In 2020, the Bills accomplished something that they hadn’t done since the 1990s. They were able to put together back-to-back 10+ win seasons and emerged with their first playoff victory since ’95. Josh Allen was a big part of the team’s stellar 13-3 campaign and helped guide the team to the AFC Championship Game, where they eventually fell to the two-time reigning AFC champion Chiefs.
The future is certainly bright for the Bills. Allen played at an MVP level for most of last year. They have strong leadership with Sean McDermott as head coach. The team’s front office is among the best as well, and it has done a lot to strengthen the team and add depth during the 2021 NFL offseason. That should improve their chances of being a Super Bowl contender once again.
That said, their path to the AFC Championship Game won’t be as easy in 2021 as it was in ’20. The Bills now have something of a target on their back, and they also have to face a first-place schedule. Buffalo still has talent and they should be favored to win the AFC East, but depending on how the Bills’ schedule shakes out, they could have some issues against the upper-echelon competition on their 17-game slate.
Here is a complete breakdown of the Bills’ 2021 schedule, including dates, start times and analysis for all 17 games.
Buffalo Bills schedule 2021
The Bills schedule was officially unveiled as part of the NFL’s schedule release on Wednesday, May 12:
|1||Sept. 12||vs. Steelers||1 p.m. ET||CBS|
|2||Sept. 19||at Dolphins||1 p.m. ET||Fox|
|3||Sept. 26||vs. Washington Football Team||1 p.m. ET||Fox|
|4||Oct. 3||vs. Texans||1 p.m. ET||CBS|
|5||Oct. 10 (SNF)||at Chiefs||8:20 p.m. ET||NBC|
|6||Oct. 18 (MNF)||at Titans||8:15 p.m. ET||ESPN|
|7||Oct. 24||Bye week||—||—|
|8||Oct. 31||vs. Dolphins||1 p.m. ET||CBS|
|9||Nov. 7||at Jaguars||1 p.m. ET||CBS|
|10||Nov. 14||at Jets||1 p.m. ET||CBS|
|11||Nov. 21||vs. Colts||1 p.m. ET||CBS|
|12||Nov. 25 (Thanksgiving)||at Saints||8:20 p.m. ET||NBC|
|13||Dec. 6||vs. Patriots||8:15 p.m. ET||ESPN|
|14||Dec. 12||at Buccaneers||4:25 p.m. ET||CBS|
|15||Dec. 18 or 19 (TBD)||vs. Panthers||TBD||TBD|
|16||Dec. 26||at Patriots||1 p.m. ET||CBS|
|17||Jan. 2||vs. Falcons||1 p.m. ET||Fox|
|18||Jan. 9||vs. Jets||1 p.m. ET||CBS|
Down the stretch, the Bills also got the benefit of facing teams after, or as, the wheels were beginning to fall off for them. In Weeks 13-16, the Bills faced the Nick Mullens-led 49ers, the Steelers on a short week following their 11-game winning streak being snapped, and both the Broncos and the Patriots as their QB issues caused them to fall out of the postseason race. That was part of what led them to a 5-0 finish on the year.The Bills were able to benefit from a strong start to the season in 2020, rattling off four consecutive wins en route to a 13-3 season. They faced the Jets, Dolphins and Raiders in three of their first four games, and though the Dolphins and Raiders ended up having solid seasons, the Bills were lucky to get each team before they hit their grooves.
Of course, that’s not to say that the Bills had a cupcake schedule. They played some tough teams and managed some thrilling wins thanks to the improvement of Allen and McDermott’s rock-solid defense. That’s what allowed them to go deep into the playoffs and drop 56 on the Dolphins in what was a must-win Week 17 game for their divisional rival.
The Bills’ schedule in ’21 doesn’t look too bad for them as a whole. They have some tough road games against three playoff teams from last season, but they also get to play five warm weather/dome teams in Buffalo. That could bode well for them depending on what the weather is like on those game days in Buffalo.
Bills strength of schedule
When looking at least year’s records, the Bills’ schedule doesn’t look too difficult. They’re facing teams that had a combined 130-142 record. That makes for a 0.478 strength of schedule marker, which ranks 23rd in the NFL.
Of course, some of the teams on the docket for them are bound to improve. Within the division, the Patriots and Jets should be better after drafting first-round QBs and adding talent in free agency and the draft, and with an extra year under his belt, Tua Tagovailoa and the Dolphins could threaten the Bills and earn some wins.
Toughest Tests: The Bills have a daunting road schedule this year, and that could limit their overall upside. They have four road contests that could be especially challenging. Notably, their games against last year’s Super Bowl participants, the Bucs and the Chiefs, could prove difficult, as the Chiefs were able to beat them by double figures in the playoffs while the Bucs may be able to render them one-dimensional if their run defense is among the league’s best once again.
Traveling to the Superdome to take on the Saints won’t be easy either. New Orleans may be in a rebuild, but the Saints have one of the best home crowds in the league. Playing the Patriots on the road is never easy either, and after dropping both games to the Bills last year, Bill Belichick will be after some revenge in that one.
Biggest Breaks: The Bills have a big-time home-field weather advantage in Buffalo. Thus, since the team is taking on five teams that are used to warmer weather and playing in domes (the Colts, Dolphins, Falcons, Panthers and Texans), that could work out in their favor.
Of the contests on their schedule, that game against the Texans looks mighty appetizing for the Bills. They’ll either be able to take on a team that is led by Deshaun Watson and not much else, or Tyrod Taylor or Davis Mills will be at the helm of the team. Either way, that roster isn’t good, they’re a dome team, and they’re coming to Buffalo. There’s no such thing as a sure win in the NFL, but this looks as close to one as you may find.
Bottom Line: Buffalo’s schedule is a bit of a mixed bag this year. On the one hand, their home schedule isn’t terribly difficult. Could the Colts and the Steelers be tough tests? Sure, but the rest of the schedule isn’t too bad. Washington, another first-place team from last year on the Bills’ schedule, had a losing record.
On the other hand, the road games this year will be very tough for Buffalo. It’s easy to imagine them having issues with the Bucs, Chiefs, Patriots and Saints because of how tough those teams are to play against and their home stadium environments. In addition to those four, they have two more divisional games against the Dolphins and Jets, and those could prove to be trickier than expected.
Still, the Bills should be favored to win the AFC East again. They have the best roster in the division and did well to add depth in the trenches during the 2021 NFL Draft. With a tougher schedule, it may be a bit more difficult for them to earn wins compared to last year, but they are the prohibitive favorites in the AFC East.
Record Prediction: 12-5