Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills have emerged as perennial Super Bowl contenders, a welcome sight for a fanbase that endured nearly two decades without playoff football before breaking the drought in 2017. But a championship has remained elusive so far.
The Bills reached the AFC Championship Game before coming up short against the Kansas City Chiefs in 2020. They met the same opposition in the divisional round last season and, after one of the wildest postseason games in history, were again eliminated by Patrick Mahomes and Co.
Buffalo's front office has spent the offseason trying to rectify the problems that have prevented the organization from getting its hands on the Lombardi Trophy.
Most notably, the Bills lured superstar edge-rusher Von Miller away from the Los Angeles Rams in free agency with a six-year, $120 million contract. It's the type of move a team makes when it's all-in on chasing a title.
Guard Roger Saffold, wide receiver Jamison Crowder, tight end O.J. Howard and a trio of defensive tackles—DaQuan Jones, Tim Settle and Jordan Phillips—were among the other notable signing to an already strong roster in free agency. They also added Florida cornerback Kaiir Elam in the first round of the draft.
Now the revitalized Bills know the path they'll have to take to earn another playoff appearance after the NFL released its schedule for the 2022 campaign Thursday.
2022 Buffalo Bills Schedule
One thing most AFC teams will notice this season is the lack of "gimme" games. The conference is loaded with established, high-end quarterback talent and young signal-callers looking to make a move toward that upper echelon in 2022.
In Buffalo's case, the cross-conference games don't provide much relief, either. Only the matchup with the Lions is one that could be placed in the win column with a high level of confidence, though it'll be favored in most of the others, too.
So, the overall view of the schedule has a couple of layers.
On one hand, if the Bills want to establish themselves as Super Bowl contenders, they should be able to navigate even a semi-difficult slate and earn a pretty high seed in the AFC playoff picture.
It should help they play in the East, which is arguably the weakest division in the conference, and taking care of business against the Dolphins, Patriots and Jets would go a long way to trying to hunt down the valuable No. 1 seed in the AFC.
That said, Buffalo can't expect to breeze through the regular season without being challenged. There are enough potential pitfalls to make the team's life difficult if it's not playing at an elite level all the way through.
Getting off to a strong start would take away some of the pressure and help the Bills start charting a path toward the top of the standings.
As mentioned, everything for the Bills starts with the AFC East. Going at least 5-1 against their divisional foes will likely be necessary to achieve the No. 1 seed.
It's a reachable goal, but a lot of it also depends on the development of the young quarterbacks featured by their rivals—Miami's Tua Tagovailoa, New England's Mac Jones and New York's Zach Wilson. The division race could be tougher than it looks on paper right now.
Beyond that, head-to-head matchups against the Chiefs are always going to carry more weight for the Bills until they can beat the AFC's recent gold standard consistently.
Most of the pressure rests on the shoulders of the Buffalo defense, which is why the Miller addition was crucial. The teams have faced off twice in each of the past two seasons. Here's how many yards the Kansas City offense has racked up in each meeting:
- 2020 regular season: 466
- 2020 playoffs: 439
- 2021 regular season: 392
- 2021 playoffs: 552
The Chiefs' offense is a well-oiled machine with Mahomes at the helm and represents a major challenge for any opponent. Even so, those results are nowhere near good enough for a team with a defensive-minded head coach in Sean McDermott.
So, all eyes in Buffalo will be on that side of the ball when the teams meet at Arrowhead this year.