Bills at Rams: Time, channel, how to watch, key matches, picks for Week 1 ‘Thursday Night Football’ showdown

The 2022 NFL season is finally here. There will be a total of 272 games played this season before getting to the playoffs, and the first of those games will see the defending champion Los Angeles Rams start their superbowl defense of the title by welcoming one of the favorites of this season, the Buffalo Tickets — at SoFi Stadium Thursday night.

In what projects to be an exciting first contest, we will see stars all over the field. Of Josh Allen and Stefan Diggs at Matthew Stafford and cooper blowand Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey at By Miller and Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde, the grid will be teeming with some of the best players in the league. There could hardly be a better way to open this campaign.

Before we start breaking down the game, here’s how you can watch the game on Thursday night.

How to watch

Date: Thursday September 8 | Time: 8:20 p.m. ET
Location: SoFi Stadium (Inglewood, CA)
BNC | Flow: fuboTV (Click here)
Follow: CBS Sports App
Odds: Bills -2.5, O/U 52

When the Bills have the ball

Before discussing the different stars around which the clashes on this side of the ball will orbit, it is important to talk about structure.

No defense in the league played more early snaps (first and second) with six or fewer defenders in the box last season than the Rams, according to Tru Media. Buffalo’s offense, meanwhile, has seen opponents play with light boxes on first downs more times than all but two others. NFL teams. So the Bills are used to seeing that defensive posture — and succeeding against it, as they finished the season ranked eighth in the EPA per game on those snaps.

Starting under Brandon Staley and now under Raheem Morris, Los Angeles wants to take out the deep pass first and foremost, and structuring the defense this way allows them to do that while – for the past two seasons, at least – not giving up too much in the game. racing game. Without players like Sebastien Joseph-Day up front, it will be interesting to see if Morris can still play things the same way, or if he has to switch to more traditional four-man defensive lines and maybe even drop a safety into the box more often than he wouldn’t. . Either way, the Rams would surely prefer the Bills to put the ball in the hands of Single diviner, Zack MossWhere james cook than those of Josh Allen.

The Bills, however, have an interesting counter at their disposal – using Allen as, essentially, a running back. We saw them do this in their early season game against the Chiefs last season, when Allen had 11 carries for 59 yards and a touchdown, and was a huge part of the Bills walking straight downfield for a touchdown on their first drive of the game. Allen had 31 points designed against six or fewer men in the box last season, the most of any quarterback. He’s averaging 6.4 yards per carry on those plays, an elite mark by any standard.

The Bills in the second half of the season also used heavier personnel groups to give themselves better numbers in the running game, and also to open play-action passing against linebackers. It turned out to be quite successful, and we got to see more against the Rams. During the second half of the season, Allen also showed more willingness to control the ball to secondary targets and let them play after the catch. Buffalo has specifically targeted pass backs this offseason to help with that style of play, chasing first JD McKissic in free agency, then signing Duke Johnson and the writing of James Cook. If Cook (or Johnson, if active) can cause the first man to miss a swing pass or checkdown (a difficult task against the lines of Bobby Wagner and Ernest Jones), this could be very useful.

Buffalo’s other counter to the “deep-hit take-out” style defense was simply tossing the ball over them. Allen was 13 of 31 for 534 yards and two touchdowns on throws of at least 30 air yards during the regular season, and we saw against both patriots and the Chiefs that he has both the arm strength and the confidence to throw the ball as far as he can, and the confidence in his receivers to bring it back.

How the Rams choose to play things at the back against Stefon Diggs, Gabe Davis, Isaiah McKenzie, Jamison Crowderand Dawson Knox also worth watching. Morris has used Jalen Ramsey in the slot more often than Staley, but Diggs doesn’t line up there very often; he did so on just 21% of his runs last season. McKenzie looks likely to open the season as the top slots player. Is getting Ramsey closer to the ball and the line of scrimmage worth that much if he spends the majority of his time covering Buffalo’s sneakiest wide, but one that’s nonetheless the third or fourth option in the passing game? And can Morris be trusted Trojan Hill and David Long stand up to Diggs and Davis on the perimeter? Morris didn’t use Ramsey to track receivers last season, but that might be worth considering in this game.

