Editor’s Note: Now that the complete 2012 schedule has been released, I’ll be taking a closer look at Buffalo’s upcoming 2012 contests in this multi-part series.
Week 1 – Buffalo @ New York Jets
Sunday, September 9 - 1 p.m.
Last meetings: 11/6/11 – Jets 27, @Bills 11; 11/27/11 – @Jets 28, Bills 24
Outlook: The Bills open the season against an opponent who has been a real problem in recent seasons – the New York Jets. Chan Gailey is 0-4 against the Jets as Bills coach, with three blowout losses. The Jets have run the ball at will against the Bills in the past two years, and Mark Sanchez tends to look like freaking Joe Montana against Buffalo thanks to Buffalo’s lack of pass rush. Will that change in 2012?
The opening Sunday of the 2012 NFL season actually doesn’t have too many matchups with a lot of “sizzle” (49ers @ Packers excluded), so this one should get a lot of national attention.
There will be good reason for that attention: this will be a truly fascinating game. Both sides will have a lot of questions to answer.
For the Bills: How will the new-look Bills defense perform? Do the Bills finally have a pass rush? How will Chan Gailey split work between C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson? How will Ryan Fitzpatrick open the year?
And for the Jets: What’s going to be Tim Tebow’s role – a few snaps a game, or whole series? How will Sanchez react to Tebow’s presence? Will we hear “Teeeeeee-bbboowwwwwwww!” chants from the crowd after Sanchez’s first incomplete pass? How will the rest of this team come together after last season’s late collapse and subsequent awful offseason?
I can not wait for this game. Should be a ton of fun.
Week 2 – Kansas City @ Buffalo
Sunday, September 16 - 1 p.m.
Last meeting: 9/11/11 – Bills 41, @Chiefs 7
Outlook: Buffalo’s home opener come against a team who had their own home opener spoiled by a Bills rout in 2011 – the Kansas City Chiefs. Buffalo’s 41-7 thrashing of Kansas City to open the 2011 season was a true shocker to even the most optimistic Bills fans, and I don’t think the Chiefs ever really recovered. Kansas City was all over the place the rest of the year: with ups (handing the Packers their only regular season loss) and downs (getting destroyed by average Dolphins and Jets teams).
Romeo Crennel, who led the Chiefs to a 2-1 finish as interim head coach in 2011, will get his shot as head coach proper in 2012. I don’t think there’s much doubt Crennel can coach defense, but this was a really bad offensive team in 2011, averaging a paltry 13.25 points a game. I don’t know if they’ve done enough to improve that. (They did sign RB Peyton Hillis from the Browns.) The very underwhelming Matt Cassel is still the quarterback, which is a plus as a Bills fan looking at this game.
It’s a long way out, but you have to think if Buffalo is going to have a successful 2012, this will be a game the Bills need to have.
Week 3 – Buffalo @ Cleveland
Sunday, September 9 - 1 p.m.
Last meeting: 12/12/10 – @Bills 13, Browns 6
Outlook: Other than the disgraced New Orleans Saints, I’m not sure if any team had a worse offseason than the Cleveland Browns. Namely because they really didn’t do anything to improve from last season’s 4-12 mark. I don’t know if I remember a team coming into a season with less buzz and less hope than this Browns outfit in 2012. Maybe they can salvage something through the Draft, there’s just not much here.
As of now, extremely mediocre QB Colt McCoy is still at the helm. RB Peyton Hillis is gone – does anyone else on this offense scare you? LT Joe Thomas is an incredible player – but tackles can’t score points on their own.
Even several months away, we can say this now: This game is a must-win. Here’s Buffalo schedule the six games after this: vs. New England, @ San Francisco, @ Arizona, vs. Tennessee, @ Houston, @ New England. That’s a brutal stretch in which the Bills will be lucky to go 3-3. Getting a win at Cleveland will help keep the team in the playoff chase when the losses start to come in that rough middle stretch.