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2018 Bills schedule: Jay Skurski's game-by-game-predictions

Are you ready for some Monday Night Football?

At long last, the Buffalo Bills will again host a prime-time game – and it’s a doozy, too. The team will host the New England Patriots on MNF in Week 8 of the 2018 regular season, at 8:15 p.m. Oct. 29. The NFL released the schedules for all 32 teams Thursday.

Buffalo hasn’t hosted a game on Monday night since 2008, an epic 29-27 loss to the Cleveland Browns. The team has played twice on Monday night since then in 2015 at New England and 2016 at Seattle.

The Bills were once again passed over for a marquee spot on the schedule, with no Sunday night game. Buffalo hasn’t played in the biggest game of the week since 2007, when a home contest against New England was flexed, and hasn’t been on the original schedule for a Sunday night game since 2000.

Even though the Bills ended a 17-year playoff drought, the game against New England will be Buffalo's only appearance on prime time. That means the NFL has done away with the rule that every team must play at least one game on Thursday night, which the Bills had done the past six seasons. Outside of the Monday night game against New England, every other kickoff for the Bills is scheduled for 1 p.m. (although that could change due to the NFL's flexible scheduling).

Buffalo will have eight games against teams that finished better than .500 last season, and five games against postseason teams from a year ago.

Sully's Hot Read: Bills deserved only one night game

The schedule is front-loaded with road games, which won't make those in charge of selling tickets at One Bills Drive happy. Buffalo plays three of its first four and five of its first seven games away from home. That has never happened before. Travel shouldn’t be much of an issue, though, as the team doesn’t have any games in either the Mountain or Pacific time zones for the first time since 2015.

Just like in 2017, the scheduled is back-loaded with divisional games. The Bills play four of their last five games against teams in the AFC East after playing just two such games in the first 12 weeks.

Here is the complete week-by-week schedule, along with a game prediction:

Week 1: at Baltimore Ravens, 1 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 9.

A grudge match! The Bills edged out the Ravens for the final playoff spot in the AFC last year after Baltimore gave up a last-minute touchdown to lose to the Bengals. This is the second time the Bills will open the season in Baltimore in the past three years. The Bills dropped a dismal 13-7 game to the Ravens in 2016, their fourth straight loss at M&T Bank Stadium. The big change with the Ravens is Don Martindale taking over as defensive coordinator for Dean Pees, despite the team leading the NFL in takeaways in 2017 with 34. In what looks like a coin flip, go with the home team. Loss.

Week 2: vs. Los Angeles Chargers, 1 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 16.

St. Francis graduate and Chargers General Manager Tom Telesco comes back to town with a team that waxed the Bills, 54-24, last season. That was the infamous five-interception game by Bills quarterback Nathan Peterman, who won’t be in the lineup for the rematch unless something has gone wrong. Former Bills interim coach Anthony Lynn hired Phil McGeoghan as his wide receivers coach this offseason, the same position he held last year in Buffalo. Win.

Week 3: at Minnesota Vikings, 1 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 23.

The Vikings have a new quarterback in Kirk Cousins, but it’s their defense that makes them such a tough matchup. Minnesota ranked first in the league in both points per game (15.8) and yards per game (275.9) allowed in 2017. Buffalo's only win in Minnesota came in 2002, when Drew Bledsoe threw for a team-record 463 yards. Loss.

Week 4: at Green Bay Packers, 1 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 30.

Rejoice, Bills fans making the trek to Lambeau Field. You won’t be frozen to your seats. The Packers have made big changes on both sides of the ball, with Joe Philbin taking over as offensive coordinator and old friend Mike Pettine being hired as defensive coordinator. The bigger deal for the Packers, though, is that they should have quarterback Aaron Rodgers back after he played just seven games because of injuries. The Bills haven’t won at Lambeau Field since 1974, and that streak continues. Loss.

Week 5: vs. Tennessee Titans, 1 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 7.

Even though the Titans advanced to the divisional round of the postseason, they fired Mike Mularkey – the third time that’s happened in his career. He was replaced by Mike Vrabel, who is a head coach for the first time. Grand Island’s Brett Kern and Lockport’s David Fluellen will get to play in New Era Field for the first time as pros. Fired by Baltimore, Dean Pees takes over as the Titans’ defensive coordinator. Tennessee has won its last three games in Buffalo. Make that four. Loss.

Week 6: at Houston Texans, 1 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 14.

The Texans were ravaged by injuries last season, losing star rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson, tight end C.J. Fiederowicz and defensive linemen J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus. If they’re all healthy, that’s a brutal matchup for the Bills’ new offensive line. Loss.

Week 7: at Indianapolis Colts, 1 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 21.

