Tonight is the last night that you will have to go to sleep without the 2022 NFL season underway. On Thursday, the Los Angeles Rams host the Buffalo Bills at SoFi Stadium in the season opener and while this outcome is not one of the most important on the schedule, it will definitely set the early-season tone on how these two teams are viewed.
If the Rams beat an expected AFC powerhouse like Josh Allen’s Bills, then we can put to rest any thoughts of a post-championship collapse. At least, for the time being. And the rest of the NFL will remain on notice. If Buffalo loses, they shouldn’t feel bad about it, but it will fee like, “Oh yeah, this is the Bills.”
On the other hand, a convincing victory for the Bills, similar to their 2020 win at home, could signal that indeed a juggernaut is forming in a small town in northern New York State. I’ve been to a Bills game in Buffalo. It’s awesome. Every NFL fan should see a game there and if possible, root for the home team.
But on Thursday, the Bills are not the home team.
To get to know the Buffalo Bills a little bit better before the game, let’s read with the enemy: A few articles from our SB Nation Bills site Buffalo Rumblings on the state of the team ahead of Thursday’s opener.
The Buffalo Bills are going to be without the services of Pro Bowl cornerback Tre’Davious White for at least the first four weeks of the season. Buffalo’s talented boundary cornerback continues to work his way back from an ACL injury suffered during a win over the New Orleans Saints last Thanksgiving night and begins the season on the PUP list.
White’s absence has created an opportunity for a pair of Buffalo’s rookie cornerbacks—first-round selection Kaiir Elam and sixth-rounder Christian Benford—to step up, become familiar with Leslie Frazier’s defense, and contribute right away.
White finished fifth in DPOY voting in 2019 and to be honest I forgot that he didn’t get to be a part of Buffalo’s divisional round loss to the Chiefs. What if he had been out there to help on Tyreek Hill?
Elam is a first round pick out of Florida and his uncle Matt Elam was a first round safety for the Baltimore Ravens only nine years ago. He’s exceptionally fast (4.39) but he will be making his NFL debut against the likes of Cooper Kupp and Allen Robinson II. Benford is a sixth round pick out of Villanova and I’m not familiar with him but Buffalo GM Brandon Beane is comfortable with him playing on Thursday.
Does Beane care about the optics of a sixth-rounder pushing his team’s first-round draft pick for playing time in the secondary? Absolutely not.
“Those guys have battled, and just because Christian was drafted in the sixth and Kaiir was in the first round, doesn’t mean that Christian doesn’t get to play as much as Kaiir,” Beane said. “Guys are exposed to different things at different times. I think Christian probably was exposed to a little more variations of defense that we do than Kaiir, who was playing a lot of press at Florida, which is good. So they came in with different strengths and now you’re fitting them into your defense and your scheme with your talent. It goes back to what we said earlier: players know players and everyone is paying attention to all competitions that happen. So no, if at some point this year we felt that Christian gave us the best chance to win, we’re here to win and that’s what we would do. Those guys have rotated and it hasn’t just been handed to Kaiir or anybody else for that matter.”
The Bills will also be playing cornerbacks Dane Jackson and Taron Johnson.
Before Sunday’s practice, coach Sean McDermott said that Poyer was “trending in the right direction” and he would be surprised if the All-Pro safety, who had hyper-extended his elbow earlier in the summer, wasn’t ready to go Thursday evening.
Poyer suffered an injury on August 2, and two days later was seen on the field with a large brace on his left elbow. Poyer was inactive for all of the team’s preseason games before he returned to practice in the red non-contact jersey on August 27.
Jordan Poyer is one of the most successful seventh round picks in history but it took him a while to achieve that status; he made the Pro Bowl for the first time in 2021, his ninth year in the league. Poyer was drafted by the Eagles, let go as a rookie, spent three years with the Cleveland Browns, but immediately took off as a starting safety under Sean McDermott in 2017.
Poyer had five interceptions and three sacks last season and his presence will be vitally important to Buffalo’s secondary.
The Buffalo Bills (-2) are favored in every game on the board for the 2022 NFL season, and excitement could be at an all-time high for the Lombardi favorites. None of the betting lines are more surprising than Week 1, though, where the defendingSuper BowlChampions raise their banner and celebrate their world championship as a 2.5-point underdog, per our friends at DraftKings Sportsbook. The Bills are nearly a field goal favorite in the Rams’ own stadium.
Buffalo opened as a slight underdog in this game, believe it or not, but since the schedule was announced, the money has been pouring in on the Bills enough to drive the spread the opposite direction.
Odds are meaningless, they just signify where people are placing their bets. Why are they placing their bets on the Bills? I’m sure there are countless reasons, but my gut says this has a lot to do with Josh Allen hype. There’s a lot of people calling him the best player in the NFL right now and excitement to see him debut in Week 1 against the Rams in the season opener.
Plus, the Rams are the defending Super Bowl champions—not the underdogs. Technically they are underdogs in Vegas, but that’s not how they’re really viewed and people like to root for underdogs. Buffalo is one of the NFL’s most revered underdogs, waiting for their first Super Bowl championship for so many years, and it would not surprise me to see a lot of fans pulling for them this season.
Week 1 is just their first opportunity to do so.