The 2014 schedule has been released, and while we don't know when they will be playing, we do know who they will be playing. In addition to the six divisional match-ups with the Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots, and New York Jets, the Bills will also square off with:
- Kansas City
- San Diego
- Green Bay
The Chiefs, Chargers, Packers, Vikings and Browns will all make the trek to the Ralph, while the Broncos, Raiders, Bears, Texans and Lions are road games. While it has not been confirmed, rumors are circulating that the Lions have scheduled the Bills for their traditional Thanksgiving Day game. According to sources, the Packers game will be a Monday night tilt, the Bills' first appearance on MNF since 2009. Seasoned Bills watchers probably remember it as the first game of the short lived Terrell Owens era and a classic Bills come from ahead loss, wherein an 11 point 4th quarter lead was blown to Tom Brady's Patriots.
It is necessary to note the Bills do not benefit from a traditional "last place" schedule. San Diego, Green Bay, Kansas City and Denver were all playoff teams last season. Chicago was on the cusp, before losing what was essentially a play-in game with Green Bay on the season's final Sunday.
Detroit figures to get better under new coach Jim Caldwell, especially if they can avoid the mental errors and needless penalties that plagued them during the Jim Schwartz era (coincidentally the Bills' new DC). The Browns will be a tough opponent with new head coach Mike Pettine, who should have a great deal of inside information to share with Cleveland from his stint as the Bills' defensive coordinator last season. The Texans are not a traditional 2-14 team, their season fell apart as they were bit hard by the injury bug, losing Brian Cushing, Arian Foster, Andre Johnson, Danieal Manning, Jonathan Joseph, and assorted others for most of the campaign. With even moderate injury luck and a #1 draft choice coming aboard, the Texans are poised to bounce back in a big way.
Some Bills fans may be penciling in Minnesota and Oakland as certain wins on next year's slate. Not so fast. With Adrian Peterson's game breaking abilities, the Vikings are never truly out of any game, and have signed Captain Munnerlyn and Derek Cox to bolster their leaky defense. Oakland has made several win-now moves, bringing in Matt Schaub, who is ostensibly an upgrade over Terrelle Pryor (with less long term potential, it should be noted). In addition, they've added Maurice Jones-Drew, Justin Tuck and LaMarr Woodley, all wily veterans with something left in the tank.
In what will be a crucial season in EJ Manuel's development, the schedule makers have done the Bills no favors. As the Bills are opting to continue with Thad Lewis as the primary backup QB, it will be imperative for Manuel to stay upright for 16 games and become a true leader.