Will Andrew Luck be back for the Colts? Luck’s status is one of the NFL’s big mysteries heading into the 2018 season. Former Bills quarterback (and great guy) Frank Reich is starting his first season as the Colts’ coach. One thing to watch: Will these two teams be a trade partner next week? Indy’s sorry roster needs a talent infusion, so perhaps they move down if the Bills make an offer to move up for a quarterback they like. Buffalo ends a streak of five straight losses in Indianapolis. Win.

Week 8: vs. New England Patriots, 8:15 p.m. Monday, Oct. 29.

Will Rob Gronkowski be making his annual trip home to torment the Bills? Will it even matter? The Patriots are a ridiculous 16-2 in Buffalo since 2000, and have won six straight games. The Bills are 17-25 all time on Monday night. Barring a shocking retirement (or injury that keeps him out of the game) by quarterback Tom Brady, expect the home losing streak to New England to continue. Loss.

Week 9: vs. Chicago Bears, 1 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 4.

The Bears have a new coach in Matt Nagy, who replaces John Fox. Chicago hasn’t won in Orchard Park since 1979 (they did beat the Bills in Toronto in 2010, but we can all agree to pretend those games never happened?).  That streak continues. Win.

Week 10: at New York Jets, 1 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 11.

Good news for the Buffalo run defense: Former Bills offensive coordinator Rick Dennison was somehow hired to be the run-game coordinator for the Jets. The most interesting question about the Jets is who will be at quarterback. After trading up to the No. 3 overall pick, all eyes are on Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield in next week’s draft. Loss.

Week 11: BYE.

This comes very late in the season for the Bills.

Week 12: vs. Jacksonville Jaguars, 1 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 25.

A rematch of last year’s AFC wild-card playoff game and the return of Doug Marrone to Buffalo as an opposing head coach. It’s also a homecoming for Jaguars General Manager Dave Caldwell, the St. Francis graduate. Jacksonville’s pass rush recorded a whopping 55 sacks in 2017, one off the NFL lead. Loss.

Week 13: at Miami Dolphins, 1 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 2.

An early December trip to South Beach? Yes, please. Expect plenty of Bills supporters to sign up for that. As is the case with the Jets, the most interesting question about Miami deals with quarterback. Ryan Tannehill should be back from a torn ACL, but there is plenty of speculation the Dolphins are interested in drafting a quarterback next week. Buffalo’s last trip to Miami ended with a win that helped the team end a 17-year playoff drought. Don’t expect a repeat this time, though. Loss.

Week 14: vs. New York Jets, 1 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 9.

The Bills close with three out of four games at home, which could mean some sparse crowds if the team is out of the playoff picture. Buffalo has won five of the last six in Orchard Park against the Jets, including Sean McDermott's first game in 2017. Win.

Week 15: vs. Detroit Lions, 1 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 16.

Former Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia has taken over as Detroit’s head coach. That concludes the interesting notes about the nondescript Lions, who somehow went 9-7 last year. Buffalo hasn’t lost at home to the Lions since 1991. Win.

Week 16: at New England Patriots, 1 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 23.

The Patriots’ dynasty may be in its final days, but picking against Brady is foolish – especially at Gillette Stadium in December. One interesting thing to watch this season with New England is whether receiver Jordan Matthews, who gave Buffalo next to nothing in 2017, can resurrect his career with Brady. Loss.

Week 17: vs. Miami Dolphins, 1 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 30.

Getting the Dolphins at home in December must always be looked at as a win for the Bills, who swept Miami in 2017. The Dolphins are 1-5 overall in Buffalo the past six seasons. Miami lost big-time talents in wide receiver Jarvis Landry and defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. Win.

Final record: 6-10.

Here is the complete week-by-week schedule:

Preseason

Week 1: vs. Carolina Panthers, 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 9.
Week 2: at Cleveland Browns, 7:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 17.
Week 3: vs. Cincinnati Bengals, 4 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 26.
Week 4: at Chicago Bears, 8 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 30.

Regular Season

Week 1: at Baltimore Ravens, 1 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 9.
Week 2: vs. Los Angeles Chargers, 1 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 16.
Week 3: at Minnesota Vikings, 1 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 23.
Week 4: at Green Bay Packers, 1 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 30.
Week 5: vs. Tennessee Titans, 1 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 7.
Week 6: at Houston Texans, 1 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 14.
Week 7: at Indianapolis Colts, 1 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 21.
Week 8: vs. New England Patriots, 8:15 p.m. Monday, Oct. 29.
Week 9: vs. Chicago Bears, 1 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 4.
Week 10: at New York Jets, 1 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 11.
Week 11: BYE
Week 12: vs. Jacksonville Jaguars, 1 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 25.
Week 13: at Miami Dolphins, 1 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 2.
Week 14: vs. New York Jets, 1 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 9.
Week 15: vs. Detroit Lions, 1 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 16.
Week 16: at New England Patriots, 1 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 23.
Week 17: at Miami Dolphins, 1 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 30.

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