The NFL releases its 2013 schedule tonight, at 8 p.m. EDT.
That’s when we’ll find out which team Buffalo will face in the sixth annual Bills-in-Toronto series, and on what day.
Until then, let’s speculate on the who and the when.
As for the when …
Expect it to be in December.
By my figuring, only two Sundays likely would work in September, October or November. But December is wiiiiide open. Here’s why, re Rogers Centre availability, along with my suppositions:
WEEK 1, Sunday Sept. 8 –No. Booked for Weekend to End Women’s Cancer event
WEEK 2, Sunday Sept 15 — No. Blue Jays game
WEEK 3, Sunday Sept 22 — AVAILABLE
WEEK 4, Sunday Sept. 29 –No. Blue Jays game
WEEK 5, Sunday Oct. 6 — Unlikely. Less than 48 hours after an Argos game
WEEK 6, Sunday Oct. 13 — Unlikely. Canadian Thanksgiving weekend
WEEK 7, Sunday Oct. 20 — Unlikely. Reserved for potential Blue Jays playoffs
WEEK 8, Sunday Oct. 27 — AVAILABLE. 3 days after an Argos game
WEEK 9, Sunday Nov. 3 — Unlikely. Less than 48 hours after an Argos game
WEEK 10, Sunday Nov 10 — No. Reserved for potential Argos playoff game
WEEK 11, Sunday Nov 17 — No. Reserved for potential Argos playoff game
WEEK 12, Sunday Nov 24 — No. Grey Cup Sunday. NFL wouldn’t cut CFL’s grass that day.
WEEK 13, Sunday Dec. 1 — AVAILABLE
WEEK 14, Sunday Dec. 8 — AVAILABLE
WEEK 15, Sunday Dec. 15 — AVAILABLE
WEEK 16, Sunday Dec. 22 — AVAILABLE
WEEK 17, Sunday Dec. 29 — AVAILABLE
Last year’s Bills-in-Toronto game was held Dec. 16. The Seattle Seahawks crushed the Bills 50-17.
As for the who …
The Bills’ eight home opponents in 2013 — already determined — are New England, Miami, New York Jets, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Atlanta, Carolina and Kansas City. One will be relocated to Toronto’s lakefront domed stadium, formerly known as the SkyDome.
New England? No way the NFL would ever take that guaranteed sellout against the Bills’ arch-rival from Western New York.
Miami or the Jets? They’ve already had their turns in Toronto, and being AFC East rivals they sell tickets in Buffalo. So probably not.
What about the Super Bowl champion Ravens? Perhaps. Mostly for fun, I threw out the scenario last month that would have the Ravens playing the Bills in Toronto to open the NFL season on Thursday, Sept. 5. But I was told there was no chance that would happen. The Bills presumably will be a big underdog against the Ravens this year, so punting that game across the border might be palatable to all parties.
Cincinnati? Another top candidate. A playoff team, yes, but not a must-see game for Bills fans in Western New York. Would a couple thousand Bengals fans, though, scoop up tickets for a long day trip to and from Buffalo? Maybe.
The Panthers? Cam Newton presumably will bounce back with a more prolific season in Year 3. Buffalo’s loss would be Toronto’s gain. Good chance.
What about Atlanta? The Falcons almost certainly will be a powerhouse again in 2013. And there’s a compelling Canadian connection, in that Atlanta GM Thomas Dimitroff grew up down the lake in Burlington, Ont., and went to college at the University of Guelph, about an hour’s drive west of downtown Toronto.
There’s one other team, and the Bills probably want the Bills-in-Toronto opponent to be the Kansas City Chiefs. The Bills already played host to the Chiefs last year, and even the 6-10 Bills crushed 2012′s worst NFL team. It was Buffalo’s home opener. The Chiefs game this year would unlikely sell out the Ralph, unless it’s the home opener again — because who the hell in Western New York wants to see these Chiefs again?
Of the eight, I’m selfishly hoping it’s either the Falcons or Ravens, but expecting it to be the Chiefs or Panthers.
So there ya go.
We’ll find out who, and when, tonight.