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Bills game in TO, prime time?

The NFL regular-season schedule gets released at 7 p.m. today. The Bills have not been on Monday Night Football in the past two years. The NFL Network is expanding its schedule of prime-time games this season. It will air a Thursday night game every week from Week 2 to Week 12 in the schedule. Last year it aired a Thursday night game seven straight weeks from the 10th to 16th weeks on the schedule. Every NFL team will be guaranteed at least one prime-time game, but that includes Thursday nighters on the NFL Network (which much of Western New York still does not get, although any Bills game on NFLN would also be on an over-the-air station.)

The Bills' four regular-season opponents in Toronto so far have been: Miami, the Jets, Chicago and Washington. No doubt the Bills and their fans do NOT want to see an AFC East game in the Rogers Centre. Presuming the NFL goes along with that idea, the following teams would be TO candidates:

Jacksonville, Tennessee, Kansas City, St. Louis and Seattle.

From the Bills' competitive perspective, the best choices would be St. Louis or Seattle, non-conference foes. The results would have the least impact on any playoff race. From the perspective of creating the best buzz for Toronto fans, the top choices would be New England or the Jets (with Tim Tebow). But there's no way the Bills would allow the NE game to leave Orchard Park.

The obvious top prime-time candidates would be New England, at Houston (Mario Williams' return to face the Texans) or the rivalry game against the Jets. Or perhaps the road game at San Francisco, the most elite team on the Bills' schedule besides New England.

While New England is an obivous prime-time choice for Buffalo, there are a lot of marquee games on the Pats' schedule. The networks are sure to have fought over the visit by Denver and Peyton Manning to New England. Pats-Jets always is a big game. The Pats also host the 49ers and visit the Ravens.

The Bills get what looks like a scheduling edge over the Pats and Jets in terms of the two standing-based opponents in 2012. Buffalo gets the Chiefs and Browns. The Pats get Manning's Broncos and the Ravens. The Jets get Pittsburgh and Oakland.

---Mark Gaughan


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