by Mario "Game" Granata
With the recent release of the 2014 NFL Schedule, a lot of unrest has been occurring in Western New York, as there were talks of the Buffalo Bills getting a Monday Night game, and even playing the Lions on Thanksgiving. Well, after going 0-for-2 on those chances, the Buffalo Bills have to endure 3 Phases of Chaos during 2014. Check out why.
No Monday Night game against the Packers, and no Thanksgiving Day game against the Lions, and although the only "Primetime" game that the Buffalo Bills have, is a Thursday Night game on November 13th, IN Miami (because as Bills fans we all know how filled the Police Blotter gets when we have a Primetime game) this tells us all we need to know about the Buffalo Bills: you have to be a winner to get the spotlight. However, looking at the 2014 schedule for the Buffalo Bills there are 3 Phases of Chaos to look at throughout the season, which may lay the groundwork for the future of the Bills.
Phase One: May the Schwartz Be With You - Jim Schwartz spent 5 seasons as the head coach of the Detroit Lions, and it just so happens that the Bills are playing the NFC North this season. Although there are new regimes in Detroit (Jim Caldwell) and Minnesota (Mike Zimmer), Schwartz does have some familiarity with the personnel in that division, and that should serve to be very useful as he devotes his efforts full-time to being the defensive coordinator for the Bills. Schwartz, as a head coach was 3-7 against the Bears, but took both games last season, and while planning against Marshall and Jeffery is a daunting task, Schwartz was able to defeat the Bears twice, and should serve to be a good start to the Bills if they can take the season opener. As far as the Lions go, it really doesn't matter who the coach is when you have Megatron, and stopping him won't be an option: just to try to keep him near 100 yards will be the task in that game. As for the Vikings (Home, Week 7) and the Packers (Home, Week 15), his experience playing those teams just might come in handy. Only time will tell.
Phase Two: Bye Bye, Manziel? - With all the talk circling around where Johnny Football will end up, a quarter of the season against teams that had a worse record than the Bills (Texans, Browns, Raiders, Vikings) all teams who Mock Drafts have Johnny Manziel being picked. Well, all those questions will be answered May 8th, but good ole Johnny Football could be in the cross-hairs of the Bills, I just hope that he is not on Whaley's Draft Board.
Another point to bring up is that the Bills will have a very favorable bye week (9). With an already very young team, this will serve to split the season nicely and give the Bills a much needed rest, which they will need, for a second half run. Keeping in mind that college teams don't play as many games as the NFL, we saw some of the rookies for the Bills lose a step here and there at the end of last season, so the bye being Week 9, should counteract any fatigue they might encounter.
Phase Three: The Gauntlet - Playing football when you have something to prove, makes for a very dangerous team. When you add the fact that there is a chip on the collective shoulders of the entire team, it makes them a 'team to beat'. Now, there are two levels of the Gauntlet.
Level One for the Bills starts right after the bye week. Week 10, the Bills host the Chiefs, a game that many feel got away from the Bills last season, as they started a 3rd string quarterback, and hung with the 8-0 Chiefs, at the time. Mike Pettine's game plan, held the Chiefs offense to 9 points, so the Bills will be looking for revenge against the Chiefs.
Then the Bills play the Dolphins and the Jets, and we all know how heated division rivals can be, and depending on the first meetings that they have with these teams, will determine the attitude they have coming into Week 11 and 12.
Then the Bills have their former defensive coordinator, Mike Pettine, come back to Buffalo as head coach for the Browns, which will serve to be an emotional game, and the proverbial battle of Pettine vs. Schwartz. There will be no uncertainties or secrets in that game as Donte Whitner also returns to Buffalo as well.
Level Two has a couple different scenarios to it. If the Bills are in the playoff hunt, they couldn't have a better schedule to finish the season, playing 3 of their last 4 games against elite talent. If you want to not just be considered a playoff team but a contender, you have to play with the big boys. If they are IN the playoff hunt, then they will have to face Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning, and Tom Brady to close out the last month of the season, and even if they can go 1-2 against those teams, it would be a remarkable achievement. IF the Bills are NOT in the playoff hunt when they reach December, AND they perform well against the Packers, Broncos, and Patriots, then that will serve to be a springboard into the 2015 off-season as something to look forward to.
Although we as Bills fans knew who the opponents were in 2014, we couldn't have asked for a better layout of how the season will progress. Will some of these factors come into play? Maybe, maybe not, but one thing is for certain, whether they are in the playoff hunt or not, the Bills will have some familiarity with their non-divisional opponents, have a bye week that splits the season, and have fans glued to the TV in December...a statement that couldn't be made in recent history.