This is a crucial season for the Buffalo Bills. They have been one of the NFL’s feel-good stories as they have risen from a team that had a 17-year playoff dry spell to one that has been a key postseason participant in 5 of the past 6 years.
A nice and clean Bills schedule for you to save pic.twitter.com/FRgLh9drsm
— Sal Capaccio (@SalSports) May 12, 2023
However, the Bills have not been able to turn the excitement of being one of the most explosive teams in the league to become a dominant, Super Bowl-winning franchise.
They have been stopped on multiple occasions by the Kansas City Chiefs, and last year they were beaten in the divisional playoffs at home by the Cincinnati Bengals. Even before that victory, they were pushed to the limit in the Wild Card game by their AFC East rivals, the Miami Dolphins.
So, are the Bills a legitimate power in the NFL, or are they are about to find out that they are a close-but-no-cigar type of team? The answer appears likely to come during the 2023 season.
Head coach Sean McDermott and Josh Allen are a formidable duo. They are going to have to show that this is a team that is still on the upswing, but there will be at least a couple of potential pitfalls on this season’s schedule.
Potential Pitfall No. 1: Prime Time Trio, Weeks 8-10
The Bills host the Tampa Bay Bucs in a Thursday Night Football game in Week 8, go to Cincinnati for a Sunday night game in Week 9 before hosting the Broncos in a eek 10 Monday night game.
Playing in prime time for 3 consecutive weeks is a challenge, and it could drain the Bills emotionally for the second half of the season.
But McDermott has excelled at getting his team to focus, and he should be able to get the most out of his team. If that’s the case, the games against the Bucs and the Broncos should not be huge problems. They have more talent than either of those opponents, and they will get plenty of support from the Bills Mafia.
However, it is that game in the middle that could have a jarring impact on the team. The Bengals are one of the best teams in the league, and the Bills have had a difficult time when they have seen quarterback Joe Burrow and the Cincinnati offense in the past. The Bengals beat the Bills in the divisional playoffs in Buffalo last year, and it appears that Cincinnati may have an edge here.
If the Bengals not only beat the Bills, but put them away in one-sided fashion, McDermott will have to find a way to rally his team and rebuild their confidence.
In addition to facing the challenge of a powerful opponent, playing in Cincinnati will bring back haunting memories of Damar Hamlin’s cardiac incident that caused the cancellation of last year’s Monday night game between the 2 teams. While a tragedy was averted, the trauma had a huge impact on both teams.
Potential Pitfall No. 2: Brutal stretch from Weeks 12 through 16
The Bills have to be playing their best football of the year during these 4 games, because they will face 4 of the best teams in the league.
They must go to Philadelphia to take on the defending NFC Champion Eagles, and this games represents a chance to make a statement. It also represents a chance to be embarrassed. If the Bills defense can’t contain Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts, the Birds could fly away from the Bills.
After a bye week, the Bills return to action at Kansas City. Containing Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs offense has been an overwhelming assignment in previous meetings.
After that Super Bowl doubleheader, the Bills host the dangerous Dallas Cowboys before going on the road to face Justin Herbert and the Los Angeles Chargers.
This 4-game stretch could make or break the Buffalo season.
The three prime time games in a row against the Bucs, Bengals and Broncos will be a challenge, but there’s no reason the Bills can’t come away with victories in 2 of those games. If they lose to the Bengals but keep it close, that will be a successful venture.
However the 4-game stretch in Weeks 12 through 16 will be the biggest and most important of the regular season. These 4 games — particularly the pair of road games against the Eagles and Chiefs — will likely make or break the team’s season.
It is clearly the biggest obstacle the team will face from the 2023 schedule.
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