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Jay Skurski's game-by-game predictions for the 2019 Bills

Jay Skurski

How does some Buffalo Bills football with your turkey sound?

The NFL released its 2019 schedule for all 32 teams Wednesday, and the highlight for the Buffalo Bills is a trip to Dallas for a game against the Cowboys on Thanksgiving.

One of the most high-profile spots on the NFL schedule, the Bills have not played on Thanksgiving since 1994 when they visited Detroit. The team also doesn’t have a great history in Dallas, with the only win in five trips coming in 1993.

The Cowboys went 10-6 last year to win the NFC East. They are one of only six Buffalo opponents to have had a winning record in 2018. Buffalo’s overall strength of schedule is .480, which ranks as the ninth easiest in the league.

The trip to Dallas will also be one of Buffalo’s two longest in 2019, joining the annual trip to Miami. The Bills don’t have any West Coast games. In fact, the Central time zone is as far west as they go.

The Bills may have one other nationally televised game – the Week 16 matchup at New England is listed as “to be determined” on the schedule, with the possibility of the game being played Saturday, Dec. 21.

The Bills were once again passed over for a marquee spot on the schedule – Sunday Night Football. The team hasn’t played on Sunday night since 2007, when a home game against New England was flexed, and hasn’t been on the original schedule for Sunday night since 2000. It’s possible that one of the Bills’ games could be flexed to Sunday night.

Buffalo is the only team in the NFL without a prime-time start, with the game against Dallas kicking off at 4:30 p.m. Eastern being the latest (although, again, that could change with flexible scheduling).

Here is a game-by-game look at the schedule, with a predicted result:

Week One: at New York Jets, 1 p.m. Sept. 8

Analysis: The Bills and Jets split their season series last year, with each team winning on the road. Buffalo routed New York in MetLife Stadium, as Matt Barkley threw three touchdown passes and LeSean McCoy had his only game of the season with multiple rushing touchdowns (two). A much closer contest can reasonably be expected this year. The Jets added stars like running back Le’Veon Bell and linebacker C.J. Mosley in free agency, and also have the third overall pick in next week’s draft. The Sam Darnold-Josh Allen rivalry promises to get good. For what it’s worth (not much), early lines have the Jets as a field goal favorite in this game. Prediction: Loss.

Week Two: at New York Giants, 1 p.m. Sept.  15

Maybe the Bills’ equipment staff can leave some stuff at MetLife Stadium – a scheduling quirk has Buffalo in New York for a second straight week. The Bills are one of only four teams to open the season with two straight road games (the Chiefs, Colts and 49ers being the others). That's the first time that's happened since 2006. The Giants traded away receiver Odell Beckham Jr. this offseason, leaving plenty of people puzzled about what exactly General Manager Dave Gettleman’s plan is. The last time the Bills played the Giants on the road came in 2011. Naaman Roosevelt caught a memorable touchdown for his hometown team, but the Bills lost on a late field goal. Prediction: Win.

Week Three: vs. Cincinnati, 1 p.m. Sept. 22

The home opener comes later than fans would like, but at least it’s a pretty good draw. On paper, the Bengals look to be one of Buffalo’s weaker opponents. A loss here would spell big-time trouble for the Bills’ season, particularly when looking at the next opponent. Prediction: Win.

Week Four: vs. New England, 1 p.m. Sept. 29

Will Rob Gronkowski have come out of retirement by this point to once again torment him hometown team? The Bills certainly hope not, since they need all the help they can get to beat New England – something they haven’t done at home since 2011. Prediction: Loss.

Week Five: at Tennessee, 1 p.m. Oct. 6

The Bills and Titans have seen their last three games decided by one point each. Another close contest looks possible here. This is a game that could have playoff implications, and looks like a coin flip. This is Buffalo’s only road trip between Week Three and Week Nine. Prediction: Win.

Week Six: BYE.

An earlier bye week than recent seasons. Buffalo is joined on the bye week by the Bears, Colts and Raiders.

