When ESPN.com's Mike Rodak wrote his article predicting the Buffalo Bills schedule game-by-game, he ended with the Bills having a 7-9 season, including a four-game losing streak to end the year.
Typically this is where a fan would say, "No way! We're way better (or worse) than that!"
Heading into the 2014 NFL regular season, it seems fairly likely that the Bills are headed towards a sub .500 record. But could they surprise us? Could the Bills be the next team to surprise the NFL and make a run at the playoffs? According to Rodak, that's exactly what the Bills could be.
Here's how Rodak has the Bills season breaking down, including his and buffalobills101.com's commentary:
Week 1: at Chicago Bears
Rodak: "This will be EJ Manuel's first "real" test of the season and it won't be easy. The Bills went 2-6 on the road last season, with Manuel's only road win coming against Jacksonville. Given the offense's struggles in the preseason, this is a tall task. Prediction: Loss"
BB101: "The Bills start this season on the road against a good Bears team. Chicago has a strong offense and the Bills are relying on their defense to keep games close. The Bills will probably keep the game close into the fourth quarter, but a home opener for the Bears will mean a loss for the Bills."
Week 2: Miami Dolphins
Rodak: "The Bills beat the Dolphins twice last season — with Thad Lewis starting at quarterback in each game — and there is plenty of reason for optimism here. The Bills started strong at Ralph Wilson Stadium last season, nearly beating the New England Patriots and then knocking off the Carolina Panthers. With a pumped-up home crowd, they should pull this one out. Prediction: Win"
BB101: "The Bills come into their home opener against a Miami team that had the worst offensive line in the NFL last season. Orchard Park will be rocking for a divisional matchup where the Bills seem stronger on defense and the rushing attack of CJ Spiller and Fred Jackson could tilt the game in the Bills direction. Bills will bring home the win."
Week 3: San Diego Chargers
Rodak: "Back-to-back home games in September can't hurt for Manuel. If he gets some momentum going against Miami, it should help against San Diego, which was a playoff team last season. I'm not convinced the Chargers are close to being a power in the AFC, making this a winnable game for Buffalo. Prediction: Win"
BB101: "Philip Rivers is a good quarterback one year and a head case the next. This could be a head case year and the Bills fans will have him flustered on third down when he can't get his audibles out to his receivers. A flustered Rivers means turnovers and poorly thrown passes. It will be a close game. Bills squeak out a win, possibly in overtime."
Week 4: at Houston Texans
Rodak: "This is a classic toss-up game, a road contest against a team that was in the NFL's basement last year. The Texans will be better this season, but like the Bills, they have question marks at quarterback. Can Ryan Fitzpatrick out-duel Manuel? We'll say yes, but it will be close. Prediction: Loss"
BB101: "This game has ugly written all over it. Both teams boast a tough defense with a struggling offense. Arian Foster and Andre Johnson can't do it all, and the Bills offense controls the clock on the road. Game management and possession will win this game and the Bills will come away with a rare road win."
Week 5: at Detroit Lions
Rodak: "Jim Schwartz returns to Detroit to face his old team. The Bills' road schedule isn't overly difficult and I think they can come away with a few wins along the way. We'll chalk this one up as a victory. Prediction: Win"
BB101: "The idea of Jim Schwartz coming back to Detroit is a storyline heading up to the game, but the versatility of Reggie Bush and the talent of Calvin Johnson will bring the Bills down with a close road loss."
Week 6: New England Patriots
Rodak: "The Bills played the Patriots tough in last season's opener and also beat New England at home in 2011. It could happen again but it will take a strong effort from Manuel. By Week 6, is he ready to topple Tom Brady and the Patriots? Not likely. Prediction: Loss"
BB101:"Time for Brandon Spikes to step up and put his two-wins against the Patriots game plan in action. The Patriots are a different team from previous seasons and may not match up well against the Bills anymore. The game will be close, and the defense will have their chances, and in a rare feat, the Bills capitalize and win."
Week 7: Minnesota Vikings
Rodak: "Will this be a Teddy Bridgewater vs. EJ Manuel matchup? Perhaps, if Matt Cassel struggles early for the Vikings. This is another winnable home game for the Bills, one in which their improved run defense will be tested against Adrian Peterson. We'll give the Bills their fourth win. Prediction: Win"
BB101: "The Vikings are that team that should be beaten at home. That game that fans will flock to in an attempt to see Adrian Peterson play, but ultimately a Bills win. Sadly, just because the Bills should win, doesn't mean they will. Bills taste a sour loss at home."
