Buffalo Bills fans had a great taste of the national spotlight last season, including plenty of prime time action.
Get ready for more.
National Football League Vice President of Broadcast Planning, Mike North joined me on the SalSports... and Stuff podcast to discuss the 2021 NFL schedule and made it clear that the Bills will be showcased a lot once again.
“No question. No question,” North said. “Particularly when you look at your 17 games, you’ve got to think about some of those being, kind of stand out there. They’re just a little bit bigger than the other ones. The Kansas City [Chiefs] game, for instance, when Buffalo goes out to K.C., that cannot be a 1 o’clock in the afternoon game, in September, in 15% of the country. That game has to be on national television somewhere. When you play New Orleans [Saints]. When you play New England [Patriots], twice.”
North even went so far to say that networks would love to be in Orchard Park for prime time games, seeing "BillsMafia" back at a possibly packed Highmark Stadium, and how that would resonate on television.
I asked North, specifically, if the Bills would be a candidate to open the season on Thursday Night Football against the Super Bowl champion Buccaneers, since they are scheduled to go to Tampa Bay this season and the Super Bowl winner traditionally hosts that opening night game.
“They’re absolutely in the conversation. They have to be,” North said. “You look at the Tampa Bay home schedule, and there’s some excellent games, obviously. You can take, frankly, any of the division games. Carolina [Panthers] and Atlanta [Falcons] are interesting, but maybe not at that upper-echelon quite yet. New Orleans, obviously, a different story without Drew Brees under center, but never more interesting than they are in Week 1. Tampa hosts the [New York] Giants, they host Chicago [Bears], they host Dallas [Cowboys]. There are so many big games. Obviously, Buffalo-Tampa is going to be a big game.”
North added that while the Bills are very much in the conversation to play at Tampa Bay that opening Thursday Night, they certainly aren’t a “slam dunk,” either.
“You could play it in Week 1, but isn’t it worth a little bit more if you saved it for December and they’re both in a playoff chase?,” he said.
North discussed a lot of other interesting topics, as well, including confirming that the league will be moving away from two Monday Night Football games in Week 1, but that one of the Wild Card Playoff games will be played on Monday night, with two on Saturday and three on Sunday that weekend.
The NFL also recently added a 17th regular game starting this coming season. The extra game will be determined by each team’s place of finish in the own division, playing the same-place finisher in a division in the opposite conference the following year.
This year, the AFC will be the home game for each of these contests, and the AFC East matched up with the NFC East. That means the Bills will host the Washington Football Team for their extra game, since they both finished in first place.
North said that rotation will remain in tact for at least eight years, pitting the cross-conference divisions that last played two seasons prior against one another, according to finish, rotating home and away.
So, it’s conceivable the Bills host Washington again in 2025, if both finish in the same place in their respective divisions. It also means the Bills' 17th game for the next seven years will be: at the NFC West same-place finisher in 2022 and 2026, home against the NFC South same-place finisher in 2023 and 2027, and at the NFC North same-place finisher in 2024 and 2028.
The NFL has announced that the 2021 schedule will be released on Wednesday, May 12, at 8 p.m. ET.
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