The Buffalo Bills last earned a playoff berth in 1999 and haven't won a playoff game since the 1995 season. It has been two decades since the team's run of four straight Super Bowl appearances came to an end.
In other words, football fans in Buffalo are desperate for a return to the postseason. With the release of the 2013 schedule, the Bills now know the path they will have to take to end their 13-year drought. It's not an easy road despite the fact that the strength of the schedule rates 26th based on last season's records, according to ESPN.
Ultimately, the strength of the opponents doesn't matter if a team is one of the worst in the NFL to begin with. The Bills are hoping that their young players will continue to develop and new head coach Doug Marrone will finally turn the tide.
Here's a look at Buffalo's schedule for next season, followed by a breakdown of the challenges facing the Bills as they strive for a return to the playoffs.
|2013 Buffalo Bills Schedule|
|1||Sept. 8 ||vs. New England Patriots||1 p.m.||CBS|
|2||Sept. 15 ||vs. Carolina Panthers||1 p.m.||FOX|
|3||Sept. 22 ||at New York Jets||4:25 p.m.||CBS|
|4||Sept. 29||vs. Baltimore Ravens||1 p.m.||CBS|
|5||Oct. 3||at Cleveland Browns||8:25 p.m.||NFL Network|
|6||Oct. 13||vs. Cincinnati Bengals||1 p.m.||CBS|
|7||Oct. 20||at Miami Dolphins||1 p.m.||CBS|
|8||Oct. 27||at New Orleans||1 p.m.||CBS|
|9||Nov. 3||vs. Kansas City Chiefs||1 p.m.||CBS|
|10||Nov. 10||at Pittsburgh Steelers||1 p.m.||CBS|
|11||Nov. 17||vs. New York Jets||1 p.m.||CBS|
|12||Nov. 24||BYE WEEK|
|13||Dec. 1||vs. Atlanta Falcons||4:05 p.m.||FOX|
|14||Dec. 8||at Tampa Bay Buccaneers||1 p.m.||CBS|
|15||Dec. 15||at Jacksonville Jaguars||1 p.m.||CBS|
|16||Dec. 22 ||vs. Miami Dolphins||1 p.m.||CBS|
|17||Dec. 29 ||vs. New England Patriots||1 p.m.||CBS|
Note: For a complete look at Buffalo's 2013 schedule, check out NFL.com.
The schedule isn't as easy as last year's records would indicate. The team's two easiest home games outside the division are against the Kansas City Chiefs and Carolina Panthers. But with Andy Reid revamping the Chiefs and the always dangerous Cam Newton leading the Panthers, these aren't gimmes.
Buffalo's two most winnable games are against the Cleveland Browns and Jacksonville Jaguars, and both of those are on the road. The sheer lack of games where fans can feel comfortable predicting a victory before the season starts is not good news for the Bills.
They face the Patriots twice, which have dominated them over the past decade, as well as the defending champion Baltimore Ravens and two top NFC contenders in the Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints.
The schedule doesn't bode well for the rebuilding Bills.
Most Pivotal Matchups
The only thing Buffalo can hang its hat on is the weakness of the AFC East outside of the Patriots. The second spot in the division is up for grabs, which makes the four games against the Miami Dolphins and New York Jets the most important ones on the slate.
If the Bills can pull off a sweep of those games, the task of finding the five or six more wins necessary to reach the playoffs would become easier. They have to establish themselves as the second-best team in the division, though, which is easier said than done.
New coaches and a change at quarterback should lead to a fresh sense of optimism for the Bills. Whether or not that ends up translating into victories is yet to be seen. One thing is for sure: The schedule isn't doing them any favors in year No. 14 since their last playoff appearance.