Week Seven: vs. Miami, 1 p.m. Oct. 20

Will it be Ryan Fitzpatrick or a rookie at quarterback for the Dolphins under new head coach Brian Flores? Either way, this is a game the Bills should win going away – Miami quite possibly will be the worst team in the league in 2019. Prediction: Win.  

Week Eight: vs. Philadelphia, 1 p.m. Oct. 27

The second of three straight home games promises to be a critical part of the schedule for the Bills, especially considering the brutal two-game road trip the team faces in December. Philadelphia hasn’t played in Buffalo since 2011. The Eagles will have a little less time to prepare for this one, playing on Sunday Night Football in Week Seven. Prediction: Loss.

Week Nine: vs. Washington, 1 p.m. Nov. 3

The homestand ends with what should be a win. The Redskins have Case Keenum penciled in as their starting quarterback, although that could change depending on what they do in next week’s draft. Washington plays on Thursday night in Week Eight, so they’ll have extra rest. Despite that, this is another must win for Buffalo. Prediction: Win.

Week 10: at Cleveland, 1 p.m. Nov. 10

The Browns are expected to be a popular playoff pick with Baker Mayfield at quarterback and Beckham catching passes. The NFL must think so – it gave Cleveland four prime-time games! Running back Kareem Hunt’s suspension will be over by this time, which could give the Browns’ offense another threat. Prediction: Loss.

Week 11: at Miami, 1 p.m. Nov. 17

Remember that three-game homestand? It’s given way to a stretch of five road games in seven weeks. Miami in mid-November sounds downright appealing for fans making a road trip. There’s a good chance Bills Mafia sees a win, too. Prediction: Win.

Week 12: vs. Denver, 1 p.m. Nov. 23

The Bills should be decent-sized favorites over Joe Flacco and the Broncos. Buffalo has won its last two home games against Denver. Given the stretch of schedule that follows, this will be an important game for the Bills. Prediction: Win.

Week 13: at Dallas, 4:30 p.m., Nov. 28 (Thanksgiving Day)

No prime-time games may be disappointing for some fans, but a Thanksgiving Day game more than makes up for it. It won’t be easy, though, as the Cowboys are defending NFC East champions. The Bills are 4-4 all time on Thanksgiving. Prediction: Loss.

Week 14: vs. Baltimore, 1 p.m. Dec. 8

The Bills avoid the dreaded (from a ticket-selling standpoint) three home games in December, although that might have come in handy during a playoff race. Allen gets a chance to go up against another first-round quarterback from the 2018 class in the Ravens’ Lamar Jackson. Baltimore sustained heavy losses on the defensive side of the football in free agency. Prediction: Win.

Week 15: at Pittsburgh, 1 p.m. Dec. 15

The Steelers don’t look as formidable without Bell and Antonio Brown, but they still have quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, running back James Conner and receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster as a triple threat. Pittsburgh missed the playoffs last year with a 9-6-1 record – the first time in five years the Steelers finished with less than 10 wins. Prediction: Loss.

Week 16: at New England, TBA

If the Bills are in a playoff race, this is a tough draw. This will be the third straight season Buffalo visits Foxborough in the penultimate week of the regular season. An exact date and time for this game will be announced by Week Eight. This game is one of five being considered for three Saturday spots on the schedule. Those games will start at 1 p.m., 4:30 p.m. and 8:15 p.m. and air on NFL Network. As is tradition, as long as Tom Brady is the Patriots’ quarterback, this will be the prediction: Loss.

Week 17: vs. New York Jets, 1 p.m. Dec. 29

If these predictions hold true, the Bills would enter this game with an 8-7 record. They snuck into the playoffs in 2017 with a 9-7 record, but that’s not always a sure thing. The thinking here is they match that mark. Prediction: Win.

Final record: 9-7. This would represent a three-win improvement from 2018 and likely guarantee another year of the Brandon Beane-Sean McDermott pairing – even if it falls short of a spot in the postseason.

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