Buffalo Bills 2012 NFL Schedule: Game-by-Game Predictions, Info and Analysis

Dan Van Wie@@DanVanWieContributor IIIApril 18, 2012

Buffalo Bills 2012 NFL Schedule: Game-by-Game Predictions, Info and Analysis

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    The 2012 NFL draft is going to begin in little more than one week, so we are going to take a momentary break from focusing on draft selection strategy and shift our attention to the 2012 NFL schedule that was just released. For the entire NFL 2012 regular-season schedule, click here.

    In looking at the Buffalo Bills 2012 NFL regular-season schedule that was just released today, several things stand out. First of all, the Bills finally return to prime time when they face the Miami Dolphins on a Thursday Night Football game on NFL Network. The Week 11 game is going to be played in Buffalo on Nov. 15.

    The vast majority of Bills games will be played at 1 p.m., ET on CBS Network, as per usual. One of the interesting quirks in the schedule is that the Bills open and close the year against the New York Jets.

    The Bills' 2012 home opponents are Jacksonville, Kansas City, St. Louis, Seattle, Tennessee and then their three AFC East foes, Miami, New England and the New York Jets.

    The Bills 2012 road opponents are Arizona, Cleveland, Houston, Indianapolis, San Francisco and their three AFC East foes: Miami, New England and New York Jets.

    Will all of the big moves that the Bills made in free agency to improve the defensive line allow this defense to grow by leaps and bounds? Will it take a month or two of the regular season for the defense to truly come together? The Philadelphia Eagles added a number of good veteran defenders in 2011, but that defense didn't really gel until the final four or five games of the year.

    As we march through the 2012 schedule, we will highlight some of the storylines and wind up making a prediction for every game on the 2012 schedule. On to the presentation...

Buffalo Bills 2012 Offseason

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    While each slide is going to focus on the opponent for every week of the 2012 season, we wanted to devote one slide to talking about the Bills 2012 offseason. The moves that the Buffalo Bills made were as impressive as any other NFL team based on the magnitude of the players the Bills signed to new deals.

    From free agent defensive ends Mario Williams and Mark Anderson, to retaining Steve Johnson, Scott Campbell, Bryan Scott, Derek Hagan and Kirk Morrison, the Bills have enough pieces in place now to make a solid run at ending their playoff drought. The last playoff appearance by Buffalo was in 1999 and the Bills are the only time that has yet to qualify for the playoffs since 2000.

    The Bills defense finished at No. 26 overall in 2011. They were slight better in 2010 (No. 24 overall) and better in 2009 (No. 19) and even better still in 2008 (No. 14). The Bills defense is 2012 would like to finish the year ranked even better than any of those finishes.

    The reasons why required some research, but consider all of these factors. Out of their 16-game schedule, the Bills defense is facing 13 offenses that finished the 2011 season ranked at No. 17 or worse. The schedule maker has somehow allowed the Bills to face every one of the worst eight offenses from 2011. They are Jaguars (No. 32), Rams (31), Colts (30), Browns (29), Seahawks (28), Chiefs (27), 49ers (26) and the Jets (25). The Dolphins weren't much better at No. 22 and they might be worse in 2012.

    The Bills offense gave up the fewest sacks in the NFL in 2011, allowing only 23 total for the year. There were four offenses that gave up at least 50 sacks in 2011, and they are all on the Bills schedule in 2012: St. Louis (No. 1 with 55), Arizona (No. 2 with 54), Miami (No. 3 with 53) and Seattle (No. 4 with 50). The upcoming 2012 season could see the Bills sacks total zoom up into the top five overall totals.

    The Bills defense has plenty of reasons to feel good about the upcoming season. They have arguably the best defensive line in the AFC with Mario Williams, Mark Anderson, Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus. They have some additional help coming from the likes of Shawne Merriman, Chris Kelsay, Alex Carrington, Torrell Troup and Kellen Heard. The linebackers appear solid with Kirk Morrison, Nick Barnett, and Kelvin Sheppard.