Of course, Allen needs plenty of time to get the ball to those wide, and it might be harder than imagined. Aaron Donald is capable of single-handedly destroying any game plan, and the games Buffalo struggled offensively last season were ones where the offensive line was simply overwhelmed by the opposing defensive front. Perhaps the most important factor in Buffalo’s offensive success is the ability from inside that line to stand up to the best player in the game.

When the Rams have the ball

The big thing to watch here is how the Bills defensive backfield handles the Matthew Stafford-Cooper Kupp connection, and whether other Rams receivers can take advantage of the attention that needs to be given to the league’s most productive receiver. of last season.

Buffalo will be without a star cornerback Tre’Davious White, who is still recovering from a torn ACL he suffered last season. That leaves two rookies – first-round picks Kaiir Elam and sixth-round pick Christian Benford – online for intense playtime alongside Danish Jackson and Johnson Conference. Will the Bills be able to play as much men’s coverage as they typically want (only three teams played a higher-paced man in first downs last season, according to Tru Media) without their star corner? Considering Kupp had 24 more receptions against zone coverage last season than any other player in the league, it might be advisable to avoid letting him find weak spots between defenders.

The thing Stafford really elevated for the Rams last season was their ability to connect on big plays on the field. One year later Jared Goff made just 13 of 49 throws from at least 20 yards on the field, Stafford completed 31 of 73 such attempts and tied for fifth-best EPA per play in the league on those throwbacks. The Bills, however, were better than any team in the NFL to limit big plays in the passing game. Buffalo allowed just 10 completions of 20 or more aerial yards all last season, limiting opponents to a hilarious 10 of 45 for 283 yards, zero touchdowns and seven interceptions on those passes. With Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer still patrolling the deep end of the field, the Rams may need to attack the short and middle areas more often; and if the Bills need to play more area due to their lack of experience at the corner, those areas of the field will be open to them.

Beyond Kupp, it will be interesting to see how the Rams use Allen Robinson, their new No. 2 receiver. He is a very different player from the others Robert Woods Where Odell Beckham Jr., the last two players to fill this role. Robinson is 6-2, 220 and is much more of a perimeter ball winner type than either of those players, and that could prove difficult for Buffalo defensive backs to handle if he and Stafford can develop immediate chemistry on back-and-shoulder type throws. (Stafford’s elbow injury is also worth watching here. Can he kick the ball out with his typical elite arm strength?)

The biggest area of ​​concern for Los Angeles offensively is up front. It’s an offensive line that got overwhelmed at times last season, and the two no longer have Andrew Whitworth at left tackle and potential starting guard lost Logan Bruss to an injury during the pre-season. Buffalo has a tone of both firepower and depth along the defensive line as Sean McDermott and Leslie Frazier can miss any of Von Miller, Gregory Rousseau, AJ Epence, Shaq LawsonBoogie Basham, Ed Olivier, Daquan Jones, Jordan Phillipsand Tim Settle to test the Rams in different ways.

Not resorting to blitzing is key against the Rams, as Stafford punished defenses to a hilarious degree when they sent six or more rushers after him last year, averaging 1.01 EPA per dropback – best in the league by a mile and so much better than the league average of just 0.15 per retreat, it’s hardly worth the comparison. Buffalo blitzed around a league average rate a year ago, but may be tempted to do so more often at the start of this season due to White’s absence, with hopes the youngsters corners spend slightly less time in coverage on average. instantaneous.

Latest odds:

Los Angeles Rams +2.5

Finally, how the Rams separate and touch between Cam Akers and Darrell Henderson remains to be watched. The team had planned to use Akers as a Todd Gurley-style workhorse before he tore his Achilles tendon before last season. When he returned from his injury miraculously quickly, they moved a load of work onto his plate despite his relative ineffectiveness. Sean McVay has spoken of the back pair as a committee coming up this season. Who he trusts and whether he’s willing to ride the hot hand instead of just going with the guy he had higher hopes for will be interesting to see. Buffalo finished just outside the top 10 in run defense last season, according to the Football Outsiders DVOA, and was the most vulnerable to perimeter runs — second only to the Bills’ aggressive passers. If the Rams can find some success attacking this area in the running game, it could open up play action and counterfeit shots down the field against a defense that usually doesn’t allow them to be completed.

Prediction: Bills 33, Rams 30

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