It's the bye week for the Buffalo Bills, and no matter how comforting the fact that the Bills cannot lose this weekend is, a weekend without Bills football is still kind of a drag. We'll equip you for the weekend ahead with prediction and open game threads for Week 9 football, but as it's still only Saturday (the first week of a two-week layoff is always the longest), we'll table that for the day and instead focus on taking a peek at the rest of the Bills' schedule this season. The short version: as usual, the Bills have some very tough matchups.
November 15: at Tennessee Titans (1-6)
- Chris Johnson has firmly established himself as one of the most dynamic playmakers in the NFL. The second-year running back out of East Carolina is averaging a whopping 6.9 yards per rush this season, and currently leads the NFL with 824 rushing yards. He is one of only a handful of offensive weapons in the league capable of scoring whenever he touches the football. The Titans are just 1-6 on the season thanks to horrendous play from their defense and a very difficult schedule (their opponents are a combined 29-15), but as long as Johnson is on the field and their defense limits big plays, this team is still talented enough to compete with anyone out there.
November 22: at Jacksonville Jaguars (3-4)
- Jacksonville's got a case of the same affliction the Bills haven't been able to shake off for years: they're only capable of beating bad teams. True, their win over Houston in Week 3 was impressive, but Houston has only just started to realize their immense potential in recent weeks. Jacksonville's wins over Tennessee (who wiped the floor with them last week) and mighty St. Louis are hardly illustrious, and they've been crushed by Arizona and Seattle, as well. Still - Buffalo isn't exactly tremendous competition, and given the way Maurice Jones-Drew is running this season (5.5 yards per attempt, 10 TD), this game should be a struggle for the Bills, even while the Jags are very much a beatable opponent.
November 29: vs Miami Dolphins (3-4)
- This will be the first time the Bills play Miami at Ralph Wilson Stadium since a 38-17 drubbing of the Fish in 2007. The Dolphins have since beaten Buffalo in three straight, and even though they'll be on the road, they are perhaps the biggest challenge facing these Bills left on the schedule. Their offensive line is the most dominant unit in the league, and their defense has given Trent Edwards fits for two straight seasons. Given the way Miami physically dominated Buffalo in Week 4, and the style of football they play, a Bills upset win over a much better team would be delightfully surprising.
December 6: vs New York Jets, in Toronto (4-4)
- Look, I'm going to be honest: I despise the Jets and Rex Ryan, but I also respect their style of play. They dominated Buffalo in Week 6, but Mark Sanchez was feeling quite generous on that afternoon, and allowed the Bills to escape with an overtime win. Buffalo flat-out sucked in Toronto last year, losing to Miami 16-3, and the Jets, if you recall, ran for 318 yards against the Bills even in defeat. If the running game keeps it up and Sanchez doesn't, I don't see how Buffalo ekes out a win in a game that you can bet Ryan will hype up all week as a revenge game.
December 13: at Kansas City Chiefs (1-6)
- Set aside the fact that this game will be played in Arrowhead for a moment. We've finally reached a team on our schedule that compares favorably to us - offensively, at least. Matt Cassel is struggling in Todd Haley's offense, the offensive line is a work in progress, and the team lacks skill position playmakers. Defensively, the Chiefs are slightly worse than Buffalo as well (overall), though they're obviously better at stopping the run, as <i>every</i> NFL team is better at stopping the run than the Bills. I realize that playing against a statistically comparable team in Week 5 didn't help (the Bills lost 6-3 to Cleveland <i>at home</i>), but this is the most winnable game left on the schedule, even if it's in a notoriously tricky stadium.
December 20: vs New England Patriots (5-2)
- The winning streak is up to 12. That's six seasons' worth of the Patriots beating down the Bills, no matter the venue. Buffalo nearly got them in Week 1 this season, but something tells me Bill Belichick will have a better game plan (more film to go on, after all), and Tom Brady has almost completely knocked off the rust from his year-long layoff. Let's just say it would be mind-blowing if the Bills ended their losing streak.
December 27: at Atlanta Falcons (4-3)
- How lucky are the Falcons? They take Michael Vick No. 1 overall, and even with all of the turmoil that ultimately created for the franchise, they still got to see some astonishing plays and some playoff wins under his "leadership." Vick does his thing, they're down and out for a year, and then bam - they go out and get Matt Ryan. He still struggles with consistency some, but the guy just oozes leadership and potential. He looks like the next great NFL quarterback. The Falcons team around him, by the way, is young, physical and getting better. This will be a tremendously difficult challenge for the Bills.
January 3, 2010: vs Indianapolis Colts (7-0)
- Right now, the three best teams in football (arguably) are New Orleans, Indianapolis and Minnesota. It figures that Buffalo would get two of those teams on their schedule. The big ray of hope in this game right now is the getting-tired "Indy could be resting its starters" argument. Even if that's the case, the Colts are a deep, talented football team. Obviously, if Peyton Manning is on the sidelines, that's a tremendous boost to Buffalo's chances, but this will still be a difficult game for the Bills to win. They haven't displayed the ability to overpower a team with their running game, and that's where Indy is most vulnerable at this point.