2016 Buffalo Bills game-by-game predictions

What does Rex Ryan like about the Buffalo Bills' 2016 schedule? He told WGR 550 that he's happy about playing three consecutive home games in December, especially against a warm-weather team such as the Dolphins. Still, he acknowledged that there is a "salty" opening stretch that includes a trip to Baltimore -- one of the toughest places to play, according to Ryan -- for the opener, as well as back-to-back games against the Cardinals and Patriots in Weeks 3 and 4.

He's right. The Bills' schedule is a mixed bag that includes some ideal features (a bye week following a West Coast trip to Seattle; no games against teams coming off bye weeks) and some tougher aspects (three consecutive games against 2015 playoff teams in late October and early November). It will be a grind for the Bills, but I believe they are capable of a 9-7 record and on the fringe of a playoff berth.

Week 1: Sunday, Sept. 11 at Baltimore Ravens, 1 p.m. ET

These aren't your 2015 Ravens, and having Joe Flacco and Terrell Suggs return to the lineup will pose problems for the Bills in Rex Ryan's and Tyrod Taylor's return to their old stomping grounds. It should be close, but I'll give the edge to the Ravens. Record: 0-1

Week 2: Thursday, Sept. 15 vs. New York Jets, 8:25 p.m. ET

The quick turnaround won't be easy, but Ralph Wilson Stadium should be raucous for a prime-time home opener against a division rival. The only question is where Ryan will throw his headset in celebration to cap his first win of the season. Record: 1-1

Week 3: Sunday, Sept. 25 vs. Arizona Cardinals, 1 p.m. ET

This is one of the toss-up games of the season. I could see the Bills playing well against a tough NFC opponent -- as they did against Green Bay in 2014 -- or I could see their weaker points being exposed. The Cardinals' aging offensive core of Carson Palmer, Chris Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald is nearing the end of the road, so I'll give this one to Buffalo. Record: 2-1

Week 4: Sunday, Oct. 2 at New England Patriots, 1 p.m. ET

After the Bills lost their first 12 games in Gillette Stadium, from 2002 through 2013, they caught a break by playing Jimmy Garoppolo in the second half of their 2014 finale and earning their first win in the venue. Could their second win also come against Garoppolo? It's quite possible, if Tom Brady's four-game suspension is reinstated by a federal court. Record: 3-1

Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 9 at Los Angeles Rams, 4:25 p.m. ET

On paper, the Bills should win this one. Yet this has the makings of a letdown game after a potential win in New England. The Bills' first West Coast swing of the season ends in disappointment. Record: 3-2

Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 16 vs. San Francisco 49ers, 1 p.m. ET

The 49ers were a mess last season. The only intrigue in this one will be LeSean McCoy vs. Chip Kelly, part II. Otherwise, it should be an easy Bills win. Record: 4-2

Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 23 at Miami Dolphins, 1 p.m. ET

Speaking of floundering teams, the Dolphins haven't posed much of a match for the Bills in recent seasons. This is a take-care-of-business game against a divisional opponent, and the Bills can gain some momentum before a tough three-game stretch. Record: 5-2

Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 30 vs. Patriots, 1 p.m. ET

This begins the let's-get-serious part of the schedule. If the Bills want to be rock-solid playoff contenders and not the butt of "in the hunt" jokes for the final month of the season, winning against New England on home turf would be huge. Getting Brady to throw for fewer than 466 yards, as he did in Buffalo last season, would be a great place to start, but that's easier said than done. Record: 5-3

Week 9: Monday, Nov. 7 at Seattle Seahawks, 8:30 p.m. ET

The Bills will get an extra day of rest after their clash with the Patriots, but their task doesn't get any easier with another long plane flight and one of the NFL's loudest stadiums on the docket. It's tough to pick the Bills in a game such as this until they actually rise to the occasion, and they haven't done that often in recent seasons. Record: 5-4

Week 10: Bye week

Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 20 at Cincinnati Bengals, 1 p.m. ET

If the Patriots and Seahawks weren't difficult enough opponents, the Bengals pose plenty of problems of their own for the Bills. Although they didn't make the playoff run some expected last season, I see Cincinnati as a team that has its young core in place on both sides of the ball. This could be one of the toughest draws of the season. Record: 5-5

Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 27 vs. Jacksonville Jaguars, 1 p.m. ET

What better team to cure the Bills' ills than the Jaguars? Well, that wasn't true last season, but this game will be at home and shouldn't be a repeat of last year's nightmare in London. Record: 6-5

Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 4 at Oakland Raiders, 4:05 p.m. ET

The Bills haven't won in the Oakland Coliseum since Nov. 24, 1966, when Lyndon B. Johnson was president and the Super Bowl didn't exist yet. Eight presidents and 50 Super Bowls later, that changes. Record: 7-5

Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 11 vs. Pittsburgh Steelers, 1 p.m. ET

This good news? This begins the Bills' comfy December slate of three consecutive home games. The bad news? The Steelers, with Ben Roethlisberger, Le'Veon Bell and Antonio Brown, are a force. Record: 7-6

Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 18 vs. Cleveland Browns, 1 p.m. ET

The most recent time the Browns traveled to Buffalo, in 2014, Johnny Manziel scored his first career touchdown. You might have heard of him. Browns fans wished they hadn't. Record: 8-6

Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 24 vs. Dolphins, 1 p.m. ET

The Dolphins most recently played a December game in Buffalo in 2013, and Miami managed just 14 rushing yards and 89 passing yards against Mike Pettine's defense that day. A smiling Pettine later declared in the locker room, "That was a pretty good beating." Yes, it was, and his old boss, Rex Ryan, will want to top that. Record: 9-6

Week 17: Sunday, Jan. 1 at Jets, 1 p.m. ET

Rex Ryan told WGR 500 on Thursday that he wouldn't be surprised if this game has significant playoff implications. Given my predictions to this point, I agree. But if the Jets can get half-decent play from their quarterback, they could be a team that proves hard to beat on home turf in such a must-win game. This one would sting for Ryan. Record: 9-7