    The Bills secondary is one area that needs to be addressed in the draft. There is young talent back there in Aaron Williams, Justin Rogers, Jairus Byrd and D'Norris Searcy, but the Bills need more talent. How many veterans make the final cuts out of the preseason remains to be seen. The Bills are bringing back Terence McGee, Leodis McKelvin, Drayton Florence, Bryan Scott and George Wilson to compete for a job.

Week 1: Buffalo Bills vs New York Jets

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    Week 1 (9/9/12). Kickoff is at 1:00pm ET , CBS.

    The Buffalo Bills will get an opportunity to open up the year against an AFC East rival when they travel to New York to face the Jets. Since it's opening weekend, the Jets shouldn't have developed that many team chemistry problems yet, so the Bills will be catching them at a time when nobody knows if the Jets have rebounded or if they are still reeling.

    We know that the Jets will have a quarterback by committee comprised of Mark Sanchez, with Tim Tebow taking up to 20 snaps or so per game.

    The combination of Sanchez and Tebow will get to see first-hand what the new Buffalo Bills defensive line is like to face. The Bills will be unveiling their new 4-3 scheme, complete with a defensive line that features Mario Williams, Kyle Williams, Marcell Dareus and Mark Anderson. This could very well be the best defensive line in the AFC East, and possibly in the AFC.

    The Jets have hired ex-Dolphins head coach Tony Sparano as their head coach, so expect to see the Jets return to their proven ground game of the past, taking advantage of the offensive line, the skills of Tebow and the prowess of Sparano.

    This game will also renew the rivalry of Bills wide receiver Steve Johnson versus the shutdown skills of corner Darrelle Revis.

    The winner of this game has a great head start towards the playoffs, while the loser will be facing an uphill battle. Should be quite a war. The Jets have won the past five games against the Bills, and if the Bills intend to be a playoff team, they have to beat their AFC East rivals, plain and simple.

    My prediction: Buffalo Bills 20, New York Jets 17

Week 2: Kansas City Chiefs at Buffalo Bills

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    Week 2 (9/16/12). Kickoff is at 1:00pm ET , CBS.

    These teams met in Kansas City last year to open up the 2011 season. The Bills easily defeated the Chiefs 41-7 which helped to ease the pain of the 2010 loss due to a time out call just prior to Rian Lindell kicking a field goal to win the game. So, now the teams meet for the third year in a row.

    In the 2012 offseason, the Chiefs tried to make a play for Peyton Manning, but were rebuffed. Kyle Orton finished up the year at quarterback, but he left in free agency. Romeo Crennel finished the year as the interim coach for Todd Haley, and now Crennel is officially the head coach.

    Thanks to Chris Brown of Buffalo Bills.com, we learned that the Chiefs were dead last in red zone offense in 2011. Overall, their offense was ranked No. 27s and the Chiefs averaged only 13.3 points per game, which is pretty bad.

    The Chiefs offense should be better in 2012, but how much better is the question? They gave the franchise tag to wide receiver Dwayne Bowe, who hasn't signed a deal yet. The biggest additions the Chiefs made this offseason, were the deals to acquire T Eric Winston, RB Peyton Hillis, CB Stanford Routt and TE Kevin Boss. That gives them some more weapons on offense to work with.

    From a defensive perspective, the Chiefs finished up 2011 as the No. 11 overall defense in the NFL. Romeo Crennel is a defensive-oriented coach, and he will be looking to impart his philosophies on the team. Losing corner Brandon Carr to the Dallas Cowboys hurts them, but they were able to sign Stanford Routt, who also included Buffalo as one of his stops in the week prior to free agency starting.

    As good as the Chiefs defense is, they will be hard-pressed to stop all of the Bills weapons. The Bills have depth at running back and a wide variety of receivers that will cause the Chiefs problems. When they met last year, Ryan Fitzpatrick threw four touchdown passes and Fred Jackson rushed for 112 yards. Expect more of the same this year as well.

    This year the game is being played in Buffalo, and I expect that the crowd will be a factor in this game, The Bills run defense will be tested if Jamaal Charles bounces back from his 2011 ACL injury, so containing Charles and Bowe will continue to be the keys for the defense, just as they were in 2011.

