The Los Angeles Rams take on the Buffalo Bills this Thursday kick off the NFL season for 2022! This will be an opener for the ages between the defending Super Bowl champs and the team that hopes to follow in their footsteps this February.
There is so much star power in this game from Aaron Donald and Matthew Stafford to Von Miller and Josh Allen. Could this game be a preview of things to come?
If so, then bettors in Las Vegas are expecting it to be the Bills, not the Rams, to be hoisting the Lombardi next: The Buffalo Bills are 2.5-point road favorites, according to DraftKings Sportsbook.
To gain a better insight on LA’s opposition, I sent some questions to Matt Warren over at SB Nation’s Bills blog Buffalo Rumblings to answer some of the biggest topics circling Lake Erie before the NFL opener.
Q - Josh Allen is one of my favorite players in the league and I would light myself on fire and break through a folding table for him if he were my quarterback. I’ve been a big supporter of his ever since he was drafted out of Wyoming in 2018. Could you detail part of what makes his game so special as he’s developed and what are your expectations for him this season?
A - Josh has been very analytical in his approach to improving his game. He’s worked with a private QB coach during the offseason and included things like body mapping and in-depth game film analysis to improve himself in every phase of the game. His footwork and throwing motion, in particular, have changed significantly. He’s always had the charisma, charm, ability to work with teammates, and willingness to put the game on his shoulders. Now he’s more patient and doesn’t try to do everything himself all day, every day. (More info on all of his progress straight from the horse’s mouth in this article.) Our expectations for him this season actually involve him taking a statistical step back as he has a first-time offensive coordinator in Ken Dorsey. He still may have a better season, though, as the Bills have invested in several YAC receivers and Allen has been working on ball placement to enhance that metric this offseason.
Q - Five of the Bills’ six losses in the regular season last year were one score games. The team also went 0-2 in overtime matchups, including the Divisional Round thriller against the Chiefs. What was the most glaring flaw across each of those losses and how does Buffalo correct this in 2022?
A - This is a hot topic among Bills fans, because most of their close losses the last few years have come down to coaching mistakes, but Sean McDermott turned around the franchise so questioning him can get dicey. Buffalo hired a Game Management Coordinator in 2021, but it didn’t seem like it had a huge impact. The loss to the Chiefs falls squarely on the coaching staff. I think the windy loss to the Patriots in December and the epic failure against the Jaguars does, too. We’ve seen McDermott learn from his mistakes in the past, and our hope is that he continues to do so into the future of these tight games.
Q - Fresh off winning a ring with the Rams, Von Miller jumped ship and joined another Super Bowl contender. Buffalo’s defense was ranked first last season but it was clear they needed an added spark and they hope Miller will be just that. What kind of impact do you see Miller providing the defense that will push the unit to greatness?
A - The Bills don’t need Von Miller to be a Super Bowl MVP week in and week out. They already had a very good defense. What the Bills need is him to be that big-game player in all of their big games. They haven’t been able to make Patrick Mahomes uncomfortable, and Miller can do that. They need that big play, big game guy in the playoffs and down the stretch, so I don’t expect him to play 66+% of snaps like he did in L.A. and Denver, but I do expect him out there in the biggest moments of the season. Especially with Tre’Davious White working back from a torn ACL and young cornerbacks at CB1 and CB2 for now, they really need the pass rush to get home more.
Q - Wide receiver Gabriel Davis is poised for a major breakout campaign following his career-high 201-yard, four touchdown playoff performance against KC. Who else on this team do you see having a chance to breakout in ‘22?
A - Another name I’m expecting to have a massive season is Isaiah McKenzie, who steps into the role Cole Beasley had. He’s a quick receiver who has been working a ton on his work against zone defenses. He’s always been effective in man-to-man, but if he can add that other component, he could be a YAC machine where Beasley wasn’t anymore. On defense, DT Ed Oliver is poised for a massive season and putting him on the same front four as Miller is going to mean defenses have to choose which one to pay extra attention. Could be a recipe for a huge season for the former top-ten pick.
Q - Everyone and their mother decided to join the AFC this offseason, whether through free agency or trade. Obviously, this will make the Bills’ journey to Arizona this February a lot more challenging. Who would you consider Buffalo’s greatest threat in the conference?
A - It’s going to be the Chiefs until Buffalo can beat them in the playoffs. It’s a massive hurdle for this team mentally, whether they admit it or not. That’s why it was such a high when they took the lead with 13 seconds left in that Divisional game, and why it was such a low when they lost. For the regular season, the hope is the AFC West kicks the crap out of each other as does the AFC North. With how weak the AFC South appears to be, I think the Colts might actually be the team that ends up earning the one seed (hot take time!), and they ran over the Bills in 2021.
Come to the @TurfShowTimes Twitter account this Thursday at 10 AM PT to ask questions about Rams-Bills before the big game!