By Jeff Kubiszyn @JeffKubiszyn on April 28, 2014
The Buffalo Bills added several free agents in the offseason to bolster some glaring weaknesses. Chris Williams should shore up the left guard position, while Brandon Spikes and Corey Graham will fill holes on the defense. The growth of E.J. Manuel will be critical to Buffalo's success in 2014. Here are my predictions for each week of the 2014 season.
Buffalo opens the season on the road against the Chicago Bears. The Bills will unveil yet another new defensive scheme. Fans will get to see if Manuel has made progress from his injury-riddled rookie season. In the season opener, Matt Forte will take advantage of a Bills defense still adjusting to the new scheme. Manuel and the offense can't get going on a hot day in Chicago.
Chicago wins 24-10.
The Miami Dolphins come to Ralph Wilson Stadium for Buffalo's home opener. Emotions should be running high as the team will play its first home game without founder and owner Ralph Wilson, Jr. The game is tight, but Buffalo finds a way to win one for Wilson.
Buffalo wins 16-10.
San Diego has never fared well traveling to Buffalo. The Bills' defense is starting to get comfortable in the new scheme and shuts down the Chargers' run game. Philip Rivers is a one-man show, but he can't pull out the victory.
Bills win 23-21.
Buffalo hits the road with a little momentum, and a trip to Houston could see the Bills face former quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. Could Buffalo also be facing a defensive line consisting of J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney? Fitzpatrick does just enough and Manuel is left scrambling for his life as the Texans defeat the Bills.
Houston wins 20-9.
Buffalo heads to Detroit in a homecoming game for defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz. Manuel begins to take steps as the franchise quarterback and out-duels Matthew Stafford. A late interception stops a potential game-winning drive for Detroit.
Buffalo wins 35-31.
Buffalo returns home to battle the division-leading New England Patriots. Brandon Spikes faces his old team and dominates in the run game. New England is forced to ride the arm of Tom Brady, but that's not enough. Manuel has a solid game and leads Buffalo to an upset win.
Buffalo wins 27-21.
The Minnesota Vikings come to town next. The game plan for Buffalo is simple -- contain Adrian Peterson. The Bills do a decent job against Peterson and send the fans home happy. C.J. Spiller out-rushes Peterson and scores twice.
Buffalo wins 35-14.
Buffalo travels to New Jersey to face the New York Jets before the bye week. Last year the Jets harassed Manuel all day, yet he kept the Bills in the game. This time a wiser Manuel uses the screen pass to negate the Jets' pass rush. Michael Vick or Geno Smith? It doesn't matter. The Bills put together the most complete game of the season and soundly defeat the Jets.
Buffalo wins 34-13.
Buffalo enters the bye week on a roll. Four straight wins has the team sitting atop the AFC East standings. Manuel is starting to look comfortable in the pocket, and the defense has adjusted nicely to the new scheme. The fans are talking playoffs.
The Bills lost last year following the bye week. Can the team avoid a repeat of last season? Kansas City is no pushover, and the Chiefs give Buffalo all they can handle. In the end, Kansas City turns the ball over on downs late in the fourth quarter and Buffalo has a fifth straight win.
Buffalo wins 16-13.
The red-hot Bills travel to south Florida to take on the Dolphins. Rain turns the field into a soggy mess. Manuel throws a costly interception and Miami gets a late score to ice the game.
Miami wins 20-7.
Buffalo welcomes the Jets to town for Manuel against Smith. The Bills' defense frustrates Smith all day, and he can never get the offense going. Manuel does a great job of managing the game, and Buffalo sweeps the season series from New York.
Buffalo wins 20-6.
It happens every year -- Buffalo loses a game it should win. This year that game is against the Cleveland Browns. Cleveland's defense shuts down the Bills' running game. Manuel is pressured into several bad throws, and it's just not Buffalo's day. This loss could come back to haunt the Bills.
Cleveland wins 34-14.
The game against the Denver Broncos is the Bills' litmus test. Fans will get to see just how close this team is to competing for a playoff spot. Peyton Manning and Montee Ball are unstoppable. Manuel throws for a season high in yards and touchdowns, but it isn't enough to pull out the road win.
Denver wins 38-28.
The Green Bay Packers come to town in the home finale for Buffalo. The Bills come out tight, perhaps feeling the pressure of losing three of their last four games. Aaron Rodgers shows everyone why he is still an elite quarterback, and Buffalo has no answer.
Green Bay wins 35-17.
Buffalo travels west to face the Oakland Raiders. Doug Marrone and company know this is a critical game if the Bills hope to stay in the playoff race. Fortunately for Buffalo, Oakland has packed it in for the year. Still, the Bills struggle to close out the Raiders. A missed field goal gives Buffalo the win.
Buffalo wins 24-23.
New England has the Bills' number at home. With playoff implications on the line, Buffalo plays their first meaningful Week 17 game since the 2004 season. Tom Brady is too much for the Bills, and the late-season collapse is complete. The Bills will miss the playoffs for the 15th consecutive season. Fans can take solace in the fact the team finished with a winning record.
New England wins 35-21.
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