I know this subject has been talked about before, but after reading Brian's west coast losing streak article, I got to thinking about just how bad the Bills' schedule is over the next several weeks. If you feel the need for pain, or need another reason not to be hopeful about the Bills' chances this year, read on!Week 5 - @SF
Nothing bad about the schedule itself, but not an easy game for the Bills to win, even if they play well.
Week 6 - @ARI
Here's where things start to get interesting. As mentioned in Brian's article, the Bills stay out west for a second straight week. Added to that is the fact that the Cardinals will be playing with extended rest, having played their week 5 game on Thursday, putting the Bills at a greater disadvantage.
Week 7 - TEN
Going back home, the Bills will once again have the privilege of playing a team that last played on a Thursday night and will get extended rest. Despite this, this game is likely to be the most winnable out of several difficult games surrounding it.
Week 8 - BYE
The Bills will finally get a breather and have time to repair and rethink things. Though, if you think this was going to be an advantage, look no further than -
Week 9 - @HOU
It finally seems fair that the Bills get a bye week before playing the league's hottest and most complete team on the road. We deserve this for going out west two weeks in a row, right? Don't get your hopes up, though, because the Texans also get a bye before this game. Wonderful. Terrific. At least this game will be a fair fight between a well-rounded team at home and a streaky team that plays poorly on the road. Moving on.
Week 10 - @NE
This is the coup de grace. The straw that breaks the camel's back. The final nail in the coffin. In week 10, the Bills get to play the Patriots in Foxborough after the Patriots' bye week. In the last nine years, the Patriots have lost only once after their bye week (last year to the Ravens). Four of their eight wins came against the Bills over four consecutive years (2004-2007). The last of those four games was the infamous 56-10 shellacking that you thought only happened in video games. Let that sink in for a moment. The league had previously scheduled the Bills to play the Patriots after New England's bye week four years in a row and it took an obliteratingly lopsided win for things to change. But no worries. After four years, the league has a new confidence in the Bills and has given them this awesome schedule.
A Divisional Comparison
I don't have the time to do a thorough league-wide analysis of every team's schedule, but I did do an analysis of our divisional foes. Here's how they fared:
In Week 8, the Jets play Miami at home after the Dolphins' bye week. They follow that up with a bye in week 9, before playing the Seahawks in Seattle. Week 11 then sees them playing the Rams in St. Louis. The stretch is a bit disadvantageous, but consider that the Jets should still get some advantage from their bye week and that St. Louis uses Central Standard Time, which is one hour later than EST.
In Week 6, the Phins play the Rams at home after St. Louis has an extended week from their week 5 Thursday night game. Week 7 is a bye and is followed by an away game against the Jets, who come off of a normal week. Week 11 has the Phins playing a Thursday night game against the Bills before playing Seattle at home after the Seahawk's bye week (14 days of rest for the Seahawks compared to 10 days for the Dolphins). Miami then plays the Patriots at home after New England plays a Thursday night game the previous week.
Being the great quarterback that he is, Tom Brady would likely be able to lead the Patriots to a winning record despite having a difficult schedule. Nevertheless, the Pats really get a pass from the league this year.
Without considering opponents, the Pats' worst stretch begins in week 6 in Seattle. They follow that up by playing the Jets at home before heading to St. Louis in week 8. Add in a week 11 game against Indianapolis after the Colts play a Thursday night game the previous week, and that about sums up the scheduling difficulties the Pats face. I've already mentioned that they play the Bills at home after their own bye, but the Patriots also don't have a single game this year against a team coming off its bye week. How kind of you, league.
Putting aside the strength of the opponents the Bills face within this six week span, I think it's fair to say the Bills got somewhat screwed by the league here. Having to play two consecutive road games on the opposite coast, playing a team after its bye week, or playing two consecutive weeks against teams playing Thursday night games are all reasonable outcomes of a schedule - no team gets a perfect schedule. But to pile all off these schedule anomalies into one season is ridiculous, especially when considering how easily the Patriots get off. Here's to hoping the Bills win a game in the next six weeks!