Bucs, Saints in mix to be Bills’ opponent in Toronto

DANA POINT, Calif. — The NFL is still sorting through potential opponents to face the Buffalo Bills in Toronto this season.

A source at the league meetings says the list includes at least one team, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, that isn’t nearly as sexy as the one I had reported last week was a leading candidate — the Indianapolis Colts.

The Colts clearly were one of the biggest-drawing cards on the Bills’ schedule because of their marquee quarterback, Peyton Manning, and consistent success. However, the NFL appears to be leaning more strongly in the direction of choosing an NFC team, such as the Buccaneers (who have yet to settle on a starting quarterback) or perhaps the New Orleans Saints, who have Pro Bowler Drew Brees under center. At least one other unknown team is believed to be on the short list.

Most fans who regularly attend games at Ralph Wilson Stadium aren’t at all happy about any regular-season Bills games being played elsewhere, but based on sports-talk radio chatter and other feedback, they would be less bothered if that game involved a non-conference opponent. The prevailing feeling in Western New York was that facing the Miami Dolphins last season in Toronto’s Rogers Centre, which has a retractable roof that was closed, nullified the Bills’ bad-weather advantage in December. And there has been plenty of buzz among Buffalo fans that the Colts, as an indoor team, would also feel too cozy in the Rogers Centre.

It was originally speculated that the league would make an announcement about the game during the meetings, but that is not expected to be the case.

By the way, Ralph Wilson, the Bills’ 90-year-old owner, is not attending the meetings after suffering a shoulder injury from a spill he took in his home. It’s too bad, because not only is he missing out on all of the face-to-face congratulations he would have received for his induction last month into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but he also won’t get to see a wonderful display celebrating the 50th anniversary of the founding of the American Football League that the Hall has set up at the hotel that is hosting the meetings. The display includes two pictures of Wilson.

Vic Carucci

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