    Prediction: Buffalo Bills 28 - Kansas City Chiefs 17

Week 3: Buffalo Bills at Cleveland Browns

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    Week 3 (9/23/12). Kickoff is at 1:00pm ET , CBS.

    The Bills have to make sure they get ready to face Cleveland in this Week 3 contest, as they might be caught peeking ahead at playing New England in Week 4.

    The Browns offense struggled in 2011, as they finished 2011 ranked No. 28 rushing the ball and were No. 30 in run defense. They will attempt to become more physical on both sides of the ball via the draft, but the Bills shouldn't have that many problems shutting down the Browns offense, which still needs a major influx of talent.

    Cleveland Browns signed a pair of defensive ends in the 2012 offseason, DE Frostee Rucker and DE Juqua Parker to bolster their defensive line play and pass rush. The Browns can boast that they had a top 10 defense in 2011, as they finished the year exactly at No. 10.

    Will the Browns have a new starting quarterback in 2012, or will they continue to give the ball to Colt McCoy? That remains one of the mysteries surrounding the Browns in 2012.

    My Prediction: Buffalo Bills 27 - Cleveland Browns 13

Week 4: New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills

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    Week 4 (9/30/12). Kickoff is at 1:00pm ET , CBS.

    We predicted the Bills would start out 2012, 3-0, since they were also able to start out 2011 hot, at 5-2. The Bills stole a game from the New England Patriots in Buffalo in the 2011 season, so can they beat Tom Brady in Buffalo two years in a row?

    The Patriots figure to still have a high-powered offense thanks in part to signing free agents like Brandon Lloyd. The Patriots did lose free agent BenJarvus Green-Ellis, so it remains to be seen how good their running game is without him.

    The biggest loss for the Patriots could be their pass rush, or lack of it. The Bills signed away Mark Anderson from the Patriots, and in helping themselves, they might have hurt the Patriots just as badly.

    The Bills offense will need to be clicking on all cylinders to beat New England, but I suspect that they are sky-high for this game.

    Patriots signed WR Brandon Lloyd, G Robert Gallery, DE Jonathan Fanene, DE Trevor Scott, WR Anthony Gonzalez and S Steve Gregory in the 2012 offseason.

    My Prediction: Buffalo Bills 31 - New England Patriots 28 in a shootout.

Week 5: Buffalo Bills at San Francisco 49ers

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    Week 5 (10/7/12) Kickoff is at 4:15 pm ET , CBS.

    The Bills are just coming off of an emotionally charged game against AFC East rival New England Patriots, so their work will be cut out for them to rise to the occasion and try to tame one of the very best defenses in the NFL, in the San Francisco 49ers.

    This is the Bills first look at ex-first-round draft pick Donte Whitner, who played a key role in the 49ers defense in 2011. The 49ers finished the 2011 season as the No. 4 overall defense in the NFL, and it was due to the strength of their defense that they made it all the way to the NFC Championship game under head coach Jim Harbaugh.

    Not only do Bills fans get to see Donte Whitner, but they get to see the return of wide receiver Randy Moss, who tortured the Bills secondary for years when he was catching passes from Tom Brady.

    In the 2012 offseason, the 49ers signed WR Randy Moss, RB Brandon Jacobs, WR Mario Manningham, QB Josh Johnson and CB Perrish Cox

    My prediction: San Francisco 49ers 17: Buffalo Bills 14. Bills lose in a rather low-scoring game. Good defensive battle.

Week 6: Buffalo Bills at Arizona Cardinals

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    Week 6 (10/14/12) Kickoff is at 4:05 pm ET , CBS.

    The Bills continue their play in the NFC West, as they follow-up going from San Francisco to Arizona. No word yet on if they Bills will just stay on the road all week, or if they will fly back home, only to turn around and fly right back out again.

    Arizona Cardinals signed CB William Gay and C Adam Snyder in the offseason. They swung and missed for Peyton Manning, resulting in the Cardinals turning to Plan B, which was to retain Kevin Kolb and pay him a huge roster bonus.

