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. Today’s Part 3 will cover Weeks 8-10
Week 8 – Bye Week
After a pretty rugged four-week stretch in Weeks 4-7, this bye week comes at just the right time. The Bills will need the rest, as the following two weeks are as difficult a stretch as any team in the NFL will face this season. If Buffalo manages even a split, it’s a victory.
Week 9 – Buffalo @ Houston
Sunday, November 4 - 1 p.m.
Last meetings: 11/1/09 – Texans 31, @Bills 10
Outlook: Mario Williams brings his new team to his old stomping grounds in Houston as the Bills take on the Texans. Fortunately, Buffalo will be coming off their bye week. Unfortunately, so will the Texans. Double unfortunately, the Texans are going to be really, really good in 2012. I have them as one of my two favorites in the AFC.
It starts with the Houston defense, which new coordinator Wade Phillips transformed into a powerhouse in 2011. The Texans ranked 3rd in the NFL against the pass AND 4th against the run, which is pretty absurd.
This team can flat-out get after the QB, as you no doubt saw in the playoffs. Cincy QB Andy Dalton probably still sees Texans defenders in his nightmares. Brian Cushing, J.J. Watt, Connor Barwin…these guys are studs. And it’s a young defense too – the Houston D is going to terrorize the league for a few years at least.
And of course the offense is no group of chumps. Andre Johnson is the best WR in football when he’s healthy. Arian Foster is lethal when he touches the ball. Matt Schaub was having a nice season before he got hurt. This group is going to score a lot of points in 2012.
All in all, this will be a huge test for the Bills. Keeping Cushing/Watt/Barwin/everyone else off Fitz is priority #1. I’d say run the ball more, but the Texans are great against the run too. It’s going to take an excellent all-around performance from the Bills to steal a win in Texas this November.
Week 10 – Buffalo @ New England
Sunday, November 11, 1 p.m.
Last meetings: 9/25/11 – @Bills 34, Patriots 31; 1/1/12 – @Patriots 49, Bills 21
Outlook: And…here’s my other AFC favorite. I won’t re-hash what I wrote about the Pats in my earlier preview too much, but suffice to say: the Pats are going to be great again. Brady wants another title, and he’s running out of chances. The Pats will be hungry in 2012.
What a tough two-game road trip. If the Bills manage a split here, that’s a big success. That’s just the reality. Keep in mind the Bills were 1-7 on the road in 2011.
The schedule really softens from here. With seven very winnable games down the stretch, you have to think if the Bills can start up 5-4 they’d be set up very nicely for a playoff run. Is it possible? I guess we’ll see in the fall.