When you have one of the NFL’s true superstars playing quarterback, you just played in one of the greatest playoff games in league history, and you’ve won your division two years running, the networks start paying attention.
And so it is that the Buffalo Bills are now one of the darlings for the coveted prime-time, national TV windows on the NFL schedule.
Those days of the relentless 1 p.m. Sunday afternoon starts – which, by the way, are great – are largely a thing of the past.
The league released its 2022 slate Thursday night and the Bills are scheduled to play five games in prime-time, one on Thanksgiving Day, and one in the big-ticket 4:25 p.m. spot against the Kansas City Chiefs who have become one of their fiercest rivals.
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Buffalo was selected to be the road opponent for the first game of the NFL season, the traditional Thursday night opener hosted by the defending Super Bowl champion. The Bills will play the Rams on Sept. 8 at 8:20 p.m. on NBC.
The home opener will also be in prime-time, Monday, Sept. 19 at Highmark Stadium against the Tennessee Titans on ESPN.
Later, the Bills travel to Kansas City in Week 6; they host Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay in the NBC Sunday Night Football game Oct. 30; they go to Detroit to play the first game of the Thanksgiving triple-header; they go to New England for a Thursday nighter on Dec. 1 at 8:15; and they go to Cincinnati for a Monday nighter on Jan. 2, a game that could possibly determine home-field advantage in the AFC playoffs.
Here’s the Bills 2022 schedule
Week 1: Thursday Sept. 8, at Los Angeles Rams, 8:20 p.m.
Week 2: Monday, Sept. 19, vs. Tennessee Titans, 7:15 p.m.
Week 3: Sunday, Sept. 25, at Miami Dolphins, 1 p.m.
Week 4: Sunday, Oct. 2, at Baltimore Ravens, 1 p.m.
Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 9, vs Pittsburgh Steelers, 1 p.m.
Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 16, at Kansas City Chiefs, 4:25 p.m.
Week 7: BYE
Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 30, vs Green Bay, 8:20 p.m.
Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 6, at New York Jets, 1 p.m.
Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 13, vs. Minnesota Vikings, 1 p.m.
Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 20, vs Cleveland Browns, 1 p.m.
Week 12: Thursday, Nov. 24, at Detroit Lions, 12:30 p.m.
Week 13: Thursday, Dec. 1, at New England Patriots, 8:15 p.m.
Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 11, vs New York Jets, 1 p.m.
Week 15: Dec. 17-18, vs. Miami Dolphins, TBD
Week 16: Saturday, Dec. 24, at Chicago Bears, 1 p.m.
Week 17: Monday, Jan. 2, at Cincinnati Bengals, 8:30 p.m.
Week 18: Jan. 7-8, vs. New England Patriots, TBD
Here are some observations I have on the schedule:
This is a pretty difficult start
The Bills open against the world champion Rams, then they take on the Titans who earned the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs last year, a rollicking 1-2 punch for Allen and company to deal with.
Next comes two more road games, the first at AFC East rival Miami which – given the moves it made in the offseason including adding Bills tormentor Tyreek Hill – could very well be Buffalo’s main challenger in the division. And then there’s a trip to play Lamar Jackson and the Ravens who should be improved from their 8-9 record in 2021.
That’s three of the first four on the road whereas last season, the Bills got off to a 3-1 start when they played three of their first four at home. And really, it should have been 4-0 but they somehow found a way to lose the opener at home to Pittsburgh.
Home is not for the holidays
The Bills are going to be on the road for Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve (at Chicago), and they’ll be flying to Cincinnati on New Years’ Day to play the Bengals the next night.
This will be the third year in the last four that the Bills are playing on Thanksgiving, and they will have now been scheduled in all three time slots. They played the 4:30 game at Dallas in 2019, the 8:30 game at New Orleans last year, and now the 12:30 game in Detroit.
This will be their 11th Thanksgiving game all-time, but before this recent run, they hadn’t played on the holiday since 1994 in Detroit.
With Christmas falling on a Sunday, the NFL is moving the bulk of the schedule to Saturday so the Bills’ traveling party will be home with their families for Christmas, though the same can’t be said for reporters or fans who attend the game as they will likely be flying home on Christmas morning.
Strength of schedule is challenging
Based on 2021 records, the Bills are tied with the Texans and Buccaneers for the fourth-most difficult schedule as their 2022 opponents had a cumulative winning percentage of .514.
Now, that doesn’t always mean much of anything because teams change, some drastically, from year to year. For instance, after the Bills went 13-3 in 2020, their 2021 schedule showed an uninspiring winning percentage of .478 which made Buffalo’s schedule the eighth-easiest.
However, a deeper dive revealed that five of the games were against the Jets (twice), Jaguars, Texans and Falcons who combined for a gruesome 13-67 record in 2020 which drove down the combined winning percentage.
There were five 2020 division winners on that 2021 schedule whose combined record was 78-34, and as you remember, the Bills doubled their loss total from 2020 as they went 11-6 in 2021.
This year, the Bills will again play five division winners (Rams, Packers, Chiefs, Titans and Bengals) and three of those will be on the road.
And the worst teams they’ll play based on 2021 records – the 4-13 Jets twice and the 3-13-1 Lions – are both expected to be much improved this year. The next worst team they’ll face is the 6-11 Bears.
Late road games could be critical
The Bills finish with three of their last five at home, and that could be important as they try to wrap up the division, a higher playoff seed, or even home-field advantage in the AFC bracket.
It starts with back-to-back AFC East games against the Jets and Dolphins, then the two road games at Chicago and Cincinnati.
And looming at the end are the Patriots, a rare year – at least recently – where the Bills get to play Bill Belichick’s team at home late in the schedule.
In each of coach Sean McDermott’s five seasons as head coach, the Bills have played the Patriots at home first, then had to go to Foxborough late, every one of those right around Christmas. The Bills lost the first three of those but won the last two.
Plenty of cold weather football coming
The Bills are playing two of their first three games in Los Angeles and Miami during usually elite weather time in Buffalo, so that’s not great for traveling fans who were hoping to get away from the cold weather.
Instead, the last three road games at New England, Chicago, and Cincinnati where it could be frigid for each game. That on top of the Bills playing three of their last five at home including one against Miami.
Sal Maiorana can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @salmaiorana.
This article originally appeared on Rochester Democrat and Chronicle: Buffalo Bills schedule 2022: NFL releases opponents, dates, times