    After two big games against playoff teams like the New England Patriots and San Francisco 49ers, the Bills need to keep their focus and take care of teams like the Arizona Cardinals, who they should match up well with.

    The key will be to trying to slow down their star wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, whether it is with two cornerbacks on him, or a combination of a corner with a safety over the top, the Bills need to do what they can to slow down Fitzgerald.  

    My prediction: Buffalo Bills 30 - Arizona Cardinals 24

Week 7: Tennessee Titans vs Buffalo Bills

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    Week 7 (10/21/12)  Kickoff is at 1:00pm ET , CBS.

    Can the Buffalo Bills find a way to stop Chris Johnson? Even though the Titans run game dropped down all the way to No. 31 in the NFL last year, that didn't deter Johnson and his Titans teammates to have a big day running the ball against the Bills defense last year. The Titans beat Buffalo 23-17, so this is a revenge game for the Bills in 2012.

    The Bills run defense needs to emerge if they are to become a playoff team in 2012. What better opponent to show that they can be a dominating run defense, than against the Tennessee Titans, who still have to rely on Chris Johnson to run the ball.

    The Titans aren't just a one-dimensional team though, so the Bills will need to try to force them into third-down and long scenarios, where they can pin their ears back and blitz either Matt Hasselbeck or Jake Locker, whoever is starting for Tennessee at the time. 

    My prediction: Tennessee Titans 20 - Buffalo Bills 17

Week 8: Bye Week

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    After the Tennessee Titans game, the Bills can get some rest for their injured players as they have a bey week on Week 8 this year, which is the weekend of October 28.

    I have the Bills at 5-2 after seven games, the same record that they started out 2011 with. The question is, can they finish better in 2012? I think they can.

    The game upcoming against Houston on the road is huge game. The Bills need to come out of the bye with some momentum and having two weeks to prepare for the Texans will help. Seems like the bye is coming at a good point in the schedule, and the team should come out charged up for the final nine games.

Week 9: Buffalo Bills vs Houston Texans

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    Week 9 (11/4/12). Kickoff is at 1:00pm ET , CBS.

    This is the Mario Williams homecoming game, and the ex-No. 1 overall draft pick of the Texans will be sure to get a hard time from the home fans for departing Houston. So, there is nothing better that the Bills could do for their new teammate, but rise to the occasion and show Williams that he made the right choice by coming away with a win on the road.

    It won't be easy. Houston has weapons like Arian Foster, Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson, so the defense will really be tested in this game. But, knowing how much Williams means to the team, it wouldn't surprise me to see the defense play one of the most inspired games of the year.

    The Houston Texans are a team on the rise, as they had the No. 2 defense in the NFL last year, under the guidance of ex-Bills head coach Wade Phillips, who now serves as the Texans defensive coordinator. The Texans have stars on both sides of the ball, so the Bills will have their work cut out for them.

    If the Bills are going to be a playoff team in 2012, this is one of the games that will let them know how good they are. Houston figures to repeat at AFC South division champions.

    My prediction: Buffalo Bills 24 - Houston Texans 21

    Photo courtesy of Buffalo Bills.com

Week 10: Buffalo Bills vs New England Patriots

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    Week 10 (11/11/12). Kickoff is at 1:00pm ET , CBS.

    The Buffalo Bills must now travel to Massachusetts to play the New England Patriots. The Bills will be fired up to play the Patriots and hopefully this is a game that has some degree of meaning for first place in the AFC East.

    The Bills have not had a very easy go of it on the road in New England, and I think that trend still continues. The Bills were sky high for Houston, but it can be tough to really get up two weeks in a row, and that is what is required to beat Tom Brady and the dominating Patriots offense.

    Buffalo might find a way to get to Brady more than they have in the past, but it isn't enough, as he finds holes in the secondary and exploits them to lead New England to the win.

    My prediction: New England Patriots 31 - Buffalo Bills 21

Week 11: Miami Dolphins vs Buffalo Bills

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    Week 11 (11/15/12), Thursday night. Kickoff is at 8:20pm ET , NFL Network.

