Niagara Gazette — I have to say, I'm generally happy with how this year's Bills schedule works out.
Not in terms of whether it gives Buffalo a chance to contend — let's be honest, they're beginning an overhaul which will require some patience —but in terms of when and where they play divisional and regional rivals.
Opening and closing the regular season against the Patriots. Nice. Especially with Buffalo hosting the opener on what is safe to assume will in better weather conditions than what will await Pats fans on December 29.
On the other hand, Bills fans love to see the Miami Dolphins struggle in cold weather and this year they'll get that treat right before Christmas, as the Dolphins come to Ralph Wilson Stadium on December 22.
Buffalo also faces every member of the AFC Central, hosting the Bengals and defending Super Bowl champion Ravens while traveling to Cleveland and Pittsburgh. Nothing against the AFC East but I'm among those who thought years ago, when the National Football League was realigning its divisions, that Buffalo could have benefitted from a move to the Central and rivalries with teams that were a short driving distance away. This year's schedule is the next best thing, perhaps even better, as fans can enjoy those regional rivalries while also looking forward to the traditional divisional foes.
There are some downsides to the schedule. Atlanta remains a serious contender to go far in the NFC playoffs but to see them "at home" against the Bills you'll be heading up to Toronto.
The Bills will be in their bye week during the Thanksgiving holiday. That's disappointing if you're looking forward to finishing off the turkey leftovers while the watching the home team. The good news, though, is there are some decent pairings to fill the void that Sunday including Vikings at Packers, Steelers at Browns, Cowboys at Giants and Broncos at Patriots.
While last year the Bills were stuck with home games in December against non-division opponents, this season most of the home games are wrapped up by mid-November. I don't count the Toronto game as "home" and, as mentioned, a home game against Miami seems to be one of those exceptions when Bills fans don't mind the cold, in fact they relish it.
The Bills are starting over with a new coaching staff, new starting quarterback and new defensive system. With that in mind, this isn't a year I'd set my expectations high. That's not being negative. It's being patient. Still, while watching the Bills go through some growing pains along the way, at least it's on a schedule fans can enjoy more comfortably. Contact Michael at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at MrozGazette