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Bills primed for 2012 Home opener is versus Kansas City NFL: Thursday visit by Miami tops third-easiest schedule

The Buffalo Bills' return to prime time will come in Week 11 of the 2012 NFL season.

The Bills will host the rival Miami Dolphins at Ralph Wilson Stadium in a Thursday night game that will be broadcast nationally on the NFL Network at 8:20 p.m. Nov. 15.

That's the highlight of the Bills' 2012 regular season schedule, which was released Tuesday night along with those of the other 31 NFL teams. It will be the Bills' first prime-time game at the Ralph since a forgettable, 56-10 loss to the New England Patriots on Nov. 18, 2007.

The Bills last appeared on Thursday night in the 2009 season, a 19-13 loss in Week 13 to the New York Jets in Toronto's Rogers Centre. The NFL expanded its Thursday night schedule so that every team in the league has one appearance, running from Weeks Two to 15 of the season.

"We are very excited to host a prime-time game here at Ralph Wilson Stadium for the first time in three seasons," Bills CEO Russ Brandon said. "The atmosphere in Orchard Park has been electric for our recent prime-time games."

The Bills open the season at 1 p.m. Sept. 9 on the road against Tim Tebow and the New York Jets. Not since their inaugural season in 1960 have the Bills faced New York on the road to start the season -- back when the Jets were known as the Titans.

Buffalo also closes the season with the Jets, as New York visits at 1 p.m. Dec. 30 in Week 17.

The home opener is the following week -- 1 p.m. Sept. 16 -- against the Kansas City Chiefs.

Other highlights of the schedule include:

The fifth regular-season game in the Toronto series comes in Week 15, a 4:05 p.m. kickoff Dec. 16 against the Seattle Seahawks.

Marquee free agent signing Mario Williams will return to Houston to face his old team in Week Nine, when the Bills visit the Houston Texans at 1 p.m. Nov. 4.

"Judgement day November 4th!!" Williams tweeted shortly before the schedule was released Tuesday night.

He was a bit more reserved during an appearance on ESPN's schedule release show later in the evening.

"No, not really," Williams said when asked by host Trey Wingo whether his eyes went first to the Houston game. "The first thing I looked at was the first game, because to me, obviously that's the most important."

Counting the Toronto game, the Bills close the season with four of their final five games at home. That's good news for a potential playoff push and potentially bad news for ticket sales in cold weather.

The Bills failed to sell out their three December home games in the 2011 season, though it's worth noting the team's playoff chances had decreased dramatically prior to and during that time.

Included in that stretch is a visit from former coach Mike Mularkey and wide receiver Lee Evans with the Jacksonville Jaguars, a 1 p.m. kickoff Dec. 2 in Week 13.

"It definitely will be an advantage," Williams said on ESPN of playing in the frigid conditions. "I think the elements will probably be in our favor."

Conversely, the Bills play just once at home from Week Five to Week 10, with two road games, one at home, the bye week and then two more road games. Three of those road games are against 2011 playoff teams in San Francisco, Houston and New England.

The Bills were shut out of the Monday Night Football schedule for the third-straight season and do not have a game on NBC's Sunday Night slate -- which is the top prime-time slot on the weekly schedule. The Bills have made just one appearance on Sunday night since NBC acquired the rights starting with the 2006 season.

The Bills' two West Coast trips come in back-to-back weeks. Buffalo will visit San Francisco in Week Five (Oct. 7) and Arizona in Week Six (Oct. 14). The Bills follow that with a home game in Week Seven (Oct. 21) against Tennessee before their bye in Week Eight.

The rematch at the Ralph against New England comes in Week Four (1 p.m. Sept. 30) after the Bills ended a nine-year losing streak to the Patriots at home last season in memorable fashion. Buffalo visits New England in Week 10 (Nov. 11).

Based on strength of schedule -- which is formulated from opponents' records in 2011 -- the Bills will have the third-easiest slate of games in 2012. Buffalo's opponents went 121-135 last season for a winning percentage of .473.

The Bills confirmed five more players made pre-draft visits Tuesday. Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill, South Carolina defensive end Melvin Ingram, Mississippi State defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, South Carolina cornerback Stephon Gilmore and Oklahoma cornerback Jamell Fleming visited One Bills Drive, according to the team's website.