If the Buffalo Bills want to turn the tide on a decade of despondence, they'll need to win more than just the games they should win. They'll have to also get it done against the tougher opponents on their schedule.
But which game promises to be the toughest?
As usual, I'll let the guest lead us off.
This is a great question, Erik. I could go any number of ways here. I wish you'd gone first so I could just say "Yeah, that one." Let me think this through before I settle on a game.
From a point-spread perspective, the Week 10 game at New England looks like the steepest challenge. That historically has been a double-digit spread, and the Bills haven't won a game in Gillette Stadium. That place isn't so new anymore.
But I'm going to circle back to Foxborough. That game is more than just a win or a loss for Buffalo, it's a psychological hurdle. Buffalo seems to be turning the corner from hoping to win to expecting to win, and New England is the mountaintop. The Bills could have swept the Patriots last season, winning in Orchard Park and then jumping to a 21-0 lead in the rematch, but they fell apart and couldn't close out what could've been a symbolic victory.
The Patriots are an easy choice, and one I agree with. For the sake of argument, though, I'll go with their Week 9 contest at Reliant Stadium against the Houston Texans.
The Bills will be coming off a bye, which will play into their favor a bit. But the front seven will give the Bills offensive line all it can handle. They gave up the second-fewest sacks last year, but the Texans can get pressure from any direction. The Texans don't have the offensive firepower of the Patriots, but they are a well-rounded unit and feature one of the league's best running backs.
The circumstances around some of the other games may make them tougher overall. Consecutive road games make the Patriots and Cardinals contests difficult, but there is hope for Bills fans. After Week 10's contest against the Patriots, there are a lot of cupcakes. If the Bills can make it out of the early gauntlet alive, they could still have a solid shot at making the playoffs.
I agree with what you suggested before: All the games will be big for a team that has a slim margin for error. But the Bills can move on from a non-divisional road loss. As for any advantage of having a bye and trying to capitalize on the extra prep time for a victory before rolling into Foxborough, the Texans will be coming off their bye, too. The AFC East still goes through New England, and the Bills will need to make a statement there.
We definitely agree that between the Patriots and Texans, obviously the game in New England bears a bigger impact on their ability to make a statement in the division and improve their standings toward a playoff spot.
In the Texans, however, I believe the Bills have a much more complete opponent. The Patriots field one of the league's best offenses, but they aren't as well-rounded on both sides of the ball.
Thanks for joining me in the debate, Tim. Hopefully we link up again soon.
What do you think? Who got it right? Vote in the poll and leave your thoughts in the comments.