Buffalo currently has the 3rd best Super Bowl odds for the 2021 NFL season putting them firmly in the contender tier. The majority of the team returned but it is still a new year and there is much to learn about this team. I went through the schedule and ranked my top 5 games that will show us exactly who the 2021 Buffalo Bills are.
1. Week 5 @ Kansas City Chiefs
It’s no secret that the Chiefs are the team to beat in the AFC. Last year, Kansas City dominated Buffalo in the regular season and in the AFC Championship Game. The Bills need to show they belong in the tier of elite contenders and have a chance to do that with a win here. In past matchups, Josh Allen has taken too much on his shoulders and hurt the offense by playing hero ball. A key to victory will be settling down and staying on schedule instead of forcing a shootout. A balanced attack with well-timed shots is the recipe. On defense, I liked our strategy of giving up the run to influence the Chiefs play-calling. Any pass play with Mahomes can be a touchdown so it makes sense to tempt them into running the ball more. Improved tackling and the pass rush getting home without blitzing will give us a chance.
2. Week 1 vs Pittsburgh Steelers
Pittsburgh is not a team to be afraid of this year. I would even put my money on Tomlin seeing the first under .500 season of his career. Their defense is still excellent but the offense is going to be bad with the current version of Big Ben. If the Bills are contenders, they should beat the Steelers by multiple scores. This game makes the list for that exact reason. A win is the expectation. A loss would change the whole outlook on the season.
3. Week 14 @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The results of NFC games are not as important as AFC but this is an exception. Tom Brady and the Buccaneers are fresh off a Super Bowl and kept the whole team together. They are going to be a power house this season. If the Bills make it to the Super Bowl, they are most likely to meet Tampa Bay again. Like the Chiefs game, you have to prove you belong when playing elite teams. Then there is the Tom Brady element. It would give many Bills fans closure to finally see Josh Allen take down Brady even if he is out of the division.
4. Week 6 @ Tennessee Titans
The Titans had a bad offseason. Julio Jones will help cover up some of that, but it was still bad. They got rid of their starting corner duo and their replacements are unlikely to be upgrades. I like the Bud Dupree signing but there is no guarantee that he can replicate his production in a new system. Their offense line has serious question marks and Jonnu Smith left for New England. Most importantly, Arthur Smith is gone. Smith is a mastermind with play action and playing to the strengths of his team. Even with Julio, the offense should take a step back due to this. The Bills need to prove they can take care of the borderline playoff teams. This will also be a test of resilience as it follows their Sunday night showdown against the Chiefs.
5. Week 3 vs Washington Football Team
I really like the team Washington has built and Fitzpatrick is a great fit for their offense. Their defense is elite and will be a tough early season challenge for the offense. The Football Team has the best defensive line in the league and their secondary is no joke either. The offense will be tested, especially up front. Their vertical passing offense will stress our secondary. Antonio Gibson is a budding star at running back. The defense will need to be at it’s best to handle them. This game will expose some weaknesses that the Bills will need to address over the course of the season.
Something important to address is that all but one of these games occur in weeks 1-6, before the bye week. This was not intentional but it is a good sign that our toughest tests come early. The post-bye schedule is significantly easier. McDermott and the Bills will have plenty of time to address any weakness exposed in these games.