Dec 12, 2010; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Buffalo Bills fullback Corey McIntyre (38) in the 2nd quarter of a game against the Cleveland Browns at Ralph Wilson Stadium. The Bills defeated the Browns 13-6. Mandatory Credit: Luc Leclerc-US PRESSWIRE

Which Game is the Bills' Most Important Non-Division Contest?

One thing is for certain: if the Bills are ever going to contend for the playoffs again (let alone a title), Buffalo has to find a way to be more successful in AFC contests. As pointed out on BuffaloBills.com recently, the Bills have been horrific in division games in recent years, including a pathetic 4-20 mark in the past four seasons.

Here’s Buffalo’s recent AFC East performance (overall record in parentheses):

2011 – 1-5 (6-10)

2010 – 1-5 (4-12)

2009 – 2-4 (6-10)

2008 – 0-6 (7-9)

So yeah, all six division contests are big this year. Granted, the two Patriots games will be rough, and the Jets and Dolphins aren’t going to roll over, but Buffalo has to find some wins in those games. I’d say that the Bills need to find a way to win at least three of the six AFC East games if they want to even sniff the playoffs in 2012.

With all that said, there are 10 other games on the schedule, and here they are:

Week 2 – vs. Kansas City

Week 3 – @ Cleveland

Week 5- @ San Francisco

Week 6 – @ Arizona

Week 7 – vs. Tennessee

Week 9 – @ Houston

Week 12 – @ Indianapolis

Week 13 – vs. Jacksonville

Week 14 – vs. St. Louis

Week 15 – vs. Seattle (in Toronto)

Every game in the NFL is important, and they all count equally. But which of these games would you consider the most important?

Two games that jump right out at me are the contests at Houston and San Francisco. With the exception of the two New England games, these are probably the two most challenging games on the schedule. While those will be “big” games (assuming the Bills don’t start 0-6 or something), I’m not sure how “important” they are to the Bills chances. Those will be really, really tough games to win. If Buffalo gets either, awesome, but going 0-2 in those two games certainly wouldn’t be a killer.

I’m thinking more of games that Buffalo needs to win. Games that any team hoping to compete for a playoff spot should win. Games like that Week 14 home contest against the Rams. The Rams will stink, and they’ll be out of it by then. That’s one the Bills should have. Probably a must win.

But the most important game of the whole season in my mind? I’ll go with Week 3 in Cleveland. Week 4 starts just a brutal run of tough games (including both Patriots games and the Houston and San Francisco trips), and the Bills just can not afford to drop a very winnable game before that stretch.

And make no mistake: the Browns are going to suck. Cleveland went 4-12 last season and I can’t see as how they’ve improved any this offseason (except for drafting awesome RB Trent Richardson). It’s a game good teams should win.

What do you think? What’s the most important non-division game of the year?

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