The Buffalo Bills took a huge step last season. This year, it's time to compete for a Super Bowl.
After years of disappointment, the Bills returned to glory in 2020 with their first division title and their first playoff win since 1995. They kept it going with a trip to the AFC Championship Game before falling to the Kansas City Chiefs.
Josh Allen looked like the real deal in 2020 and will be a top contender to win the MVP award next season after totaling 37 passing touchdowns and eight rushing scores last year.
The Bills spent the offseason trying to keep its core intact and will head into next year with a brighter outlook than we have seen from this franchise in decades. The question is whether they can live up to the lofty expectations.
Here is the schedule the team will take on during the 2021 season, per the Bills' official Twitter account.
A first-place schedule is always difficult, but it could have been much worse with only seven games against playoff teams from last year. That includes the Washington Football Team, which went 7-9 in 2020, and the New Orleans Saints, which could take a step back after losing Drew Brees.
There are still some tough games on the schedule against several explosive offenses, including the Chiefs, Saints, Tennessee Titans, Indianapolis Colts, Pittsburgh Steelers and the Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
It will present some challenges for a Bills defense that regressed in 2020, finishing 16th in points allowed after ranking second in the category in 2019.
Retaining Matt Milano and Levi Wallace was important this offseason, while first-round pick Gregory Rousseau has plenty of talent, but the team will have to generate more of a pass rush after no players had more than five sacks last year.
Otherwise, there will be a lot of pressure on Allen and the offense to outscore the top opponents, which often isn't the best recipe for consistent success.
The Buccaneers won the Super Bowl, but it's likely the Bills will be more eager to face the Chiefs again.
The AFC title game rematch will take place on Week 5 on Sunday Night Football, with Buffalo trying to send a message that it should be taken seriously as a contender.
The Bills couldn't keep up in the playoff matchup, managing only field goals when the Chiefs were getting into the end zone. Patrick Mahomes had three touchdown passes, with Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce each having huge games in the passing attack.
Even with an early 9-0 Buffalo lead, the game wasn't especially close.
It was a similar story as the regular-season matchup last year when the Chiefs earned a 26-17 win. The Bills will need to have a better showing this time around to prove they can keep up with the best team in the conference.
The two games against the Miami Dolphins—Weeks 2 and 8—will also be important for Buffalo to defend as AFC East champions. The Patriots reloaded in the offseason, but the Dolphins could be more dangerous after going 10-6 with one of the top defenses in the NFL.
If Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa improves in his second year, Buffalo could have a tough time holding off Miami in the division standings.