    The Bills appear back on a prime time game, as the Bills host the Miami Dolphins on the NFL Network on a Thursday night game. The Ralph will be rocking for this 8:20 pm kickoff between AFC East rivals.

    This is the game that the Bills are showcased in some time, and for all of the doubters out there, the Bills get to show how much they have improved as a team. With all of the problems that the Dolphins have encountered in the past year, maybe they are the perfect opponent for the Bills to draw for this important game.

    The Dolphins signed free agents QB David Garrard, CB Richard Marshall and G Artis Hicks. Who is starting at QB for the Dolphins in Week 11? Could it be Garrard, Matt Moore, or Ryan Tannehill? Anything is possible. 

    The Miami Dolphins had the No. 22 offense in the NFL and that was with Brandon Marshall serving as their leading receiver. Marshall has since been traded to the Chicago Bears, so right now the Dolphins are without a true No. 1 wide receiver. The biggest threat currently is running back Reggie Bush, so the Bills defense will be looking to bring up eight in the box to stuff Bush and force either David Garrard or Matt Moore to prove that they can move the ball by passing it.  

    My prediction: Buffalo Bills 34 - Miami Dolphins 17

Week 12: Buffalo Bills vs Indianapolis Colts

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    Week 12 (11/25/12). Kickoff is at 1:00pm ET , CBS.

    The Indianapolis Colts are starting to rebuild their franchise in 2012. The Bills fans can relate, as we have done that more times than anybody cares to admit.

    The Colts have seen a number of veterans leave the team like Peyton Manning, Jeff Saturday, Jacob Tamme and Pierre Garcon. The Colts have been busy in the offseason, and signed their own share of free agents, such as: DE Cory Redding, C Samson Satele, QB Drew Stanton, S Tom Zbikowski and WR Donnie Avery.

    Too bad the Bills didn't catch Indy last year when Lance Painter started a number of games. Instead the Bills get Andrew Luck this time around, so it's a good time to introduce Andrew Luck to the Bills new and improved defensive line and welcome him to the National Football League.

    Andrew Luck will have a solid showing as a rookie, but he will still have his share of mistakes. We wonder how many defensive lines he will encounter like the Bills in his rookie year. Will venture a guess that it won't be one of his favorite things of his rookie season.

    My prediction: Buffalo Bills 27 - Indianapolis Colts 17

Week 13: Jacksonville Jaguars vs Buffalo Bills

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    Week 13 (12/2/12). Kickoff is at 1:00pm ET , CBS.

    This contest will feature the Bills going up against ex-teammates Paul Posluszny, Lee Evans and ex-Bills head coach Mike Mularkey.  Based on this game being played in the second half of the season, it is possible that the Jaguars have switched from Blaine Gabbert, to ex-Dolphins quarterback Chad Henne and back to Gabbert by then.

    The biggest concern about Jaguars quarterback Blaine Gabbert's rookie season was that he would be hearing footsteps in the pocket when there wasn't anybody around him. That condition (commonly referred to as "Happy Feet") was something that plagued Trent Edwards in Buffalo. To the extent that Gabbert has corrected that remains to be seen, but my guess is the Bills pass rush will be strong enough that Gabbert will be hearing plenty of footsteps in this game.

    The Jaguars offense was dead last in the NFL in 2011, so this game should be a good test to see how far their offense has come against one of the most improved defenses in the NFL from last year. In the 2012 offseason, the Jaguars signed WR Laurent Robinson away from the Dallas Cowboys to provide another weapon for Gabbert or Henne to throw to. Jacksonville still has the NFL's leading rusher in Maurice Jones-Drew, so the Bills primary focus will be to stop or contain Jones-Drew.

    Jacksonville's defense wound up the 2011 season ranked in the top 10, at No. 6,. They will be going up against the Bills offense that was ranked No. 14 in the NFL last year, and is bringing back the main players from the 2011 team.

    Paul Posluszny will have his hands full trying to stop both Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller. The Bills will look to spread the Jaguars defense out and execute their offense, which is basically Ryan Fitzpatrick getting rid of the ball on short, timing passes to his many targets.

