It was easy to remember what time the Buffalo Bills played between the years 2000-2017. If you turned on a television between the hours of 1pm-4pm on a Sunday between September to December you were almost certain to watch the Bills stumble their way to another losing season, stacking years to one of the most embarrassing droughts in professional sports. I’ll never forget waiting for the schedule to be released and seeing this beauty of a schedule back in 2010:
Sixteen straight 1pm kickoffs. That’s when I knew that the Buffalo Bills were the laughingstock of the league. Even in 2017 after breaking the playoff drought, the league rewarded the Bills with only one primetime game, a Monday night matchup with Tom Brady and the Patriots. Fans longed for the relevance, and the respect, that the franchise had in the 90’s. After all, when a team wins four consecutive AFC Championships, it is impossible to ignore them. It’s why we as fans put so much into these schedule releases: it is the affirmation from the league that this is a franchise worthy of “representing the shield” in the regular seasons’ biggest moments.
All of this leads us to today. The Bills, fresh off of four 8pm primetime games, and one premier 4:25 CBS game of the week during the 2021 season have even brighter lights on them this year. 2022 will include five 8pm primetime games, a Thanksgiving game, and two possible Saturday flex games. As of today, the Bills have only 8 of their 17 games scheduled for a 1pm kickoff.
Season Opener @ LA Rams
This is the one that takes the cake in terms of respect from the league. The NFL chose the Buffalo Bills to open the 2022 season against the defending champion Los Angeles Rams. The season opener is one of the most watched games of the year for the league and the Bills are getting the star treatment for this one. After the way the season ended, it seems noteworthy that it is the Bills who will be sitting in the visiting locker room as the Rams raise their banner. It is the perfect start to a season that the team is referring to as “unfinished business.”
Thanksgiving Day @ Detroit
The Thanksgiving game and the aforementioned opener are the two that really solidify to me how much adoration the league has for the Bills. The Bills will have now played on back-to-back Thanksgivings, and they round out the three time slots with the early 12:30 kickoff. This will be the 3rd time in 4 years the Bills are featured on Turkey Day. Again, this is not normal activity for the league to give one team so much exposure on Thanksgiving. For years fans dreamed of the Bills playing in a Thanksgiving game, and now the team has a chance to make a clean sweep of the three games played on the holiday.
Let’s not forget this newfound respect from the league office comes just months after Josh Allen and the Bills forced the NFL to literally change their overtime rules in the postseason. The Buffalo Bills are making waves in this league once again, enjoy this ride because we know relevance in this league can leave as quickly as it arrived.