The Buffalo News’ 2014 NFL Preview will be published in Sunday’s editions. It will include an in-depth cover story on EJ Manuel, a breakdown of the Bills, team-by-team previews, Jerry Sullivan’s column, predictions and much more.
The 2014 schedule presents the Buffalo Bills with an opportunity for improvement. The start of the schedule isn’t brutal, so the Bills should be able to keep their hopes up and stay in the race through Thanksgiving. The toughest stretch is at the end. The upside there is maybe bad weather can be an equalizer for the Bills against some strong teams.
Here’s a look at the challenges ahead the next four months:
Sept. 7 at Chicago. Not an easy start but not an awful matchup. Bills’ run game faces No. 32 run D. Bears are potent, but Jim Schwartz beat Chicago twice last year.
Sept. 14 Miami. Fish are home-opener foe for just second time in 23 years. Thad Lewis beat Ryan Tannehill twice last year. New Fish O-line gets a stern test.
Sept. 21 San Diego. Frank Reich returns as Bolts’ O-coordinator. Similar to the Chicago test. Bolts are strong on offense, iffy on defense. Bills must score at least 24 to win.
Sept. 28 at Houston. Doug Marrone faces his best friend, Bill O’Brien, and Mario Williams returns to Houston. Brace for howling if Ryan Fitzpatrick outshines EJ Manuel.
Oct. 5 at Detroit. Jim Schwartz faces his former team, another foe with a better offense (6th) than defense (16th). Thank God NFL didn’t stick Bills in Motown on Thanksgiving.
Oct. 12 New England. If EJ starts well, Bills should be 3-2. In last five years, Bills have beaten Pats once and come close four times. Pressure on Brady is the key.
Oct. 19 Minnesota. Probably a must-win. Vikings are weak at QB. Adrian Peterson makes his first appearance in Buffalo. The run D better have its act together.
Oct. 26 at N.Y. Jets. Bills better be at least 4-3 going to N.J. Can the Bills’ beefier O-line handle the Jets’ monsters? Time for EJ to win big road game.
Nov. 9 Kansas City. Bills face Chiefs for seventh straight year. KC (11-5) was lucky to win in OP last year. Bills have big WRs to deal with KC corners this time.
Nov. 13 at Miami. It’s a short week, Bills must travel, and they’re 2-10 on road in division the past four years. But Miami will be reeling by this time, at 3-6.
Nov. 23 N.Y. Jets. How long can Rex Ryan keep getting the Jets to overachieve? Geno Smith will be benched by now. It’s Bills’ chance to put dagger in Jets’ season.
Nov. 30 Cleveland. Look out, EJ! Mike Pettine returns and will be blitzing the kitchen sink. Can Bills pass rushers chase down Johnny Manziel? It will be wild.
Dec. 7 at Denver. Bills better be 8-4 by this point. This has ugly written all over it. Unless Peyton is hurt, only suspense may be how many times he calls “Omaha.”
Dec. 14 Green Bay. Root for a blizzard and/or 30 mph winds. That’s the best chance of stopping another great QB, Aaron Rodgers. Expect a suspenseful game.
Dec. 21 at Oakland. Going West Coast is tough, and Bills have not won in Oakland since 1966. But this is a must win. Oakland will be in shambles. The stadium will be half empty.
Dec. 28 at New England. Bills close in their House of Horrors for third time in four years. The season is sure to end with a bang. Will it be sound of One Bills Drive getting blown up?