Bills get a break

ROB LONGLEY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:22 AM ET

The Buffalo Bills will get a chance early in the 2005 NFL season to see if they are playoff material.

Later in the schedule, which was released yesterday, football fans will learn whether they are ready for prime time.

The Bills, who haven't made the post-season since 1999, are coming off their first winning season since, a 9-7 showing a year ago.

Second-year coach Mike Mularkey's team opens at home for the sixth consecutive year when it faces the improving Houston Texans at Ralph Wilson Stadium on Sept. 11.

The game is expected to mark the debut of the J.P. Losman era. Bills management handed the ball to the 2004 first-round draft pick in the off-season, abruptly ending Drew Bledsoe's run at quarterback. Bledsoe, meanwhile, begins his life as a Dallas Cowboy on the road against Drew Brees and the San Diego Chargers in Week 1.

For the first time in five seasons, the Bills will play host to a prime-time game when the Denver Broncos visit the Ralph on Saturday, Dec. 17. The Bills also play a night road game when they face the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots in Foxboro, Mass., on Oct. 30.

Superstar quarterback Michael Vick will make his first appearance in Buffalo when his Atlanta Falcons are the opponent on Sept. 25.

After struggling out of the gate in 2004 the Bills get, what on paper anyway, appears to be a soft start. Of their first five opponents, only the Falcons had a winning record in 2004.

Other league-wide schedule highlights:

- Keeping with the new NFL policy of having the Super Bowl champs open the season on a Thursday night, New England plays host to the Oakland Raiders on Sept. 8.

- New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning will return to San Diego for a prime-time game on Sept. 25 to face the Chargers, the team he snubbed following the 2004 draft.

- On Oct. 2. the San Francisco 49ers and Arizona Cardinals meet in Mexico City in the first regular-season game to be played outside the U.S.

- The MNF schedule opens with a bang as the Philadelphia Eagles face the Falcons in Atlanta in a rematch of the NFC Championship.

- Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts must travel to New England where they lost four times in the past two seasons (twice in the playoffs). The AFC Championship rematch is a MNF special on Nov. 7.


Videos

Photos