When will Chan Gailey and the Bills put their stamp on the 2012 season?
Which game on their schedule is the biggest "statement game"? To debate the topic, we bring in Chris Trapasso, a B/R Bills featured columnist and a lead writer for BuffaLowDown who can also be found on Twitter.
Since he's the guest, he'll lead us off.
Chris: Mr. Frenz, to me, the Bills' true "statement game" will be the Week 4 battle against the New England Patriots in Buffalo.
The Bills earned their stunning victory over the Patriots last season, but many point to a few fortuitous bounces that went their way en route to the win.
Sure, New England was on the receiving end of what some Bills fans would deem "lucky" breaks against Buffalo over the years, but they were clearly the better, more well-rounded team in every matchup.
To take the next step as an organization and to assert themselves as a true contender in the AFC and AFC East, the Bills have to prove their 2011 home win against the mighty Patriots was no fluke by defeating them at home once again.
Erik: I can see why you'd go there after the Bills beat the Patriots for the first time since 2003, and followed that by blowing a 21-point lead in New England.
But to me, no game is more of a statement game than Week 1 on the road against the New York Jets.
If the Bills win that game, it will put the AFC East on notice that the Bills are on the rise. If they lose, though, it will serve as just another reminder that they haven't come full circle just yet.
Chris: You make a ton of great points there, Erik. That season opener against the Jets will tell us a lot about the new-look Bills.
However, I still believe another takedown of the Patriots, a legitimate AFC contender and AFC East powerhouse, would make a more profound statement to the rest of the NFL.
They'll get a fine opportunity at home early in the season before Bill Belichick has a ton of game film to watch and before the weather should play a major factor.
A win against the Jets in New Jersey would be a fine way to start the season, that's for sure. But validating their 2011 win against the Pats with another victory that kicks off a tough stretch of games for Buffalo would create much more momentum and league-wide buzz.
To be the best, you've got to beat the best.
Erik: Good points, Chris, but while there will be plenty of opportunities after Week 1 to make a statement, they'll only get one chance to set the tone for their season.
The same point you made about Bill Belichick and the tape-watching applies even more so to Rex Ryan and the Jets, because there will be absolutely no tape for them to watch on the Bills offense to find out how to counter what they do well.
Long-term, another win over the Patriots would send the message that the Bills are here to stay and that they won't be the AFC East's doormat that they've been for the past decade. If the Bills lose that game, though, that's not enough to say that they won't contend for a playoff spot or that they can't eventually overtake the AFC East.
This year, though, losing to the Jets would be a huge buzzkill after all the excitement that's been built around the Bills this season, while a win would provide early validation that their hard work this offseason has paid off.
Chris: That's true. Again, I'm not devaluing the importance of the Week 1 showdown with the Jets. It'll allow the Bills to continue to ride momentum created this offseason. Because it's the first game of the season, it's naturally a statement game.
Losing would be a buzzkill, but I'd like to see the Bills perform well in the games they have home-field advantage later in the season. Another victory against the Patriots inside the Ralph would erase any disappointment over a season-opening loss to Gang Green.
We're splitting hairs here, because both games provide great opportunities for Buffalo to prove itself. I just think the Patriots are the bigger nemesis, have dominated the division for so long and the Bills get them at home.
Erik: We are most certainly splitting hairs; both games will be hugely important, and the entire season will be as well.
With that, I'd like to thank Chris for joining me in this debate, and I look forward to debating him again.
For readers, be sure to check back at the AFC East blog for more debates about your favorite AFC East team.