Bills key games
Week 2 at Dolphins: Huge swing game in the tough AFC East, Buffalo and Miami will be must-see TV at Hard Rock Stadium. The Dolphins have lost five consecutive games to the Bills, so this matchup will be circled on the calendar. If the Dolphins want to win the division, holding serve at home will go a long way toward accomplishing that.
Week 11 vs. Colts: A rematch of the AFC wild card thriller, Indianapolis improved with the addition of Carson Wentz at quarterback. This is one of the toughest games on Buffalo's schedule, but it certainly helps the Bills will be at Orchard Park for this one.
Week 14 at Buccaneers: Josh Allen faces Tom Brady for the first time since he left New England -- and he's a much better quarterback. Buffalo may be the division's biggest challenge to beat Tampa Bay, especially if the revamped pass rush can get to Brady. Expect a shootout in Tampa.
Bills projected win total
The Bills are incredibly talented on the offensive side of the ball, as Josh Allen is only getting better as a quarterback. Buffalo's passing game immediately is better with the addition of Emmanuel Sanders and the emergence of Gabriel Davis -- helping out Stefon Diggs and Cole Beasley. This is a 14-win team if the defense returns to its 2019 form. The AFC East is talented, but the Bills are the class of the division. Colts, Saints, Patriots, Buccaneers are a tough stretch, but Buffalo is good enough to go 3-1.
2021 record prediction: 14-3
Coming one game shy of the Super Bowl, the Buffalo Bills are in prime position to take that next step in 2021. With Tom Brady gone and the Patriots in rebuilding mode, the Bills stepped right into the void of AFC East favorite and looked the part in 2020.
It's pretty easy to get behind a repeat performance in 2021. Josh Allen was top five in passer rating, touchdowns and ESPN's QBR. Buffalo's offense remains largely unchanged. Emmanuel Sanders will replace John Brown, while Gabriel Davis should improve in his second season. That's great news for a unit that finished fifth in offensive efficiency last season.
On defense, general manager Brandon Beane did a great job of retaining talent. Matt Milano, Levi Wallace and Mario Addison—all players who could have signed elsewhere—are all returning to the team.
The Bills utilized the draft to bring in some reinforcements to the pass rush. First- and second-round picks Gregory Rousseau and Carlos Basham combine with AJ Epenesa to give them a young trio behind Jerry Hughes and Mario Addison.
While the offseason may have been fairly quiet for the Bills, they're set to make plenty of noise in 2021. The schedule sets up for a hot start and a strong finish too. After going 7-1 at home last season, the Bills will open and close the season with three of four games at Highmark Stadium.
Record Prediction: 13-4
Bottom Line: Buffalo's schedule is a bit of a mixed bag this year. On the one hand, their home schedule isn't terribly difficult. Could the Colts and the Steelers be tough tests? Sure, but the rest of the schedule isn't too bad. Washington, another first-place team from last year on the Bills' schedule, had a losing record.
On the other hand, the road games this year will be very tough for Buffalo. It's easy to imagine them having issues with the Bucs, Chiefs, Patriots and Saints because of how tough those teams are to play against and their home stadium environments. In addition to those four, they have two more divisional games against the Dolphins and Jets, and those could prove to be trickier than expected.
Still, the Bills should be favored to win the AFC East again. They have the best roster in the division and did well to add depth in the trenches during the 2021 NFL Draft. With a tougher schedule, it may be a bit more difficult for them to earn wins compared to last year, but they are the prohibitive favorites in the AFC East.
Record Prediction: 12-5
AFC East champions
The Bills' Week 5 meeting with Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs and their Week 14 matchup with Tom Brady and the Bucs are both going to be really exciting, very probable playoff previews. (These games could also be a sneak peek of that other thing, which I won't jinx by naming; let's just say it features one playoff team from each conference.)
2021 Win Projection: 11.1
Strength of schedule: T-23rd, .478
2021 Offseason | Bills
I'm out of breath just looking at this schedule. Buffalo's first seven games of the season include six against teams that either made the playoffs last season or were on the cusp. There are no breaks for the reigning AFC East champions; regardless of what the Bills' strength of schedule suggests, teams such as Atlanta, New England and Carolina are improved on paper from last season and won't be pushovers despite their 2020 records. If the Bills are to make a third straight trip to the playoffs, they will have fully earned their way.
One storyline to watch
The Bills have thrived with a chip on their shoulders over the past two seasons, embracing the underdog role as the football world continues to associate the current Buffalo squad with the drought-era Bills teams. But nobody is overlooking this team in 2021. Watch how Buffalo responds to its transition from underdog to contender as it enters the final stage of its rebuild.
What Vegas thinks
Oddsmakers have the Bills' over/under at 10.5 wins -- hitting the over would give them double-digit wins for the third consecutive season. And it's reasonable that they will do so. There are nine games Buffalo has to win if it wants to consider itself a contender (home and away vs. Jets, Jaguars, Falcons, Panthers, Steelers, Texans, home vs. Patriots and home vs. Dolphins). The Bills have made a habit of winning coin-toss games over the past two seasons, meaning they would only have to pull off two wins in games against the Chiefs, Titans, Patriots, Dolphins, Saints, Colts, Buccaneers and Washington to hit the over.
Is it still bold to say the Bills will win their second straight AFC East title? Probably not, so let's go bolder. I said they would sweep the division last season and they did so, despite a nail-biter or two. How about this -- Buffalo does so again in 2021. That's right, two years without losing a division game, you heard it here first.