Welcome to the AFC East, Doug Marrone. The new Buffalo Bills coach will make his debut against the team’s divisional nemesis, the New England Patriots.
The Patriots visit Ralph Wilson Stadium on Sept. 8 in a 2013 NFL season opener, the league announced Thursday night.
Marrone is the 17th head coach in Bills history. Only one of his 16 predecessors won the first game of his tenure. That was Marv Levy in 1986. Marrone has a big challenge to become No. 2. The Patriots have beaten the Bills 18 of the last 19 and 23 of the last 25 meetings.
The Patriots also close the Bills’ regular season, on Dec. 29, in Foxborough, Mass.
The Bills’ schedule is favorable from a ticket-selling and fan-comfort perspective. Four of the first six games are at home. The Bills play only one December game in Orchard Park, on Dec. 22 against Miami. Last year the Bills played three December games in Orchard Park and failed to sell out two of them. Late-season home games typically are harder to sell out.
The team’s annual regular-season game in Toronto’s Rogers Centre is against the Atlanta Falcons, on Dec. 1.
Coming off a 6-10 season, the Bills did not get any love from the television networks. For the fourth straight year, the Bills are not scheduled to appear on either NBC’s Sunday Night Football or ESPN’s Monday Night Football. Every team is required to have at least one prime-time game. The Bills play a nationally televised road game on a Thursday night, at Cleveland on Oct. 3, on the NFL Network.
Here are some other facts on the Bills’ slate:
• Based on last year’s records, the Bills have the seventh easiest schedule in the NFL. Of course, last year’s records are only a vague indicator of the coming season’s results. The Bills had the third-easiest schedule in the NFL entering last season. The Bills play only five games against teams that made the playoffs last year.
• While the Bills won only six games last season, four of the teams they beat are on this year’s schedule.
• The Bills play the team defending its Super Bowl title for the first time since 2005. The Baltimore Ravens, who won the championship in February, visit Buffalo on Sept. 29. It’s only the second time the Ravens have come to Buffalo since their inception in 1996.
• The Bills do not play west of the Mississippi River for the first time since 2007.
• Tampa is on the schedule for the 10th time, and it’s the ninth time the meeting is in Tampa.
• Carolina, with former No. 1 overall draft pick Cam Newton at quarterback, comes to Buffalo for the first time since 2005.
• Jacksonville might as well be in the Bills’ division. The Bills and Jags meet for the ninth time in the last 11 years.
• Cincinnati faces the Bills for the third time in the last four years.
• The Bills face Kansas City for a third straight year and Cleveland for a second straight year.
• Under the league’s rotating schedule format, the Bills play the AFC North and NFC South teams.
• Looking for a positive (or perhaps wishful) omen? The last time the Patriots opened the season in Buffalo was 2003. The Bills won, 31-0. The two teams closed the regular-season that year, as well, with New England taking revenge, by a 31-0 score.
2013 BUFFALO BILLS SCHEDULE
Aug. 11 at Indianapolis, 1:30 p.m.
Aug. 16 Minnesota, 7 p.m.
Aug. 24 at Washington, 4 p.m.
Aug. 29 Detroit, 7 p.m.
Sep. 8 New England, 1 p.m.
Sep. 15 Carolina, 1 p.m.
Sep. 22 at N.Y. Jets, 4:25 p.m.
Sep. 29 Baltimore, 1 p.m.
Oct. 3 at Cleveland (Thursday night), 8:25 p.m.
Oct. 13 Cincinnati, 1 p.m.
Oct. 20 at Miami, 1 p.m.
Oct. 27 at New Orleans, 1 p.m.
Nov. 3 Kansas City, 1 p.m.
Nov. 10 at Pittsburgh, 1 p.m.
Nov. 17 N.Y. Jets, 1 p.m.
Nov. 24 Bye Week
Dec. 1 Atlanta (Toronto), 4:05 p.m.
Dec. 8 at Tampa Bay, 1 p.m.
Dec. 15 at Jacksonville, 1 p.m.
Dec. 22 Miami, 1 p.m.
Dec. 29 at New England, 1 p.m.