Week 8: at New York Jets
Rodak: "Manuel had one of his worst games last season in the Meadowlands and was outdone by Geno Smith and the Jets. Whether Smith or Michael Vick is starting for the Jets by this point may not matter; the Jets' defense is tough and should contain the Bills on New York's home turf. Prediction: Loss"
BB101: "The Jets bring a tough defense and if Geno Smith or Michael Vick have figured out how to command the offense with any proficiency, the Bills are in trouble. Manuel continues to play poorly at the Meadowlands and the Bills lose their second straight."
Week 10: Kansas City Chiefs
Rodak: "The Bills played the undefeated Chiefs tough around this time last season, with Jeff Tuel's goal-line interception the turning point in an otherwise well-played game. The Chiefs use a controlled offense, led by Alex Smith, and have a strong defense. That's a good combination to beat the Bills. Prediction: Loss"
BB101: "Who could forget last season's matchup against the Chiefs? The Bills showed the league how to hang with the then undefeated Chiefs and matched up very well against a strong defense. Could the Bills bring down the Chiefs? Strangely enough, the just might do so this time. Bills will win a wild affair."
Week 11: at Miami Dolphins
Rodak: "The Bills should escape some of the South Florida heat as this game falls in November, but the Dolphins have a superior quarterback in Ryan Tannehill. If the Bills' defense stays strong like it did last season in Miami, this is a winnable road game. Prediction: Win"
BB101: "It seems almost impossible to think that the Bills could have a four-win streak over the Dolphins. That's because it won't happen. Week 11 is the time for playoff teams to begin making their push. The Bills stumble on the road and lose another road game."
Week 12: New York Jets
Rodak: "The Bills handed the Jets one of their worst losses of last season at Ralph Wilson Stadium, a game in which Smith was benched for Matt Simms. Can Manuel have another strong day? It's tough to foresee this far into the season, but we'll say yes. Prediction: Win"
BB101: "The Jets always force the Bills to be their best to get a win. Unfortunately for the Bills, the Jets are better on both offense and defense this season. The Jets will win this game in Orchard Park and the Bills will lose a close game."
Week 13: Cleveland Browns
Rodak: "Who will be the Browns' quarterback by Thanksgiving? Does it matter? This is the Bills' most winnable home game. If they can't pull this one out, yikes. The Browns would gladly take the "W" and the Bills' first-round draft pick next May. But for now, let's hold off. Prediction: Win"
BB101: "The Browns are in town and much like the Vikings game, this should be a win. Most Bills/Browns games are ugly and low scoring. Why not break the trend with a surprisingly high-scoring game that ends in the Bills favor? Bills win and put up their season high in points."
Week 14: at Denver Broncos
Rodak: "This begins a brutal December stretch that could ultimately doom the Bills' chances at the playoffs. Pulling out a win against Peyton Manning in Denver would be the Bills' biggest accomplishment in years. It won't happen. Prediction: Loss"
BB101: "The Bills head into December with the worst possible matchup. The Broncos will be at home with Super Bowl caliber talent. There's no sugar coating this loss."
Week 15: Green Bay Packers
Rodak: "From one future Hall of Fame quarterback to another. Aaron Rodgers will come in to Ralph Wilson Stadium and hand the Bills another loss, one that would probably put them out of playoff contention. Prediction: Loss"
BB101: "From Peyton Manning to Aaron Rodgers. The Bills defense will be praying to get through this spell alive. Don't worry Bills fans, next week a more winnable game comes back on the schedule. Until then, the Bills lose again."
Week 16: at Oakland Raiders
Rodak: "Cross-country trips are never easy, and no matter what the Raiders' quarterback situation is by the end of the season, it may not matter. If the wheels are coming off the Bills' wagon, this will be a tough game to win. Prediction: Loss"
BB101: "The Bills head into Oakland after a tough spell. If the Bills are healthy, this game could be a win. If the Bills are hurting, then it could be another bad day for Bills fans. Bills keep themselves healthy enough to beat the Raiders and bring home another road win."
Week 17: at New England Patriots
Rodak: "The Bills are in a tough spot with this one. If the Patriots are still battling for a playoff spot, they'll be playing tough and will be a hard team to beat at home. If the Patriots already have locked up the playoffs, then that would likely mean the Bills are out. Either way, not a good spot for the Bills to pull out a win. Prediction: Loss"
BB101: "The Bills end the season on the road against the Patriots. The Pats may have a playoff seed locked up but they will not take it easy on a division foe. If the Bills beat the Patriots in the first matchup, then the Pats will make it a point to hand a loss to the Bills in week 17.
Both Rodak and buffalobills101.com see the Bills missing the playoffs at 7-9. How they get there may not be entirely the same, but the Bills are seemingly heading for a competitive season. If the Bills do manage to squeak out an additional win or two, then the Watkins trade may have worked in their favor. But if the team falls to 5-11, the Browns will be thanking the Bills for a prime pick in the draft.
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