The Buffalo Bills have high expectations for themselves heading into the 2014 season. But for the rest of the NFL, these look like the same Bills who have gone 6-10 in each of the last three seasons. From what I’ve seen in the preseason, that doesn’t seem likely to change.
Buffalo has a tough opening stretch, starting out with a road game against the Chicago Bears in the opener. This has the chance to be an interesting game: the Bears figure to have an explosive offense while the Bills’ defense has looked strong. Unfortunately, offense will trump defense in this one. The Bills’ first two home games come against the Miami Dolphins and San Diego Chargers. The team would likely be happy with a split of those games.
Two home games are followed by back-to-back road games against the Houston Texans and Detroit Lions. While neither team looks particularly dangerous, the Bills have perfected the art of losing bad games to below-average teams, so count on a loss in one of those contests. The Bills then return home to face their old friends. the New England Patriots. Even at home, that game has the potential to get ugly.
Buffalo’s last two games before the bye come against the Minnesota Vikings at home and New York Jets on the road. The Vikings look much improved this year and the Bills usually struggle in the Meadowlands, so two more losses there.
After a bye right at the halfway point of the season, the Bills start the easiest part of their schedule as they face the Kansas City Chiefs (home), Miami (road), New York (home) and the Cleveland Browns (home). If the Bills’ offense is able to improve, they should be able to go 3-1 during this stretch. However, judging by their preseason performance, that improvement doesn’t seem likely to happen, so the Bills likely split these four games.
The final four games represent arguably the toughest portion of the Bills’ schedule, as they have to face three of the best QBs in the game in four weeks. They play at the Denver Broncos and Peyton Manning, are home against the Green Bay Packers and Aaron Rodgers and at the Patriots and Tom Brady. A winnable road game against the Oakland Raiders is thrown in the mix as well, but the other three games don’t figure to be very close.
If you had asked me before the preseason what the Bills’ final record would be, I would have been confident in saying 8-8. But having seen how bad the first-team offense looked in the preseason, it’s hard to justify that record. Even with a defense that figures to be pretty stout, quarterback E.J. Manuel‘s development (or lack thereof) could derail any hopes at a postseason trip for the Bills. I see them going a very Bills-like 5-11 in 2014.