August trades knock Buffalo Bills' record prediction down to 5-11

When the NFL schedule was released in April, I predicted the Buffalo Bills would finish the 2017 season with a 6-10 record. My colleagues were not as generous, with their predictions for each game amounting to a 4-12 aggregate record. After last month's unexpected trades of wide receiver Sammy Watkins and cornerback Ronald Darby, I've knocked one game off the Bills' victory total in my latest prediction.

Week 1: Sunday, Sept. 10, vs. New York Jets, 1 p.m. ET

Jets reporter Rich Cimini already has dubbed this the "Tank Bowl." The Bills do not appear headed to the playoffs in 2017, but the Jets are still the less talented team. Buffalo wins this one but loses ground in the race for potential top 2018 quarterback prospect Sam Darnold. Record: 1-0

Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 17, at Carolina Panthers, 1 p.m. ET

The Panthers' front office was in flux this offseason after the abrupt July firing of general manager Dave Gettleman. While there are long-term questions about the organization, I do not believe the GM change will affect them on the field in 2017. If Cam Newton returns to his 2015 form, he will be hard to stop. Record: 1-1

Week 3: Sunday, Sept. 24, vs. Denver Broncos, 1 p.m. ET

I picked this as a Bills win in my April predictions, but it was one of the closest calls of the season. I do not like the Broncos' quarterback situation (does anyone?), but Denver's defense under first-year coach Vance Joseph still poses problems. Without Watkins, I see top Broncos cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Chris Harris Jr. shutting down the Bills' passing game. Record: 1-2

Week 4: Sunday, Oct. 1, at Atlanta Falcons, 1 p.m. ET

Outside of the Bills' annual trip to Gillette Stadium, this easily qualifies as the Bills' toughest road trip of the year. The last time Matt Ryan faced Sean McDermott's defense in Atlanta -- in Week 4 of last season, when the Buffalo head coach was Carolina's defensive coordinator -- he passed for 503 yards and four touchdowns. Record: 1-3

Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 8, at Cincinnati Bengals, 1 p.m. ET

Last November's trip to Cincinnati was a battle of two mediocre teams in which Buffalo did less to lose. This time, I see a healthy A.J. Green being the difference against a Bills secondary that has been completely turned over since last season. Record: 1-4

Week 6: BYE

Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 22, vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 1 p.m. ET

McDermott's defense rose up against Jameis Winston in last season's finale, with the Panthers holding Winston to a 57 percent completion rate and 71.4 rating. The Buccaneers finished 9-7 last season, and they seem to be on the rise, but I like McDermott's chances at New Era Field in this one. Record: 2-4

Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 29, vs. Oakland Raiders, 1 p.m. ET

The Raiders have befuddled the Bills in recent meetings, defeating Buffalo in Oakland in 2014 and 2016. Now the Raiders make the cross-country trip east, and I see Derek Carr and Amari Cooper being too much for McDermott's retooling defense to handle. Record: 2-5

Week 9: Thursday, Nov. 2, at New York Jets, 8:25 p.m. ET

The Bills' lone prime-time game of the season has the makings of a snoozefest between two rebuilding teams. What is the over/under on Darnold references during the television broadcast? Record: 3-5

Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 12, vs. New Orleans Saints, 1 p.m. ET

Another high-octane offense comes to New Era Field, and until I see actual results from McDermott's defense, it's hard to pick against Drew Brees in this one. He had his best game last season -- 465 passing yards and four touchdowns -- against McDermott and the Panthers. Record: 3-6

Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 19, at Los Angeles Chargers, 4:05 p.m. ET

Former Bills interim coach Anthony Lynn gets a chance to beat his old team, and I like his chances. Lynn has an established quarterback in Philip Rivers and will catch the Bills in the latter stages of the season on a West Coast trip. Record: 3-7

Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 26, at Kansas City Chiefs, 1 p.m. ET

In a battle of mentor, Andy Reid, and former pupil, McDermott, the old boss has the edge. In the long term, however, the Bills could be the winners of their 2017 draft-day trade with the Chiefs that netted them Kansas City's 2018 first-round pick. Record: 3-8

Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 3, vs. New England Patriots, 1 p.m. ET

The Patriots? Who are they? After avoiding New England through the first three months of the season, winter in Buffalo will begin with Tom Brady's 16th career trip to New Era Field. He has lost there only twice, in 2003 and 2011. Record: 3-9

Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 10, vs. Indianapolis Colts, 1 p.m. ET

The Colts might eventually get back on track under new general manager Chris Ballard, but I don't see it happening as soon as 2017. This has the makings of a late-season dud. Record: 4-9

Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 17, vs. Miami Dolphins, 1 p.m. ET

This will be the sixth time in the past seven years that Miami has traveled to Buffalo in November or December. Unlike last Christmas Eve, when Rex Ryan's crew forgot to put an 11th defensive player on the field for a critical overtime play, the Bills will have their stuff straight. Record: 5-9

Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 24, at New England Patriots, 1 p.m. ET

In 15 years, the Bills have yet to win at Gillette Stadium when Brady plays a full game. Perhaps the Patriots will have locked up their playoff spot by this point and have taken their foot off the gas, but chances are that AFC seeding will be in play. Record: 5-10

Week 17: Sunday, Dec. 31, at Miami Dolphins, 1 p.m. ET

In April, I gave this one to the Dolphins because I felt as though second-year coach Adam Gase had his team on track to make the playoffs. Ryan Tannehill's season-ending injury could change that, as I have no idea what the Dolphins will get out of Jay Cutler. Whether this is a win or loss for the Bills, it will not change the outcome of their season. Record: 5-11