A season ago the Buffalo Bills were seemingly everyone's sleeper team to make a run into the AFC playoffs for the first time in 13 years. The Bills limped to a 6-10 record and another top-10 pick in the draft, extending their NFL-long playoff drought.
Talk of sleepers and playoffs have been tempered leading into the 2013 season, but is this team really as bad as some are making them out to be? Is it possible this team could finally make good on their under-the-radar claims in an AFC that is more wide open than any year in recent memory?
A new coaching staff and a new quarterback could be the answer the franchise has been searching for or it may be another gloomy season in Western New York.
Here is the Bills' regular-season schedule in 2013:
|1||New England Patriots|
|3||at New York Jets|
|5||at Cleveland Browns|
|7||at Miami Dolphins|
|8||at New Orleans Saints|
|9||Kansas City Chiefs|
|10||at Pittsburgh Steelers|
|11||New York Jets|
|14||at Tampa Bay Buccaneers|
|15||at Jacksonville Jaguars|
|17||at New England Patriots|
In the following slides, we will predict each of the Bills' 16 regular-season games for the upcoming 2013 season.
The Bills have beaten the Patriots only one time since the days when Drew Bledsoe was manning the huddle for Buffalo. That victory came two years ago early in the season when Ryan Fitzpatrick led a late rally to get the monkey off the Bills back.
The two teams have played close games over the past few seasons, but Tom Brady almost always to wrangle a victory away from the Buffalo's grasp. A matchup with their divisional foe in the season opener will be a good test for a young Bills team that looks to take advantage of a reshuffled Patriots offense.
The Bills shocked the Patriots in the 2003 opener and 10 years later they will have just enough to pull off the upset again.
PREDICTION: Bills 27, Patriots 24 (1-0)
A week after a statement win, the Bills have a great chance at improving to 2-0 on the season with Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers coming to town.
The Panthers went 7-9 a year ago, which was good enough for second in the NFC South. They also possess the defending Defensive Rookie of the Year in Luke Kuechly and the 2011 OROY in Newton—both players will be big influences on the outcome of the game.
It seems ludicrous that there would be a let-down game so early in the season, but the Panthers have enough talent on offense to escape Orchard Park with a narrow victory.
PREDICTION: Panthers 23, Bills 21 (1-1)
Week 3 features a battle of two teams who are expected to fight for the bottom of the AFC East this season.
While both teams have serious question marks at the quarterback position, the Bills seem to be more settled at other spots on the roster. C.J. Spiller will be called upon early and often, much like he was a year ago in MetLife Stadium.
PREDICTION: Bills 20, Jets 10 (2-1)
The defending Super Bowl champs come into town looking for win after a tough home matchup the week before against the Houston Texans. Baltimore has struggled to put Buffalo away during their last few meetings, and nothing will come easy playing in Orchard Park.
PREDICTION: Ravens 31, Bills 17 (2-2)
The NFL schedule makers have a sense of humor to put the Browns and Bills in prime time on the NFL Network's Thursday night game. With both teams seemingly toiling every season at or near the bottom of their respective divisions, Bills vs. Browns matchups define NFL mediocrity.
Cleveland and Buffalo are primed for slight upticks from their 2012 performances and defense might be the name of the game this Thursday night. New aggressive styles on that side of the ball will rule in the short week as the offenses struggle to find any consistency.
PREDICTION: Bills 16, Browns 10 (3-2)
The Bills continue their AFC North tour in Week 6 when the Bengals come to town. The Bengals have struggled over the last decade to beat the Bills in Buffalo, but a team that has made the playoffs in two consecutive seasons might be able to change that poor streak.
A.J. Green has given the Bills problems in the two meetings since he has come into the league, and his individual battle with Stephon Gilmore will be a fun one to watch. The Bengals upgraded their running back and tight end positions, and these improvements will help them defeat the Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
PREDICTION: Bengals 34, Bills 24 (3-3)
A flurry of offseason moves has made the Dolphins a media darling, much like the Bills were a season ago. Year two of the Joe Philbin-Ryan Tannehill era begins and an infusion of new talent like Mike Wallace and Phillip Wheeler are having Miami fans dreaming of the playoffs.
But results are not decided on paper.
Buffalo matches the Dolphins speed across the roster and has the leg up on special teams. A big-time return by Marquise Goodwin or Robert Woods gives the Bills a come-from-behind victory at SunLife.
PREDICTION: Bills 23, Dolphins 21 (4-3)
Drew Brees is the second-best quarterback the Bills have seen to this point in the season, and he will prove why against a fairly inexperienced secondary. The Saints will rebound from a miserable season from a year ago and be a tough team to beat at home in the Superdome.
Brees will target Leodis McKelvin's side of the field and take advantage of tight end Jimmy Graham's height
to victimize Bills rookie Kiko Alonso down the middle of the field.
One year after becoming the statistically worst defensive team in NFL history, the Saints will be a bit better on that side of the ball with coordinator Rob Ryan controlling things. The Bills will still be able to put up points, but not nearly enough to pull out the victory in the bayou.
