The Buffalo Bills were a rumored potential opponent for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 2021 NFL Kickoff Game, but instead the Bills will open at home Sept. 12 against another marquee foe in the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Bills are one of the bigger Week 1 favorites at -6.5 on the NFL odds. Perhaps the key game on the schedule, however, is Week 5 at Kansas City in an AFC Championship rematch.
The New England Patriots ruled supreme, other than a few hiccups, over the AFC East for two decades because they had clearly the best quarterback in the division in Tom Brady. That all changed last year with TB12 in Tampa Bay and the Bills took advantage by winning their first division crown since 1995. Behind rising star and MVP candidate Josh Allen, the Bills are given an Over/Under win total of 10.5 for 2021; the SportsLine Projection Model has them winning 11.3 games in the new 17-game slate.
Buffalo's fortunes truly started changing in the 2018 NFL Draft – not including the hiring of GM Brandon Beane and Coach Sean McDermott, both of whom have been stellar – when the team took the raw but big-armed Allen at No. 7 overall. The Browns (Baker Mayfield, Denzel Ward), Giants (Saquon Barkley), Jets (San Darnold), Broncos (Bradley Chubb) and Colts (Quenton Nelson) clearly blew it by not choosing Allen – although there are some good players in there.
Allen finished a distant second to Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers in last year's NFL MVP voting following a breakout season in which Allen broke several franchise records, including total touchdowns (46), passing touchdowns (37), total yards (4,977), passing yards (4,544), passer rating (107.2), completions (396), completion percentage (69.2%) and 300-yard games (8). Thanks also to the trade for receiver Stefon Diggs, the Bills improved their scoring from 19.6 points in 2019 to 31.3 in 2020.
With the team clearly on the precipice of great things – although still perhaps a tier below Patrick Mahomes and Kansas City – the Bills were not super-active in free agency. QB Mitchell Trubisky was signed to back up Allen, and Allen got a couple of weapons in receiver Emmanuel Sanders and tight end Jacob Hollister, but for the most part Beane concentrated on re-singing his own guys like linebacker Matt Milano, cornerback Levi Wallace and offensive linemen Jon Feliciano and Daryl Williams.
After losing in the AFC title game in Kansas City, nothing short of a trip to Super Bowl 56 – the Bills haven't been back to the big game since losing a fourth straight Super Bowl following the 1993 season – will suffice this year.
The Bills' 2021 schedule is ranked as the 23nd-toughest in the league as their 17 opponents – hosting Washington is the 17th game -- were a combined 130-142-0 last season.
Buffalo Bills trends/William Hill Sportsbook odds
- 2020 record: 13-3 (11-5 against the spread, 10-4-2 Over/Under)
- 2021 strength of schedule rank: 23rd (opponents' combined winning percentage of .478)
- 2021 Over/Under win total: 10.5
- SportsLine Projection Model forecasted wins: 11.3
- Odds to win Super Bowl 56: +1300
- To win AFC: +600
- To win AFC East: -155
- To make playoffs: Yes -330, no +260
- NFL MVP odds: Josh Allen +1400
Buffalo Bills Schedule
Week 1 vs. Pittsburgh Steelers: Teams met last year in Buffalo and Bills covered (-2) in 26-15 victory
Week 2 at Miami Dolphins: Miami covered as 5.5-point dog in 31-28 home loss last year
Week 3 vs. Washington FT: Added 17th opponent; Buffalo is 7-1 SU & ATS in past eight meetings
Week 4 vs. Houston Texans: Buffalo lost 22-19 in OT in wild-card round following 2019 season in Houston
Week 5 at Kansas City Chiefs (SNF): Patrick Mahomes beat the Bills twice last year and KC covered in both
Week 6 at Tennessee Titans (MNF): Buffalo's worst game of 2020 was a 42-16 blowout loss in Nashville
Week 7 BYE
Week 8 vs. Miami Dolphins: Bills have covered seven of past 10 at home in series including in 2020 (56-26)
Week 9 at Jacksonville Jaguars: First trip to Jacksonville for Bills since 10-3 playoff loss in January 2018
Week 10 at New York Jets: Buffalo won third straight at Jets in 2020 but didn't cover in 18-10 victory
Week 11 vs. Indianapolis Colts: Indy visited Buffalo in wild-card round of last year's playoffs and lost 27-24
Week 12 at New Orleans Saints (Thanksgiving): New Orleans is on five-game SU & ATS winning streak in series
Week 13 vs. New England Patriots (MNF): Pats have covered seven of past 10 in Buffalo and did last year in 24-21 loss
Week 14 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Possible Super Bowl preview? Bills are 1-6-1 ATS in past eight meetings
Week 15 vs. Carolina Panthers: Bills are 5-2 SU & 4-2-1 ATS all-time in series vs. Panthers
Week 16 at New England Patriots: Bills got third win in past 10 trips last year in 38-9 rout
Week 17 vs. Atlanta Falcons: Buffalo won last meeting 23-17 in Atlanta four years ago
Week 18 vs. New York Jets: Buffalo ended two-game home ATS losing streak with 27-17 win last year
Where does every player appear in our 2021 Fantasy football rankings? And which rookie quarterback will provide shocking value? Join SportsLine right now to get 2021 Fantasy football rankings, all from the model that simulated the entire season 10,000 times.