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The Buffalo Bills' schedule sets up as well as they could have hoped in their quest to take a significant step forward and have a winning season.

That doesn't mean they're guaranteed to get better. That doesn't mean it's easy or that they're good enough to count any games as guaranteed wins.

However, it means the opportunity is there to have a winning season -- if the Bills' brain trust is right and "they're knocking on the door," as general manager Doug Whaley said last week.

The Bills have two of their first three games and five of their first eight at home. They play only one playoff team from last season (San Diego) in their first five games and two in their first eight (with New England being the other). The games against San Diego and New England both are at home.

With quarterback EJ Manuel beginning his second season, the schedule gives the Bills a chance to build some momentum the first half of the season. If they had all their hardest games early and started out 1-4, for instance, that would be a very bad scenario. It would increase doubts and pressure on Manuel and everyone on the team from outside and inside the locker room.

They have a young offense in its second season together. They should not be out of the hunt at midseason.

The end of the schedule is hard. They play at Denver on Dec. 7, home vs. Green Bay on Dec. 14, a cross-country road trip at Oakland on Dec. 21 and at New England on Dec. 28. Las Vegas oddsmakers would have them going 1-3 or maybe even 0-4 in that stretch. But three of those four games potentially are bad-weather games.

If you have the weaker team, weather is a potential equalizer. The Bills certainly would have a better chance against Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers in Orchard Park in December than in September. Maybe there will be 40-mph winds that day, which will reduce his chances of throwing four touchdown passes. Ditto Denver's Peyton Manning. The Bills are better off playing New England at the end of the year, too.  The Bills and Pats played in a torrential rain storm to end the season last year. If the Bills could have at least contained the run - granted, they didn't - the game would have been close. Tom Brady wasn't passing for a lot of yards that day.

There are no three-game road trips. The have only one short-week game. If the Bills are better in 2014, the breakdown schedule doesn't create any added burdens for them.