As the Bills get ready to embark on what is surely the most highly anticipated season in the past 20 years, it’s time to take a look at what Buffalo has in front of them in terms of their 2020 regular-season schedule. Last season, which finished in a playoff berth for the Bills, Buffalo was ranked 24th in terms of strength of schedule to begin the year with their opponents accumulating a .480 win percentage the year before. This season is an entirely different story, as the Bills enter their ‘20 slate tied for the fifth most-difficult strength of schedule.
While expectations are as high as ever for an organization that is still trying to forget about its near two-decade-long playoff drought, things certainly won’t be easy for the Bills this season.
Yes, the AFC East is up for grabs more so than it has been in years, but with a bear of a schedule outside the division, Buffalo will have to earn everything they get this season.
Here is my outlook for the Bills 2020 regular-season schedule:
WEEK 1 - Bills vs Jets - Sunday, Sept. 13, 1 p.m.
If we’re being honest here, barring a miracle the Jets are going to stink this year.
During the offseason, New York lost their top-two defensive players from in linebacker C.J. Mosley and All-Pro safety Jamal Adams, and offensively things aren’t much better. There are a few things for New York to be hopeful about on that side of the ball, as Sam Darnold returns for his third NFL season and Le’Veon Bell remains one of the most talented running backs in football, but the Jets are running out Breshad Perriman and Chris Hogan as their starting outside wide receivers in Week 1 and have an offensive line that experienced 100 percent turnover from last season to this season.
Things aren’t looking good for the Jets and I expect the Bills will put them where they belong - in the loss column.
Prediction: Bills 28 Jets 14
WEEK 2 - Bills at Dolphins - Sunday, Sept. 20, 1 p.m.
After losing their first seven games of the ‘19 season, Miami went on to finish the year 5-4 over their final nine games and showed some promise as the season progressed. While Ryan Fitzpatrick is certainly not the Dolphins’ long-term answer at quarterback, expect to see some ‘Fitzmagic’ in Week 2, as the beloved former Bills’ QB has been announced as Miami’s starter to begin the season and I don’t expect he will give way to rookie Tua Tagovailoa, which seems inevitable at some point, until midseason at the earliest.
This is certainly a team on the rise, but I don’t believe Miami to be at the Bills level quite yet. While I expect both of Buffalo’s match ups with Miami to be tough tests, I think the Bills will take care of business in Week 2.
Prediction: Bills 21 Dolphins 17
WEEK 3 - Bills vs Rams - Sunday, Sept. 27, 1 p.m.
The Rams had a down year in ‘19 and I expect them to experience a rebound this season.
Jared Goff might not be quite worth the contract he signed in ‘19, but he is still a quality starting quarterback with a solid supporting cast around him, including his favorite target, wide receiver Cooper Kupp. Kupp recorded monstrous numbers last year (94 receptions, 1,161 yards, 10 TDs) after missing much of the ‘18 season due to injury, and is without a doubt one of the most exciting up and coming targets in the league.
There’s also what LA brings on defense, which includes All-Pro defensive tackle Aaron Donald who is a disrupter in every sense of the word and cornerback Jalen Ramsey who is one of the best shutdown defenders in the NFL.
I expect this game to be tight, but I think the Rams will come in to Buffalo and beat the Bills in Week 3.
Prediction: Rams 35 Bills 31
WEEK 4 - Bills at Raiders - Sunday, Oct. 4, 4:25 p.m.
While I love me some Jon Gruden, I’m not high on the Raiders this year.
There is plenty of doubt surrounding Derek Carr’s future in the silver and black, making this a make or break year for the Las Vegas quarterback, and I expect him to break. While starting running Josh Jacobs was mighty impressive in his rookie season, recording over 1,000 rushing yards and seven touchdowns, it’s never a sound strategy in today’s NFL to have a running back leading the way on offense.
Any hope the Raiders have of making a playoff run this season rests on the performance of their starting QB, and I just can’t see Carr all of a sudden turning into a top-tier quarterback.
The Bills will be one of the most-talented defenses Carr will have to go up against during the ‘20 season, and I think this one could get ugly for him and the Raiders.
Prediction: Bills 30 Raiders 14
WEEK 5 - Bills at Titans - Sunday, Oct. 11, 1 p.m.
