The 2022 NFL season kicks off with a doozy: Super Bowl champion Rams host – in the stadium they won the big game in February – the Bills, a rare road favorite against a defending champion during a season opener. It’s two championship-caliber teams going head-to-head in one of the most anticipated NFL kick-off games in recent memory.
Matthew Stafford is looking to repeat the magic he managed to pull off with Sean McVay in their first season together, leading to the first Super Bowl victory for each.
And that’s the formula the Bills are trying to invoke this season, with one of the MVP favorites in Josh Allen fully in the middle of its peak.
The Rams are 5-0 in the first games of the season (outscoring their opponents by 83 combined points) in the McVay era, as he tries to become the first coach to win his first six games of the week 1 since Mike Shanahan in 1998. The Bills are 3-2 in early games under Sean McDermott, blowing a 10-point halftime lead a year ago in a loss to the Steelers at home.
The Bills led the NFL in both scoring and total defense in 2021. The Rams led the NFL in scoring and total defense in 2020. This is the first Week 1 game in the era of the Super Bowl between the teams that led the NFL in scoring and total. defense in each of the past two seasons.
There are storylines everywhere in this game, and the level of skill suggests we should stick to a potentially great storyline.
Here are four things to look out for when the Rams host the Bills:
- Welcome, Von. By Miller wasn’t a Ram for very long – 12 games, including the playoffs – but his impact was undeniable after come via trade from Denver, leading the Rams to a Super Bowl title and putting on a dominating performance at SoFi Stadium (two sacks) against the Bengals. Now Miller is at Buffalo, hoping to take on a defense that led the NFL in fewer points allowed in 2021 at the next level. Miller was one of the few marquee free agents the Rams were unable to re-sign, despite their efforts to do so. Miller’s mission, of course, will be to disrupt Stafford and the timing of the Rams’ passing game, often coming up against the right tackle. Rob Havensteinbecame the former OL statesman of the Rams after the retirement of Andrew Whitworthand Whitworth’s replacement, left tackle Joe Noteboom. Miller has no sack from Stafford in two career games against him before.
- Matthew Stafford’s elbow. There was a some tough times in the Rams’ camp when Stafford was limited by what McVay described as a “tricky” and “abnormal” injury, with tendonitis in his right elbow. Stafford said he had “no limitsahead of Thursday’s game, comments backed up by McVay. But we won’t really know how Stafford is feeling until we see a few live balls flying. cooper blow needed rest until opening, new acquisition Allen Robinson missed preseason and Rams traded safety blanket Robert Woods in the offseason, so the passing game may not go out the door. On the other hand, the Bills will be without their top corner, Tre’Davious Whitewho will miss the first four games as he slowly returns from ACL surgery.
- Game call change. The assumption is that the Bills, loaded with offensive talent, will simply pick up where they left off at the end of last season. But remember: The Bills had a few offensive duds in the first half of 2021, and that was with famed offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, now the Giants’ head coach. Call-of-play duties are now in the hands of Ken Dorsey, a first-time offensive coordinator after spending the past three years as Allen’s QB coach. We saw Dorsey in his bag in the Bills’ preseason against the Broncos, but this is clearly his first big test. Can Dorsey add some life to the Bills’ running game while keeping Allen and his receiving guns happy? This task starts on Thursday.
- Wild game on tap? The last time these teams met, two years ago in Buffalo, was round trip thriller — all in front of zero fans. The Bills took a 28-3 lead late in the third quarter, then trailed 32-28 in the final five minutes before winning, 35-28. Allen led the winning run and threw the TD pass with 15 seconds left. If we can get a game half as wacky in this one as it was two years ago, we should be in for a treat. These are two explosive attacks and two defenses of big players who clash. Stafford is coming off his best campaign and Allen is an MVP favorite. Kupp, who earned Super Bowl LVI MVP honors and bills’ Stefan Diggs are the league’s leaders in consecutive receptions. It certainly feels like we could see a barn burner on Thursday to help kick off the season.