COMMENTARY | The Buffalo Bills enter the 2013 NFL regular season with more questions than answers.
There is a new coaching staff that has to deal with a new quarterback and various preseason injuries. Nevertheless, if the Bills can get through the injuries and adapt to the new coaches, there is a good chance that things will get better quickly in Buffalo. As a result, there is excitement in Western New York that hasn't been present in some time.
Here is a game-by-game look at how the Bills are likely to do this season:
Week 1, Sept. 8: New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills: The Bills have the daunting task of dealing with Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and the Patriots in Week 1. They are up to the task and have one huge advantage over the Patriots that they have not had in the past: the element of surprise. Belichick is not ready for the Bills' new coaches, quarterback, receivers, and schemes -- and the Bills shock the world with a 10-point win.
Week 2, Sept. 15: Carolina Panthers at Buffalo Bills: The Bills' defensive line should make things miserable for Cam Newton. Mario Williams chases Newton down on the outside, while Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus clog the inside. Buffalo cruises to a two-touchdown win.
Week 3, Sept. 22: Buffalo Bills at New York Jets: Both the Bills and Jets enter the season with their quarterback situations in flux. However, by Week 3, Buffalo starter E.J. Manuel will be back at full strength, and the Jets may never be at full strength as long as Rex Ryan is in charge. The game may not be pretty, but Buffalo's defense dominates again en route to another two touchdown win.
Week 4, Sept. 29: Baltimore Ravens at Buffalo Bills: Ray Rice will serve as the first elite running back to go up against the Bills this season. At the same time, the Ravens' defense may be even better than it was last year due to it getting younger and quicker. The Bills will be in the game, but they drop a close one to the Ravens, losing on a last-second field goal.
Week 5, Oct. 3: Buffalo Bills at Cleveland Browns: As is becoming a common theme, the Buffalo front four will be too much for the immobile Brandon Weeden. The Bills come close to pitching a shutout and win running away on national television by 21.
Week 6, Oct. 13: Cincinnati Bengals at Buffalo Bills: A defensive struggle should be on tap, with two of the best units in the league squaring off. The key will be which superstar has the biggest game, the Bengals' A.J. Green or the Bills' C.J. Spiller. Without injured star cornerback Stephon Gilmore, the Bills will struggle to contain Green and drop a close one by a touchdown.
Week 7, Oct. 20: Buffalo Bills at Miami Dolphins: The Bills head south to take on the Miami Dolphins, who should provide little resistance for C.J. Spiller. Also, Gilmore could be returning to lock down Mike Wallace, which will leave Ryan Tannehill vulnerable to a beating at the hands of the Bills' front four. Buffalo by two touchdowns.
Week 8, Oct. 27: Buffalo Bills at New Orleans Saints: E.J. Manuel, C.J. Spiller and Buffalo's offense were made to play on turf in a dome, so the unit should click on all cylinders against the Saints. That being said, the lack of depth in the secondary will be exploited by Drew Brees, who will lead the Saints to a 10-point win in the Bills' first shootout of the season.
Week 9, Nov. 3: Kansas City Chiefs at Buffalo Bills: For all of the problems Jamaal Charles could conceivably give the Bills, Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith will offer little concern against the Buffalo pressure. As the weather gets colder in Orchard Park, the Bills win again by two touchdowns.
Week 10, Nov. 10: Buffalo Bills at Pittsburgh Steelers: Not much is better for a football purest than two of the most blue-collar franchises in league history going at it in mid-November. Although 2013 may be a down year for the Steelers, Ben Roethlisberger can withstand the swarming Bills defensive line and will lead Pittsburgh to a close victory.
Week 11, Nov. 17: New York Jets at Buffalo Bills: Buffalo's first AFC East rematch of 2013 pits it against the dysfunctional Jets. Considering the injuries, indecision, and second-guessing that have become normal for the Jets, the team could look entirely different by the time this game comes around. Regardless, the Jets certainly will not have changed for the better, and the Bills control them for the second time.
Week 12, Nov. 24: Bye Week.
Week 13, Dec. 1: Atlanta Falcons at Buffalo Bills: Normally, the indoor Falcons having to travel to Buffalo in December would be a big advantage for the Bills. However, this game will be played in the comfortable confines of the Rogers Centre in Toronto, which essentially eliminates any home-field advantage. In the climate-controlled dome, the Bills struggle to contain both Roddy White and Julio Jones, and the Falcons win by two touchdowns.
Week 14, Dec. 8: Buffalo Bills at Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Like many in Upstate New York, the Bills get a chance to head south in the winter, and former Syracuse Orange head coach Doug Marrone gets to rematch former Rutgers Scarlet Knights head coach Greg Schiano. Like many before him, Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Freeman folds under Buffalo's pass rush, and the Buccaneers don't score enough to come close.
Week 15, Dec. 15: Buffalo Bills at Jacksonville Jaguars: The Bills continue their tour of Florida and take on what should be the state's (and possibly the NFL's) worst team in the Jaguars. By this time in the season, the Jaguars should be in all-out "tank" mode looking to secure the first pick of the 2014 NFL draft. As a result, the Bills cruise to another easy win.
Week 16, Dec. 22: Miami Dolphins at Buffalo Bills: The Dolphins head to Buffalo in late December for a rematch. The problems that plagued Tannehill earlier in the season when the teams met in Miami are only magnified with the extremely cold weather. Defense wins the day in a snow bowl, and the Bills take the game 10-3.
Week 17, Dec. 29: Buffalo Bills at New England Patriots: At this point, I think it is likely that both New England and Buffalo will have sewn up playoff spots, regardless of what happens in this game. The Patriots will have likely won the division, with the Bills taking a wild card. Due to the Patriots having better backups than the Bills, they avenge the earlier loss in a throwaway game.
Record: 10-6By finishing 10-6, the Bills will be ending the longest playoff drought in the NFL and will earn one of the AFC's wild cards. Needless to say, it should be a great season in Orchard Park.
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Del Pearson is a lifelong Upstate New York resident and follower of the Buffalo Bills. He has been attending games since childhood and more recently writing about the team as a Yahoo Contributor.
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