NFL Data Expert: Four-week Gauntlet could cost Bills fifth straight AFC East title

The Buffalo Bills are one of only four NFL teams required to play three straight road games in 2024 and will face top-tier quarterbacks at each stop.
Sep 11, 2023; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; New York Jets linebacker C.J. Mosley (57) pressures
Sep 11, 2023; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; New York Jets linebacker C.J. Mosley (57) pressures / Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

The Buffalo Bills received no favors from the NFL schedule-makers.

Despite being spared the requirement to play on Thanksgiving, Christmas or internationally, the Bills were dealt a brutal three-game road stretch that starts on a short week in September. Adding to the challenge, all three road bouts feature opponents with top-level starting quarterbacks.

Buffalo is one of only four NFL teams - joining the Cleveland Browns, Chicago Bears and Minnesota Vikings - required to contest three consecutive away games. Out of the quartet, only Cleveland faces a harder strength of schedule overall than Buffalo. The Bills are tied for the sixth most-difficult schedule in the league in terms of opponents' 2023 win percentage (.516).

Buffalo's tough stretch kicks off on a Monday night in Week 3 with the Jacksonville Jaguars visiting Orchard Park.

From that primetime home game, the Bills travel to Baltimore where they'll battle against reigning NFL MVP Lamar Jackson and the Ravens on the September 29 edition of Sunday Night Football.

Next, it's off to Houston where Buffalo will meet the reigning AFC South champion Texans and NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year CJ Stroud.

Finally, the road swing concludes on Monday Night Football in New Jersey's Meadowlands. Attempting to win at MetLife Stadium for the first time in three seasons, the Bills will face four-time NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers and the highly heralded Jets.

NFL data analyst Cynthia Frelund suggests the three-game stretch could wind up costing the Bills a fifth consecutive AFC East crown. Her projections place the Miami Dolphins at 10.2 wins and the Bills at an even 10.0, but she notes that the schedule arrangement costed Buffalo 0.3 wins in her simulations.

"The Bills follow up their Week 3 Monday night clash against the Jaguars with a challenging three-game road trip (Ravens, Texans, Jets) that drove down their win probability by almost 0.3 games from before my models factored in their 2024 schedule -- and that's not even their hardest stretch! Their most difficult sequence occurs from Weeks 11-15: Chiefs, bye, 49ers, at Rams, at Lions."

Ralph Ventre