The Doug Marrone era begins in 2013!
One of these years, the Buffalo Bills will still be playing in January and I won't have to do an article looking ahead to the following season.
With the Doug Marrone era officially underway, I hope the Bills playoff drought comes to an end sooner rather than later.
Unfortunately for Marrone, Buffalo's 2013-14 schedule takes a big step up in difficulty from the 2012-13 season.
Now, before I get too deep into this article, please keep in mind this article is being written well before the NFL draft and free agency. Also, my crystal ball is currently broken, so I do not know who will be injured or which teams will be on the rise or decline next season.
This article will solely be based on where I think teams are heading next season, so sit back and enjoy!
The Bills? No problem.
With each passing season, I like to think that the Patriots era of dominance in the AFC East will be coming closer to its end.
And every season, they prove me wrong and look just as dominant as the year before.
When the 2013-14 season begins, Tom Brady will be 36 years old and he really isn't showing any signs of slowing down.
He may not have his favorite weapon, Wes Welker, but Brady will still have plenty of weapons at his disposal.
New England's defense is their Achilles heel, but with Brady at the helm, I see another season of struggles for the Bills.
Predicted record against New England: 0-2
Bills record: 0-2
Ryan Tannehill had a nice rookie season and his Dolphins will be very competitive against Buffalo.
Yet, the Dolphins were well-coached by Joe Philbin, and with their young talent, the team completed their season at 7-9.
In 2013, the Dolphins' biggest loss will most likely be Reggie Bush. This isn't too significant as the team has Lamar Miller, Daniel Thomas and Marcus Thigpen.
The Dolphins are also in the best shape in terms of team salary cap. Heading into the offseason, the Dolphins are $35.8 million under the cap, per John Clayton.
Expect the Dolphins to spend some of that money on a legitimate No. 1 receiver for Ryan Tannehill, like Greg Jennings or Dwayne Bowe.
With that said, I feel Buffalo and the Dolphins are neck-and-neck in terms of talent. For that reason, I'm predicting a season split.
Predicted record against Dolphins: 1-1
Bills record: 1-3
Something tells me that next season will be Mark Sanchez and Rex Ryan's last season with the Jets.
The Bills season was disappointing, but at least the Jets were a bigger trainwreck. Sure, they both finished at 6-10, but the Jets were a media circus all year long.
Something tells me that doesn't change in 2013-2014.
I fully expect the Jets to cut ties with Tim Tebow and some of their aging defensive players. Also, don't be surprised if Dustin Keller walks away and tests free agency as well.
The Jets are stuck with Mark Sanchez for at least one more season and while I expect the team to aggressively pursue offensive talent in free agency, I'm not sure how many players decide they want to play for the Jets.
Look for the Bills to find success against the Jets and sweep the season series for the first time since 2007.
Projected record against the Jets: 2-0
Bills record: 3-3
Will Flacco be with the Ravens next season?
This game is going to be close.
On offense, no one is positive what happens with Joe Flacco. Can the Ravens sign him to a long-term deal? Will the Ravens franchise him and pay him a significant chunk of change or will the team let the QB test free agency?
On defense, Ray Lewis will have retired and Ed Reed is on a significant decline. The team will have some other questions defensively as well.
Buffalo is full of questions as well. Their linebacker core is currently lacking and the secondary needs work as well.
Offensively, this will be a fun game to watch, as Ray Rice and C.J. Spiller are two of the most versatile RBs in the league.
Here is Buffalo's biggest "upset" of the season.
Bills record: 4-3
The Browns have a talented RB in Trent Richardson.
I shouldn't just blow off the Cleveland Browns game as a win for Buffalo. The Bills haven't exactly been a model franchise in the last decade, but I just can't help myself.
Sure, the Browns have talent in Trent Richardson and Josh Morgan offensively. On defense, the team is actually pretty solid.
Cleveland will have a new coach, much like Buffalo, and I wouldn't be shocked if Brandon Weeden has to compete for a starting job. He'll be 30 next season and the team may draft a rookie early.
Buffalo wins this game on the road.
Bills record: 5-3
A.J. Green is a nightmare matchup for most teams.
Buffalo has won 10 of its last 11 games against the Bengals. In 2011, the teams faced off and the Bengals escaped with a 23-20 victory. The game itself had a controversial incomplete pass call on what appeared to be a reception for Stevie Johnson.
Even with Buffalo's overall success against the Bengals over their last 11 contests, this is a new era and the Bengals are in much better shape than Buffalo.
A.J. Green alone is a matchup nightmare, and I'm sure he and Andy Dalton will do enough damage to pull out a victory against the Bills.
Buffalo record: 5-4
If Roethlisberger stays healthy, the Steelers should be in the playoffs next season.
The Pittsburgh Steelers are an interesting team. I don't necessarily think that the team as a whole is on a decline, but this season, I predicted accurately that the Steelers would finish 8-8.
If Roethlisberger didn't miss a few games, they probably win 9-10 games and make the playoffs.
In 2013-14, the Steelers will be in solid shape, even if Mike Wallace leaves the team. Antonio Brown is a solid WR and there is solid depth behind him. Heath Miller is still a valuable weapon for Roethlisberger and the team has good RBs.
On the defensive side of the ball, the team still has plenty of talent.
