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Way-too-early 2018 schedule analysis: The Bills may have a tough road ahead

There's one week to go in the NFL season, but the Buffalo Bills' opponents for next year are already locked in.

The NFL schedule is determined by a rotating list of division matchups, as well as the standings from the prior season. Six of the Bills' 16 games will be against the other three AFC East opponents, facing each team once at home and once on the road. They'll get eight more games by playing the entire AFC South and NFC North divisions, which rotate through the schedule on the regular basis. Then the final two opponents come from the teams in the same position as the Bills in the remaining two AFC divisions.

The Bills will finish second in the AFC East this year. Opponents that they played at home the last time time through the schedule will be road games next year, and vice versa.

Home opponents

Jacksonville Jaguars (AFC South)
Tennessee Titans (AFC South)
Chicago Bears (NFC North)
Detroit Lions (NFC North)
Los Angeles Chargers (2nd in AFC West)
New England Patriots (AFC East)
Miami Dolphins (AFC East)
New York Jets (AFC East)

Road opponents

Indianapolis Colts (AFC South)
Houston Texans (AFC South)
Green Bay Packers (NFC North)
Minnesota Vikings (NFC North)
Baltimore Ravens (2nd in AFC North)
New England Patriots (AFC East)
Miami Dolphins (AFC East)
New York Jets (AFC East)

The dates of the games are usually announced in mid-April.

If you want the way-too-early analysis ... it looks like the Bills have a difficult schedule next year.

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Consider the quarterbacks they'll (likely) have to face on the road:

  • Tom Brady
  • Aaron Rodgers
  • Deshaun Watson
  • Andrew Luck
  • Sam Bradford/Teddy Bridgewater/Case Keenum/whoever the 12-win Vikings use

That's in addition to Joe Flacco and Ravens, who are likely headed to the playoffs this season. And Ryan Tannehill, who led the Dolphins to the playoffs last year before suffering a season-ending injury in the offseason. Then there's the Jets.

The Bills may need to continue dominating at home. They went 6-2 this season at New Era Field, which was their best home record over the playoff drought. At home, the Bills will face the Jaguars and Titans, which are both playoff teams this year. Philip Rivers and the Chargers could still qualify, while Matt Stafford's Lions were just eliminated last week. Plus there's another meeting with the Patriots.

Here's another way to think about it: Of the Bills' 13 opponents next year, the only ones the Bills currently have a better record than are the Packers (injured quarterback), Colts (injured quarterback), Texans (injured quarterback), Dolphins (injured quarterback), Bears (rookie quarterback) and Jets (presumably tanking).

Again, this is the way-too-early analysis, so take it with several grains of salt. Much will change before the Bills actually take the field against these teams next year. Coaches and coordinators change, players get injured, teams drop off, others step up. Who knows, maybe Tom Brady will retire and the division will be up for grabs. The Bills' travel schedule could help them, since the farthest west they have to go is Houston. But adding in their own uncertainty at quarterback, it looks the Bills could have a tough road ahead in 2018.

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