The Bills snapped their 17-year playoff drought last season. Now they'll have a chance to break another dry spell that dates back before the start of the millennium: Win a game on Monday night for the first time since 1999.
The NFL schedule was officially released Thursday evening, and as had been rumored early in the day, the Bills will host the defending AFC champion Patriots in a prime-time Monday night game at New Era Field on Oct. 29.
The Bills haven't played at home on Monday night since losing to the Browns, 29-27, in 2008. They haven't won on Monday night since winning at Miami in October of 1999 – before the playoff drought began. Their last Sunday night win was 16-13 over Tennessee in the 2000 season opener at the Ralph.
The Bills do not have a Thursday night game on the schedule. Evidently, the new, $550 million deal with Fox does not include the requirement that every team must play at least one of those wretched Thursday contests. The Bills played one Thursday night game in each of the last five seasons under that arrangement.
They have just one prime-time game, and they should feel fortunate to get that. They have lost their last 11 games on Sunday or Monday night. They haven't appeared on Sunday night – the league's marquee prime-time event on NBC – since losing 56-10 to the Pats at home in 2007. In the Bills' last five Sunday night games, they haven't scored more than 10 points and have averaged 5.6 points in five losses.
So it's not as if they've been must-see TV over the last two decades. Ending the playoff drought gave them some credibility, but they might have the worst offense in the league right now. The analytics website Pro Football Focus recently judged both their quarterback and wide receiver position groups as the worst in the entire NFL.
They did sneak into the playoffs last year, but their 10-3 loss to the Jaguars was one of the worst offensive displays in NFL playoff history. And that was with Tyrod Taylor at quarterback. It's impossible to know who will be playing quarterback in late October.
Surely, the TV types are hoping the Bills have a highly touted rookie QB starting by the time Tom Brady and the Pats come to New Era. But there are no guarantees they'll take a quarterback high in the draft, or that he'll see the field any time soon. I don't imagine the people at NBC were thrilled by the prospect of AJ McCarron throwing to Charles Clay in prime-time.
Playoffs or not, it looks like a lot of the schedules from the drought years: One prime-time night game and 15 games that start at 1 p.m. The Bills might be on the right track, but they're a long way from being a prime TV destination.