An initial look at the Buffalo Bills’ 2017 game schedule reminds me of something my father always told me growing up: there is no such thing as a “gimme” game in the NFL. Each match will be a contest. If the Bills want to be taken seriously, a big victory in Atlanta’s new stadium would go a long way towards proving they’re ready to compete.
As much as I’d like to just put a “W” next to the Bills’ home opener against the New York Jets, it’s just a great reminder that no games can be taken for granted. With that being said, I fully expect that the Bills will have a 1-0 record after one week. Our glance at the schedule in April tells a familiar story in Bills’ land, one that has Buffalo in prime playoff position at 8-6, only to drop consecutive road games to the New England Patriots and Miami Dolphins to finish the season at 8-8. We also share the prediction that the Bills will lose on the road to the Falcons in the first week of October, which I’m sure is a fairly common (if not universal) prediction.
That game against Atlanta is one that will give the Bills a tremendous opportunity to prove that they aren’t just the same old Bills. The optimist in me says that the Bills could very well be 3-0 heading to Atlanta. Defeating the Jets in week one, following that up with a road victory against head coach Sean McDermott’s former team in the Carolina Panthers, and then holding serve at home against a tough Denver Broncos team would be difficult task for any squad, but if the Bills can do it, they’ll have a date with the Falcons and a chance to prove that they are contenders, not pretenders.
Matt Ryan’s Atlanta team is stacked on the offensive end, with elite weapons at all skill positions. Julio Jones is the wide receiver all Bills fans would like Sammy Watkins to become. Devonta Freeman is a legitimate stud, rushing for over 1,000 yards and 11 touchdowns in each of the past two seasons; he also averaged 64 receptions and 520 yards per season in that time. His primary backup, Tevin Coleman, is a slippery runner with excellent speed who also can catch the ball out of the backfield. Rushing and receiving, he totaled 11 touchdowns last season.
While their offense was other-worldly last season, their defense struggled often. They allowed 406 points on the season, were 25th in yards allowed, and 16th in takeaways. They were involved in 7 games where both teams scored at least 4 touchdowns, and they were 6-1 in such games.
If Buffalo wants to show early that this team is different from its predecessors, winning tough road games against great teams is a must. No head coach in Buffalo has more than two wins on the road against a team that made the playoffs that season since Marv Levy retired. The team’s overall record in those road games against playoff-bound opponents is 9-53. The last time the Bills were even above .500 on the road was 1999, and it’s no coincidence that the last time they made the playoffs was the same season.