Bills' 2017 schedule avoids Patriots, Dolphins until December

LeSean McCoy and the Bills could be smiling in 2017 after he rushed for 1,267 yards and 13 scores during his second season with the team in 2016. Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL has released its 2017 regular-season schedule. Here's a look at what's in store for the Buffalo Bills.

Breakdown: The Bills are catching a break in having four key AFC East games all fall in December. Buffalo won't have to worry about division foes New England or Miami -- who both made the playoffs last season -- until the final five weeks of the season, which is the ideal scenario for new coach Sean McDermott. Any first-year coach needs time to adjust to the new gig, and the first three months of the season will provide an opportunity for McDermott, his assistant coaches and players to work out kinks in their system. There will be some tough games along the way (Week 4 at Atlanta, Week 8 vs. Oakland and Week 12 at Kansas City among them), but if all goes well, McDermott will be able to gauge his team's progress when the Patriots come to New Era Field on Dec. 3. That is preferred over having to play New England right off the bat, as then-Bills coach Doug Marrone did in his 2013 debut.

Many matinées: Although flexible scheduling could eventually change the times of their games, the Bills will enter the season with 14 contests that begin at 1 p.m. ET, along with a trip to Los Angeles that begins at 1:05 p.m. PT. That means only one of their games is likely to reach a national television audience: a Thursday night trip Week 9 to play the New York Jets. That will mark the third consecutive year those two teams have met on Thursday night, but unlike the past two meetings, there will not be Rex Ryan to spice up the conversation. The Bills are back to being an afterthought on the national stage -- until they start winning.

No extra rest: In some recent years, the Bills have expressed displeasure with facing several teams coming off extra rest, especially those with a bye week prior to playing Buffalo. The team published a story on its website in 2013 titled, "NFL scheduling in need of regulations," and in 2015, Ryan made note of a similar issue with that season's schedule. In 2017, the Bills will not face any team coming off its bye week, and they only play one team -- the Raiders in Week 8 -- coming off a Thursday night game the week prior.

Strength of schedule: 5th, .561

Bills’ regular-season schedule (All times Eastern)

  • Week 1: Sunday, Sept. 10, N.Y. Jets, 1 p.m.

  • Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 17, at Carolina, 1 p.m.

  • Week 3: Sunday, Sept. 24, Denver, 1 p.m.

  • Week 4: Sunday, Oct. 1, at Atlanta, 1 p.m.

  • Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 8, at Cincinnati, 1 p.m.

  • Week 6: BYE

  • Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 22, Tampa Bay, 1 p.m.

  • Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 29, Oakland, 1 p.m.

  • Week 9: Thursday, Nov. 2, at N.Y. Jets, 8:25 p.m.

  • Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 12, New Orleans, 1 p.m.

  • Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 19, at Los Angeles Chargers, 4:05 p.m.

  • Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 26, at Kansas City, 1 p.m.

  • Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 3, New England, 1 p.m.

  • Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 10, Indianapolis, 1 p.m.

  • Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 17, Miami, 1 p.m.

  • Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 24, at New England, 1 p.m.

  • Week 17: Sunday, Dec. 31, at Miami, 1 p.m.