    These teams met in Week 5 back in the 2010 season and the Jaguars won 36-26, which dropped the Bills to 0-5 at the time. Many things have changed since then, and the Bills are a much improved team.

    Prediction: Buffalo Bills 24 - Jacksonville Jaguars 13.

Week 14: St. Louis Rams vs Buffalo Bills

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    Week 14 (12/9/12). Kickoff is at 1:00pm ET , FOX.

    Jeff Fisher is now the head coach for the St, Louis Rams, but it isn't yet known who is their defensive coordinator since the team hasn't named a replacement for ex-Bills head coach Gregg Williams, who was named the Rams defensive coordinator prior to the release of all of the "Bounty Hunting" initiative that Williams created in New Orleans.

    The Rams offense features quarterback Sam Bradford and running back Stephen Jackson and not much else. The Rams lost their best wide receiver, Brandon Lloyd, in free agency to the New England Patriots. While it is conceivable that the Rams will be landing some solid rookies in the 2012 draft, it is hard to predict who they will take in the draft after their first pick. You can figure that they want to add some weapons to their anemic offense, that finished the 2011 season ranked No. 31.

    St, Louis could draft either Trent Richardson, Justin Blackmon or Michael Floyd, depending on what the teams in front of them do. Any one of those players would serve as a boost to the offense. The Rams offense managed to score only 12.1 points per game in 2011, which is pretty abysmal.

    The last time the Rams played Buffalo, the Bills came out with a win, 31-14, back in the 2008 season.

    This game features the Rams porous offensive line, which led the NFL by allowing the most sacks last year with 55 against a very improved Buffalo defensive line, that must be licking their chops at the mere thought of going up against this unit. Safe to say that this contest should prove to be a long day for Sam Bradford.

    For Buffalo, the focus should be on shutting down Stephen Jackson, and force Bradford into as many third and long scenarios as is possible. They can just tee off on Bradford and lay the lumber to him. If there is one game on the Bills schedule that might see the defense challenge the 10 sacks they recorded against the Washington Redskins in Toronto last year, it would either be this game, or the game against Jacksonville.

    Prediction: Buffalo Bills 32 - St. Louis Rams 13

Week 15: Seattle Seahawks vs Buffalo Bills in Toronto

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    Week 15  (12/16/12). Kickoff is at 4:05 pm ET , FOX. Game is being played in Toronto.

    The Seattle Seahawks are going to let their new quarterback Matt Flynn battle it out with incumbent Tarvaris Jackson to see who earns the right to be their starting quarterback.This game also marks the return of running back Marshawn Lynch to face  the Bills. But since the game is in Toronto, Western New Yorkers should feel free to walk around the city, since Lynch won't be driving a vehicle anywhere in Buffalo.

    The Bills defense will look to contain Lynch and "Beast-Mode", but only if the Bills fans don't shower Lynch with Skittles throughout the game. He might get some instant energy from the candy, so no need to get him going on a sugar-rush. It will be interesting and entertaining to see which of the old teammates, Lynch, Fred Jackson or C.J. Spiller emerges with the best totals of the game.

    The Seahawks defense is a much improved unit, and they actually climbed up into the top 10 defenses of the NFL in 2011, finishing at No. 9. They only allowed 19.7 points per game, which is a very respectable number. Their offense however isn't that great, as they finished the year ranked at No. 28 overall. That is one of the reasons they got Flynn, as the Seahawks offense took a step backwards when they lost Matt Hasselback in free agency last year.

    Seattle gave up 50 sacks last year, so this is another of those games where the Bills revamped defensive line is going to be geared up to wreck havoc. Seattle has invested some high draft picks recently in their offensive line, but the results just aren't there yet, as evidenced by the sack totals.

    This could be one of the lower scoring games for the Bills in 2012. Am expecting to see a fairly tight contest.

    My Prediction: Buffalo Bills 17 - Seattle Seahawks 13

Week 16: Buffalo Bills vs Miami Dolphins

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    Week 16: (12/23/12). Kickoff is at 1:00pm ET , CBS.

    We are now starting to get down to the nitty-gritty part of the schedule. The Bills are looking to win here in MIami to clinch a playoff berth, while the Dolphins would be looking to play the role of spoiler.

