By Tim Graham
The NFL regular season doesn't begin for nearly three months, and already the Buffalo Bills are complaining about their schedule.
BuffaloBills.com has produced a breakdown of how unfair their 2013 schedule is and calls on the NFL to change its procedures for assembling 256 regular-season dates, sites and kickoff times.
"While we all realize the perfect NFL schedule is almost impossible to achieve," writes Chris Brown of BuffaloBills.com, "it's hard to think that a league that is typically ahead of the curve doesn't realize how much this year's NFL schedule is slanted against the Bills and Falcons."
The team's official site analyzed all 32 schedules and found Buffalo is "disadvantaged" a league-high six times because opponents are coming off extra rest (a Thursday night game or a bye week).
The Atlanta Falcons have four such games. The Arizona Cardinals, Carolina Panthers, New York Giants, Oakland Raiders, Philadelphia Eagles and Tampa Bay Buccaneers have three apiece.
Brown writes that facing an opponent with extra preparation time is "a decided disadvantage, one that the league must strive to correct" and that "It's very difficult to call the NFL a league of parity when there's one team with half of their division games against clubs with extra time to rest and prepare, while another in the same division has none. The league simply has to do better."
Those are fair points, but not mentioned in the piece is that the Bills get extra consideration from NFL schedule-makers.
The Bills outsource one of their home games to Toronto every year for a healthy payday, but they don't want it to be against a division opponent or a team that will draw well at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
That handcuffs the league to a certain extent. The Bills will play their fourth straight Toronto game against an NFC opponent. For that to happen, there are only two possible inter-conference options each season.
Also, Bills management doesn't like December home games. Tickets don't sell.
The NFL helped Buffalo (intentionally or not) by front-loading the schedule with home dates. Four of their first six games will be in Orchard Park.
When you factor in the Toronto game, the Bills have only one November date and one December date in Ralph Wilson Stadium.
That's about as optimal a schedule as the Bills' box office could hope for.
You can't have everything.