The last time the Bills played the Steelers, it was a tight game. The Steelers took a 19-16 victory in overtime.
I think Buffalo has a chance to win this game, but I'm giving the Steelers the nod, as the game is in Pittsburgh.
Bills record: 5-5
Roddy White, Julio Jones and Matt Ryan are a lethal trio.
Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and Roddy White. Those three names alone terrify me.
As much as I feel that Buffalo is a team on the rise, I think the Falcons have the chance to be a dynasty. Obviously, Matt Ryan needs to prove himself in the playoffs, but I think he does so this year and takes the Falcons to the Super Bowl.
The Falcons' biggest weakness will be at tight end, as Tony Gonzalez is retiring at season's end. Also, Michael Turner is slowing down. Don't be surprised if the Falcons take a RB in Round 1 to eventually replace Turner.
Defensively, the Falcons have plenty of talent.
I don't see the Bills getting embarrassed often in 2013, but this may be the one home game where the team looks really bad.
Bills record: 5-6
Doug Marrone served as Sean Payton's OC from 2006-08.
This may be Buffalo's one prime-time game next season.
New coach Doug Marrone served as Saints offensive coordinator from 2006-08 and is good friends with Sean Payton.
Offensively, the Saints are one of the best teams in the league. Drew Brees is an excellent quarterback, the team has a solid core of WRs, an underrated group of RBs and Jimmy Graham at TE.
Defensively, the team has some talent but can be scored on.
Under Marrone, I expect the Bills to make a more up-tempo and aggressive offense, and this is one game I see the offense being highly successful.
While I think that this is another game that the Bills could win, I'm giving the nod to the home team, as they are far more proven.
Bills record: 5-7
Cam Newton is a dynamic QB, but the Panthers can certainly be defeated by Buffalo.
The Carolina Panthers have Cam Newton, Steve Smith and Greg Olsen as consistent offensive talent. Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams are talented RBs, but highly inconsistent. Brandon LaFell has plenty of potential as a WR, but needs to prove that he can stay healthy.
On defense, the team has Luke Kuechly, Charles Johnson and James Anderson, but defensively the team was as inconsistent as Buffalo.
Cam Newton is the type of player who can take over any game, but if Buffalo's front four plays to their potential, the Bills leave the Ralph with the win.
Bills record. 6-7
Doug Martin had a great rookie season and will build off of it in 2013.
I've gone back and forth on this game a few times.
I think Tampa Bay has plenty of talent. I like Josh Freeman and think Doug Martin is an excellent young running back. Vincent Jackson is still a great WR and Mike Williams is a solid second WR.
The defense is the team's biggest weakness and Greg Schiano's act seems to be wearing thin on the players.
This is a coin flip game, but I think Buffalo has a great shot of winning on the road. If Tampa Bay shows any signs of struggling early in the season, I wouldn't be shocked if some of the players on the Buccaneers quit on their coach.
Bills record: 7-7
Andy Reid would be wise to get this man the ball.
Somewhere Jamaal Charles is crying.
Romeo Crennel went through a lot this past season as the Chiefs head coach, and I have to praise the way he handled himself.
That said, he was atrocious as the coach of the Chiefs, as he ignored the teams best weapon in Charles.
When Andy Reid accepted the job, I felt bad for Charles. While I think Reid is a very talented head coach, he is a pass-first coach and ignores the run game too often.
One positive for Charles is that he should become more involved in the passing game.
While this is just a guess, I think that Alex Smith lands in KC and does a nice job in Reid's system.
Buffalo has had plenty of success against the Chiefs the last two seasons, but I think KC gets a dose of revenge with a close win at the Ralph.
Bills record: 7-8
The Bills will have to contain MJD to beat the Jaguars next season.
The Jacksonville Jaguars? That's a win for Buffalo.
Sorry, Jaguars fans, I'll elaborate a bit. The team still doesn't know what it has in Blaine Gabbert and Chad Henne isn't the answer. I wouldn't be shocked if the team drafted a QB in Round 1 or 2.
MJD will be back and play well, and I really like Justin Blackmon and Cecil Shorts, but the team has plenty of issues.
Defensively, there is some talent on the roster, but they're lacking overall.
Last, we have no idea who will be coaching this team in 2013. Mularkey has a shot to return, but with a new GM, I think the team will fire their current coach and hire a new coach.
In that regard, the Jaguars will be in the same position as Buffalo, but overall the Bills are more talented.
Bills record: 8-8
C.J. Spiller will be utilized correctly by Doug Marrone in 2013.
Overall, 8-8 wouldn't be terrible for the Bills in Doug Marrone's first year as head coach. The schedule is tougher, but it's not far-fetched to think that the team could win up to 10, maybe 11 games next season if everything goes their way.
However, for this to happen the Bills will need a few things to happen. First, they'll need to find a QB, most likely a rookie. Right now, everyone is speculating that Ryan Nassib will be the choice with Marrone as head coach and Nathaniel Hackett as the team's offensive coordinator.
Last, here is a breakdown of how I have the Bills completing their 2013-14 NFL season.
AFC East record: 3-3
Home record: 4-4
Road record: 4-4
I'm sure that in one calendar year it'll be interesting to come back and see how my overall predictions were for the Buffalo Bills.