well, and Josh Gordon will have two weeks of games under his belt. The Browns could be in the hunt for the AFC North crown at this point, or possibly falling off into a top 15 pick depending.
Week 14: at Denver Broncos (6 – 1)
The Broncos will be finishing up their AFC East slate of games as they welcome the Bills to Denver. This is probably too early for the Peyton Manning led Broncos to have the AFC West title wrapped up, but this could be a good measuring stick of where the Bills rank in terms of AFC contenders.
Week 15: Green Bay (5 – 3)
The Bills come home by facing possibly the second best quarterback in the league in Aaron Rodgers. The Packers have really improved since their week one loss to the Seahawks, and appear in a dog fight with Detroit for the NFC North crown. One happy line is that Buffalo native, and UB alum, James Starks plays his first game at Ralph Wilson Stadium since he was in high school.
Week 16: at Oakland Raiders (0 – 7)
The Bills make their final trip out west to play, the only, winless team in the league. Oakland hasn’t been pushovers in their games either as emerging players like quarterback Derek Carr, and linebacker Khalil Mack (UB alum) has improved both units. The trip out west is always tough, but at this point the Raiders could be packing it in trying to get through the final two games and into the offseason.
Week 17: at New England (6 -2)
The final game of the year may in fact be the most important for both teams. Depending on wild card scenarios, and how each team will fare, this could be the defacto AFC East title game. The Bills have played the Patriots in the final game of the season two out of the last three years and have lost each one. The Patriots could have the division locked up by now and sit Tom Brady and key players, ala the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2005, and if so that puts the onus on the Bills to go out and win the game.