    The Dolphins don't have much to play for but pride at this point. The Bills meanwhile are on a high drive for the playoff push, and are hoping to close out the season at 13-3.

    My prediction: Buffalo Bills 27 - Miami Dolphins 13

Week 17: New York Jets at Buffalo Bills

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    Week 17 (12/30/12). Kickoff is at 1:00pm ET , CBS.

    The Buffalo Bills close out the 2012 season with the same opponent they started out the year, the New York Jets. This game could very well boil down to a make or break game for both teams' playoff chances in 2012.

    The Bills will be hosting the Jets in this contest, and if a berth in the playoffs is at stake, you know the Bills fans will be out in mass to cheer their team on.

    How many problems will have surfaced with the Jets during the 2012 season, so that by the time Week 17 rolls around, will the Jets be divided, or still fighting and playing as one big happy family? With Tim Tebow and Mark Sanchez on the team, it just seems like a recipe for disaster, with one guy emerging as the starter and team leader and the other guy relegated to holding the clipboard. We will see how this all pans out.

    This game marks the end of 2012, so it should result in some pretty nasty weather. I expect that both the Jets and the Bills should have been able to post solid numbers as an overall defense with the talent on each team. As a result, I predict a low scoring game, featuring the running game of both teams.

    My prediction:  Buffalo Bills 13 - New York Jets 9

2012 Schedule Review and Playoff Overview

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    Is this the year that the Bills make the playoffs for the first time since 1999?

    From the free agent signings of defensive ends Mario Williams and Mark Anderson, to bringing back key free agents like Steve Johnson, Kirk Morrison, Bryan Scott and Scott Chandler, there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the Bills chances in 2012 to become a playoff caliber team.

    One concern I had in looking at the 2012 schedule is that the Bills are facing some of the best defenses in the NFL this year. From the 2011 season, eight of the Bills 16 games are going up against a defense from last year that finished no lower than No. 11 in the overall defense rankings. Those defenses are: Houston (No. 2), San Francisco (4), New York Jets twice (5) , Jacksonville (6), Seattle (9), Cleveland (10) and Kansas City (11).

    That means that Steve Johnson, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Fred Jackson, C.J. Spiller, and the other complimentary pieces will need to step up to turn the Bills into playoff contenders.

    When you analyze the 2012 schedule from a big picture perspective, there are some major reasons for thinking that the Bills will be having a better record in 2012. Those reasons are as follows:

    1) The Bills are facing each of the worst eight overall offensive teams from the 2011 season. Starting from No. 32 (Jacksonville) and working our way up from there, St. Louis (31), Indianapolis (30), Cleveland (29), Seattle (28), Kansas City (27), San Francisco (26) and the New York Jets (25). Other NFL offenses on the Bills schedule that aren't exactly powerhouses: Miami (22), Arizona (19) and Tennessee (17). That schedule should allow an already improved Bills defensive unit to thrive in 2012.

    2) The Bills are only facing three teams that made the playoffs in 2011: New England, San Francisco and Houston. With two games against New England, that means that out of the 16-game schedule, only four games are against 2011 playoff teams, 12 games are against non-playoff teams. That fact again helps out the Bills chances in 2012.

    3) The two divisions on the Bills 2012 schedule, the AFC South and the NFC West are two of the divisions from a top to bottom comparison that are easier to play.

    4) The Bills defense catches a break in the 2012 schedule. The Bills only face one top 10 passing attack in New England and only two top 10 rushing attacks in Houston and San Francisco. But on the converse side, they face seven passing attacks in the bottom 10 in 2011: Jacksonville, St. Louis, San Francisco, Indianapolis, Kansas City and Cleveland. They also face four bottom 10 rushing attacks from 2011 in Cleveland, Indianapolis, Arizona and St, Louis.

    Considering all of the above factors, the Bills schedule favors them making a strong playoff push in 2012. I realize that I predicted the Bills to go 13-3 in my weekly predictions of the schedule, but they could just as easily go 10-6, which might be good enough to get them in to the playoffs as well. Should be an exciting year.