PREDICTION: Saints 38, Bills 24 (4-4)
It is hard to forget the bloodbath that took place between these two teams Week 2 of last season. The Chiefs came into the game with high hopes 2012, but left Ralph Wilson Stadium as the victims of a 35-17 beatdown.
Kansas City—like Buffalo—has had to endure another offseason of shifting in another direction, both in terms of coaching staffs and personnel. However, there's plenty of buzz surrounding the Chiefs as a team to watch in this year's AFC Wild Card race.
Buffalo will be strong at home this season, but they somewhat surprisingly drop a game to Kansas City in front of a sold out Ralph.
PREDICTION: Chiefs 20, Bills 17 (4-5)
Three years ago, Stevie Johnson dropped one of the most catchable pass his career—a catch that would have won the Bills a home game against the Steelers. Johnson went on to blame God for his ridiculous blunder and caught a ton of grief from fans and the media instead.
Johnson has grown up a bit in the seasons since, but he will have to be on his A-game to send the Bills to a victory in the Steel City.
Fresh off their first two-game losing streak of the season, Buffalo has success running the ball against Pittsburgh's now different-looking defense. The staples of past Steeler defenses have been making their way out the door in recent seasons, and their replacements have yet to step up and play consistently. There is also no guarantee that Troy Polamalu is healthy at this point in the season.
The Bills defense limits Ben Roethlisberger's touches in a time-possession battle.
PREDICTION: Bills 23, Steelers 16 (5-5)
The photo above says it all.
No one knows for sure how long Mark Sanchez will stay the starting quarterback of the New York Jets, if he even begins the season as a starter at all. Either way, the Jets will have a hard time finding any rhythm in what should be Rex Ryan's final season in the Big Apple.
Buffalo's improved defense will be the catalyst behind its first sweep of the Jets since the 2007 season. It will help that former Jets defensive coordinator Mike Pettine is now roaming the Bills sideline and ready to dial up the pressure against his former team.
PREDICTION: Bills 31, Jets 13 (6-5)
The Bills will be feeling pretty good about themselves coming off of the bye week after putting themselves into prime position for a potential wild card spot. That feeling might not last very long after the Falcons come flying into Orchard Park.
Atlanta's high-flying offense, revolving around quarterback Matt Ryan and his two dynamic receivers Roddy White and Julio Jones, will be tough on Buffalo's ragtag secondary. Stephon Gilmore will do all he can to kep one of those guys out of the end zone, but possessing two Pro Bowl wide receivers will present matchup problems all over the field.
Steven Jackson is certainly on the downswing, but he will be playing for a playoff contender for the first time in his career and be motivated to put up big stats.
PREDICTION: Falcons 34, Bills 23 (6-6)
The last four weeks will be make-or-break time for the 2013 Bills season.
Tampa Bay will be an interesting test for the Bills because of its refurbished roster. Buffalo cannot escape Revis Island for another season; the onetime Jet looks to wreak havoc on his former divisional foes for at least one more year.
The biggest question for the Bucs is whether quarterback Josh Freeman can turn the corner. If the gifted Freeman starts fulfilling his promising potential, then the Buccaneers are a playoff team and winners of this game. But if he's inefficient and the Bucs coaches turn to backup Mike Glennon, then Buffalo just might come out victorious.
This does appear to be the year the Bucs get things in order. With weapons across the roster, Freeman is running out of chances to prove himself.
PREDICTION: Buccaneers 27, Bills 20 (6-7)
Buffalo-Jacksonville contests have become an annual battle of mediocrity on the NFL schedule. It seems so long ago that these franchises were duking it out for playoff seeding in the late 90s, but recent history for each squad has been hard to stomach.
The Bills' playoff chances are fading after back-to-back losses against the NFC South, but they take a slight turn towards the positive in North Florida.
Jacksonville is another team that will probably be changing quarterbacks at least a couple times during what amounts to a get-your-feet-wet year for new head coach Gus Bradley.
PREDICTION: Bills 27, Jaguars 13 (7-7)
Miami almost always struggles in road games against cold-weather teams late in the season. In recent years the Bills' biggest thrashings of the Dolphins have come in snowy Buffalo near the Christmas holidays
After taking a tight road victory against Miami earlier in the season, they will be looking to complete a sweep with a berth to the playoffs on the line.
Led by Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas, Miami returns the favor against the Bills and pull off the improbable in a tundra-like setting.
PREDICTION: Dolphins 13, Bills 7 (7-8)
The Bills have not swept the Patriots since 1999. Not coincidentally, Buffalo has not made the playoffs since that same year.
New England has taken 19 of the last 21 meetings between the two teams, and the Patriots will not take Buffalo lightly after a shocking loss in Week 1. Tom Brady finishes another MVP-like campaign and destroys the Bills in the final week of the season, leading his team to another AFC East crown.
PREDICTION: Patriots 34, Bills 20
FINAL RECORD: 7-9