ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Regular-season schedules generally stagger in the NFL. Rarely can players plan to spend nearly a month and a half at home, so this upcoming stretch for the Buffalo Bills is significant.
They play five of their next six at New Era Field, a stretch sweetened by their Week 6 bye. They are in the midst of the league's easiest schedule to start the season and play host to the Cincinnati Bengals in their home opener on Sunday (1 p.m. ET, CBS) before welcoming the New England Patriots to town in Week 4.
"I'm just looking at one game right now, honestly," coach Sean McDermott said. "We're just trying to improve guys right now. ... I don't know about five games from now -- all I know is who we play this week, and that's where our focus is."
McDermott's response is on-brand, but it's difficult not to consider the potential effect of this lengthy stretch.
Buffalo's next six opponents have a combined record of 4-8 and include a trio of winless teams -- the Bengals (Week 3), Miami Dolphins (Week 7) and Washington Redskins (Week 9). Buffalo is off to a 2-0 start with both wins coming on the road (it beat the New York Jets and New York Giants in the Meadowlands at MetLife Stadium), building some momentum and a little character before returning home to, ideally, establish a rhythm.
"It's nice knowing we started off on the road and were able to handle adversity," safety Kurt Coleman said. "Some of the teams that I've been on that have been really good [have shown me] -- you have to be able to win on the road. Then at home, you defend your own home. It's going to be exciting for this city, for us to kind of get in our zone.
"You don't have to worry about traveling; we just have to worry about taking care of our job one week at a time."
Coleman, now in his 10th NFL season, said he enjoys playing in front of the home crowd but actually prefers playing on the road -- during the regular season, at least -- because of what road games can do for a team's makeup.
"There's an added element to that, going into a hostile environment," Coleman said. "I think it builds a callous ... especially if you want to make a playoff run. When you're in the playoffs, obviously you want that No. 1 seed, but more likely than not, you're going to be [seeded] two through six.
"You want everything to come through home, but being able to win on the road -- it just puts a whole new fear into other teams."
Starting left tackle Dion Dawkins said he has no preference in how a schedule is set up. As he put it, NFL teams can beat you no matter where you play.
"What I say to it is, who cares?" he said. "The NFL, every week is hard -- regardless of what happened the year before. Teams change drastically every year, so that stuff does not matter at all."
The Bills will get their chance to build the callouses Coleman referenced after this upcoming stretch. They'll play at home just three times during their final eight games, a span that includes a Thanksgiving game in Dallas, trips to face the Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers, and a road rematch with the Patriots.
Three of those teams won at least nine games last season.