After finishing the regular season 9-7 which was just good enough for a Wild Card berth, the Titans made a run to the AFC Championship game where they fell to eventual Super Bowl Champion, the Kansas City Chiefs.
A big reason for the Titans’ surprise run was the career revitalization of veteran quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who began the season as the team’s backup. Also, let’s not forget about the season that running back Derrick Henry had, as his 1,540 rushing yards and 16 rushing scores vaulted him into the conversation as the best back in all of football.
The Titans are no slouch defensively either, finishing the ‘19 season ranked in the top half of the league.
The Bills will surely be tested in this one, but I believe it’s a test they will pass.
Prediction: Bills 17 Titans 13
WEEK 6 - Bills vs Chiefs - Thursday, Oct. 15, 8:20 p.m.
Not much needs to be said about the Chiefs besides the fact that they’re darn good.
Patrick Mahomes showed on Thursday night why he is worth every penny of his new contract, which is the richest contract in professional sports history, and his supporting cast isn’t too shabby either. Tyreek Hill is one of the most electrifying athletes at the wide receiver position, not to mention in sports, and in the Chiefs’ win over the Texans on Thursday rookie running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire proved he belongs in the NFL.
It’s tough to see the Bills winning this game, but I believe they will be competitive.
Prediction: Chiefs 35 Bills 28
WEEK 7 - Bills at Jets - Sunday, Oct. 25, 1 p.m.
With an extra few days to prepare for their second meeting with the Jets, expect the Bills to be primed and ready to deliver a beat down to their division rival.
Prediction: Bills 31 Jets 10
WEEK 8 - Bills vs Patriots - Sunday, Nov. 1, 1 p.m.
It won’t be as fun without Tom Brady, but a win over the Patriots will be welcomed by the Bills no matter who is under center for New England.
This is the year many people expect the Bills will supplant the Pats as the top team in the AFC East, and I am one of those people.
2020 Cam Newton is a far cry from the Cam Newton who took the Panthers to the Super Bowl during his MVP season in ‘15, and it’s hard to believe, as bad as the Patriots’ offense was last season, that it will be any better with Newton replacing perhaps the greatest quarterback of all-time.
To make matters worse, New England has lost several players who have decided to opt-out of the ‘20 season, including Pro Bowl linebacker Dont’a Hightower and starting safety Patrick Chung.
The great Bill Belichick has more work cut out for him this season than any in recent memory, and it will be his greatest achievement to date if he can make it all fit to the tune of another AFC East Title. While I wouldn’t put it past him, I believe the challenges Belichick and the Patriots are facing this season will simply be too much to overcome and will lead to their first losing season since Belichick’s first season as the team’s head coach.
Contributing to that losing season I believe will be two losses at the hands of the Bills - the first of which coming in Week 8.
Prediction: Bills 17 Patriots 9
WEEK 9 - Bills vs Seahawks - Sunday, Nov. 8, 1 p.m.
Another tough non-conference opponent for the Bills this season, the Seahawks are consistently one of the top teams in the league and don’t expect that to change this season.
Seattle QB Russell Wilson is as impressive as they come and Pete Carroll is one of the most experienced coaches in the league. With that said, perhaps the most impressive thing about Seattle is their growing crop of young talent, which features second-year receiver D.K. Metcalf and fourth-year running back Chris Carson. Wide receiver Tyler Lockett remains at the top of the depth chart for the Seahawks, who also brought in veteran tight end Greg Olsen who, if able to remain healthy will provide Wilson with another weapon to throw to.
Defensively the Seahawks lack a top-tier pass rush and were ranked in the bottom half of the league last season, which is not what you’re used to seeing from a Seattle defense.
However, a quarterback like Wilson can make up for a team’s shortcomings on defense and I expect him to vault Seattle deep into the playoffs this season.
Seattle isn’t too much for Buffalo to handle, but I’m going to chalk this one up as a loss for the Bills.
Prediction: Seahawks 30 Bills 28
WEEK 10 - Bills at Cardinals - Sunday, Nov. 15, 4:05 p.m.
Kyler Murray is one of the most exciting young players in football and in his second season as Cardinals quarterback, I’m anticipating a major breakout season from him. Murray was just given the best wide receiver in football when Arizona traded with the Texans for wideout DeAndre Hopkins, an addition that makes any offense significantly better.
Unfortunately for the Cardinals, however, Murray and their offense isn’t the problem. The problem is their defense which ranked near the worst in the NFL last season when they allowed over 27 points per game and over 400 yards per contest.
