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In looking at the Bills schedule for 2012, let's break it down on a monthly basis.
September games: Week 1 at New York Jets, Week 2 vs. Kansas City, Week 3 at Cleveland and Week 4 vs. New England.
As for the September games, the Bills have two AFC East rival games, and two other games against AFC opponents outside of the East. The Bills open on the road against the New York Jets, and I think that this game is huge for Buffalo.
The Bills have to pass the Jets if they want a realistic shot at the playoffs, and a win in the opener would make a huge statement that the Bills are taking the next step forward.
The Bills thrashed the Chiefs in Kansas City last year in the season opener, 41-7. The Bills should beat them again, as well as the Browns. That leaves the two AFC East games to determine what kind of a month they will have. A record of 2-2, or at .500 really doesn't cut it. They need to be at least 3-1.
October games: Week 5 at San Francisco, Week 6 at Arizona, Week 7 vs. Tennessee and Week 8 is the Bills' bye week.
Two road games in consecutive weeks on the West Coast. It will be interesting to see if the Bills stay out west for the two games, or if they decide to fly back and forth both times. The 49ers stayed in the East Coast for a two-week stretch in 2011, and that worked out pretty well for them.
The 49ers will obviously be a stiff test. The Bills defense will get a close look at a top-notch NFL defense and see how well they match up. The Bills will have to contain Chris Johnson if they have any hope at beating the Titans.
The young secondary will get a big test against Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd. If the Bills can come away with a 2-1 record in October, that would be considered a moral victory heading into the bye week.
November games: Week 9 at Houston, Week 10 at New England, Week 11 vs. Miami on Thursday Night Football and Week 12 at Indianapolis.
Going on the road to face two of the playoff teams out of the AFC last year in consecutive weeks will be a difficult test for the Bills. The Bills face two of the three top rookie QB's in November, when they face Andrew Luck and Ryan Tannehill. If the Bills don't win both of those games, that would be a disappointment. Figure a 2-2 record for November.
December games: Week 13 vs. Jacksonville, Week 14 vs. St. Louis, Week 15 vs. Seattle (in Toronto), Week 16 at Miami and Week 17 vs. New York Jets.
December will be the make or break month for the Bills playoff chances. They have three straight home games to open up the month, and four out of five are home contests this month.
The first four are all winnable, so if the Bills get on a roll, they could conceivably close out the year with a 5-0 mark in December, which would have to be a major boost for their playoff chances.