Predicting the Buffalo Bills' Most Important Games of 2014-15 Season
The NFL season consists of 16 games, which is much shorter than any other professional sport. This means the margin of error is much smaller, and the importance of each game is much greater. However, even within those 16 games, there are certain games that carry much more significance.
The Buffalo Bills have a number of key games on their schedule that very well could determine the team's playoff fate. After looking at the team's schedule, these are six games that I believe are the most important for the Bills heading into the upcoming season.
Week 3: Vs. San Diego
The first big matchup for the Bills comes in Week 3 when they face off against the San Diego Chargers. This should be a good barometer to test exactly where they currently stack up in the AFC.
San Diego has a similar team heading into 2014 and once again will most likely be in the playoff picture. However, a win for Buffalo would give it a big advantage, as it would hold a potential tiebreaker if needed.
Week 11: At Miami and Week 12: Vs. New York Jets
Divisional games are always important, and if teams are not able to win in their division, they usually don't end up in the playoffs. Last year, the Buffalo Bills were much improved when facing divisional opponents, finishing with a record of 3-3.
Weeks 11 and 12 could be the deciding factor in the 2014 season for the Buffalo Bills, with games against the Miami Dolphins and the New York Jets in back-to-back weeks. Last year, the Bills were able to get three of their six wins against these two teams with a sweep of the Dolphins and splitting the season series with the Jets.
If the Bills were able to get two wins here at this point in the season, it would go a long way to pushing them to a potential playoff berth.
Week 13: Vs. Cleveland
There are two games in the Bills schedule that could be "trap games." Len Pasquarelli of ESPN.com defines a trap game as, "a game in which a playoff contender faces a losing team, but one that still has some motivation for playing hard, and possesses some matchup advantages."
It is hard to predict where the Bills and Browns will be record-wise come Week 13. However, if Buffalo is in the playoff picture and is coming off of two wins against Miami and New York, the home game against Cleveland very well could be a trap game.
The Bills potentially could look past the Browns with a Week 14 matchup looming against Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos. This will also be the first game back for former defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, who is now the head coach of the Cleveland Browns.
This may provide extra motivation for the Browns, who are sure to play hard whether they are in the playoff picture or not. If the Bills take this game lightly, they could end up heading to Denver on a loss.
Week 16: At Oakland
The Bills' second trap game comes three weeks later when they travel to Oakland to face the Raiders in Week 16. The last four weeks of the season will be a huge test for Buffalo, with three games against Denver, Green Bay and New England.
The Bills have not won in Oakland since 1991, according to The Football Database, and have only one win dating all the way back to 1967. Luckily for Buffalo, it is not playing the Oakland Raiders of old, and this is absolutely a winnable game in the Black Hole.
Just like the Cleveland game, though, the Bills will be coming off of two big games against Denver and Green Bay and have a potentially huge matchup in Week 17 in New England. This could definitely be a stumbling block for Buffalo if it's not ready to play.
Week 17: At New England
For the third time in four years, the Buffalo Bills will finish their regular season in New England against the Patriots. This game has the potential to have numerous implications, both in standings as well as symbolically.
The Bills will be going up a divisional opponent that could have major implications on their playoff chances, and if Buffalo plays well, it could decide a divisional crown. It will not be easy, though, as the Bills have yet to win a game in Gillette Stadium and have not won in New England since 2000, according to The Football Database.
The Patriots still have Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, who have had the Bills' number for the better part of a decade now. This is why a win in Week 17 could have a bigger impact than any other win for Buffalo this season.
By beating the Patriots in New England, the Bills, who have the look of a team on the rise, could finally show they are no longer the doormat in the division. There is a lot that has to play out between now and December 28, but it looks as if Buffalo wants to end its playoff drought, so they will have to end it with a win in New England.