Bills get primetime treatment, but face plenty of challenges


After all the speculation and rumor, we finally know it to be true. America is going to see a lot of the Buffalo Bills on television this fall, and even into the winter.

That’s the first thing that jumped right out at me after seeing the official schedule released on Thursday night. The Bills are scheduled to be on primetime television four times for the first time since 1996. They will play on primetime more than once for the first time since 2016, and more than twice for the first time since 2000.

That’s what going 10-6, making the playoffs, having a roster full of solid young players, an exciting, yet, polarizing quarterback, and huge ratings when on national television the year before gets you. Not to mention Tom Brady leaving the New England Patriots and how many people now perceive the pecking order of the AFC East to have the Bills at the top.

“There’s no question the league office is going into this season thinking about national television for the Bills,” NFL Vice President of Broadcasting Mike North told me recently on a SalSports...and Stuff podcast. “The interesting thing is when our network partners came to us late January, early February, and now, for the first time in a while, their schedules have Bills games on them. It was one thing when the NFL would have to say to ESPN or somebody, ‘We’re going to put Buffalo on,’ and they’re like, ‘(sigh), Why are you doing that?’ Now it’s like, ‘Hey, we’re going to put Buffalo on' and they’re like, ‘Great! Can we get two?’ So I would expect this season to see the Buffalo Bills in multiple national windows... I have every expectation when this year’s schedule comes out, you’re going to see the Bills all over the primetime schedule this year.”

That’s exactly what happened.

But with those primetime games comes plenty of challenges, both on and off the field.

Three of those four primetime games come in a four-week stretch in December, including a long road trip to take on the NFC champion San Francisco 49ers on Monday Night Football, followed by a home Sunday Night Football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, who are no stranger to playing under the lights.

The following week, the Bills will travel to Denver to face the Broncos. That’s one of five games the league will consider moving to Saturday. Then, it’s back on the road for a Monday Night Football tilt against the Patriots in Foxboro.

That means from Weeks 13 through 16, the Bills could be playing Monday night on the west coast, Sunday night at home, Saturday out west, and Monday night on the east coast. If you’re one who enjoys consistency and routine, that stretch is certainly not for you. It will, no doubt, pose a lot of physical and mental challenges for Sean McDermott’s team during their stretch run.

The fourth primetime game is no picnic, either. It’s only the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs coming to Orchard Park on a Thursday Night in October, and that game follows a tough road game against the Tennessee Titans.

Before all those back-end primetime games get going, the Bills have a much more routine schedule. From Weeks 1 though 12, they have only one non-Sunday game (the Chiefs on Thursday Night), eight 1 p.m. starts, and two 4:25 p.m. kickoffs, one at the Las Vegas Raiders and one at the Arizona Cardinals.

There’s also opportunity for wins early-on. The combined 2019 record of the Bills’ first four opponents is 28-36. 

In addition, the Bills also get the Los Angeles Rams and Los Angeles Chargers, as well as the Seattle Seahawks, making the west-to-east cross country trips with 1 p.m. starts, meaning a 10:00 a.m. kickoff for those teams in their home time zones. That's usually an advantage for the eastern time zone team.

The Bills will have their bye week in mid-November right before Thanksgiving. Fans can enjoy a relatively routine, but exciting ride until then. But after that, buckle up and get your coffee and whatever else you drink that keeps you warm ready, because there are going to be some cold, but wild days and nights the rest of the way.

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