The Bills will score plenty more points than they did last season, and I believe this game, a win for the Bills in my mind, will be their highest scoring output of the year.
Prediction: Bills 45 Cardinals 28
WEEK 11 - Bye Week
WEEK 12 - Bills vs Chargers - Sunday, Nov. 29, 1 p.m.
Former Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor will begin the year as the Chargers’ starting quarterback, but whether or not he will last until the Bills meet Los Angeles in Week 12 remains to be seen. Therefore, what we see from the Chargers in the early weeks of the season may be far different from the team they become, potentially under rookie quarterback Justin Herbert perhaps later in the year.
While a lot may change in terms of the Chargers personnel by Week 12, one thing I don’t expect to change is the fact that LA is a class below the Bills.
Prediction: Bills 24 Chargers 7
WEEK 13 - Bills at 49ers - Monday, Dec. 7, 8:15 p.m.
Last year’s Super Bowl runner-up hosts the Bills on Monday Night Football for a game which I believe will solidify Buffalo as a true Super Bowl contender.
The 49ers were great last season under quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and Kyle Shanahan is one of my favorite head coaches in the NFL. But every up and coming team needs that signature win which signifies its arrival on the grand stage, and I’m picking this game to serve as that coming out party for the Bills.
This pick has less to do with the opponent and more to do with the fact that I believe the Bills will be playing their best football to begin December.
Prediction: Bills 21 49ers 17
WEEK 14 - Bills vs Steelers - Sunday, Dec. 13, 8:20 p.m.
A rematch of the Bills’ playoff-clinching win over Pittsburgh in Week 15 of last season.
The Steelers will likely be an entirely different team this year with the return of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who will inject life into an offense that struggled to score last season. Alongside Big Ben, one of the league’s most underrated running backs, James Conner will provide a solid complement to what I expect will be a high-powered passing game.
On the other side of the ball, the Steelers, as always come equipped with a top-tier defense under head coach Mike Tomlin, who I view as one of the top head coaches in the NFL.
Tomlin will have his team ready to seize revenge against the Bills and slow their surge toward earning a home playoff game.
While the Steelers are certainly capable of beating the Bills, give me Buffalo to hold the fort in this one.
Prediction: Bills 17 Steelers 16
WEEK 15 - Bills at Broncos - TBD
The date and time of this game have yet to be determined, but whenever the Bills and Broncos square off it shouldn’t make a difference, as I expect the Bills to handle what is slowly becoming one of the most over-hyped teams in †he league.
Yes, quarterback Drew Lock did some nice things for Denver last season, but when did this guy become the second coming of John Elway? The way Lock has been talked about during this offseason, you would have thought he led the Broncos to the playoffs last year.
Spoiler alert, he didn’t. He only played in five games and the Broncos finished the season 7-9.
Denver did bring in Melvin Gordon to pair with returning starter Phillip Lindsay, who will share the starting role with Gordon this season. However, with the recent loss of defensive end Von Miller, who is expected to miss the entire season after undergoing ankle surgery, the Broncos defense took a major hit and it will be tough for that unit to once again finish as a top-10 defense, as they did in ‘19, without its best player.
Mark this down as a win for the Bills.
Prediction: Bills 21 Broncos 14
WEEK 16 - Bills at Patriots - Monday, Dec. 28, 8:15 p.m.
With a playoff berth, and likely the division crown already locked up, the Bills won’t have a whole lot to play for in this one, except for playoff positioning. How this game turns out, in my mind is dependent on what situation the Bills are in within the conference. Assuming they still have something to play for, I will take the Bills to complete the sweep of their division rival.
Prediction: Bills 24 Patriots 17
WEEK 17 - Bills vs Dolphins - Sunday, Jan. 3, 1 p.m.
Sitting at 12-3, expect Buffalo to rest most of, if not all of its starters in this game.
Prediction: Dolphins 28 Bills 14
In the end, 12-4 may seem a bit lofty, but this team is certainly capable of it. The Bills are as ready as ever to make their claim as one of the top teams in the AFC, and I expect them to do just that.
It all starts tomorrow afternoon, and while it certainly won’t be the same for various reasons, I am more than ready to enjoy some Buffalo Bills football.
— Alex Brasky is a reporter/columnist for the Batavia Daily News. He can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com.