There’s no better way to kickoff the 2022 NFL season than the matchup we will get on Thursday night - the defending Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams are set to host the AFC favorite Buffalo Bills.
Both teams expect to compete for the top spot in their respective conferences this year, and this could potentially be an early look at the upcoming matchup for Super Bowl LVII. It’s Josh Allen head-to-head with Matthew Stafford. It’s one of the best corners in the game, Jalen Ramsey, covering one of the league’s top receivers in Stefon Diggs.
There are many things to be excited about with this primetime matchup, and here are some predictions for the outcomes we could see unfold:
Allen Robinson will score the Rams’ first TD of 2022
The big receiving target has quickly developed a chemistry with Stafford, and he will be a force in the red zone this season. There’s no better way to get the ball rolling than grabbing a touchdown score in his first game as a member of the L.A. Rams.
Josh Allen will accumulate 350 total yards
It’s a mark he passed in both of last year’s playoff games versus the New England Patriots (308 passing, 66 rushing) and the Kansas City Chiefs (329, 68), though he crossed this threshold in only 5 of 17 regular season games.
When facing the best, the Bills need Josh Allen to be at his best - and that’s the version of him we will see Thursday night. Will it be enough to defeat the defending world champs?
Then, here's the two-point play. Just unreal. pic.twitter.com/Gn1FXfNpFK— Bill Barnwell (@billbarnwell) January 28, 2022
Bobby Wagner and Ernest Jones will combine for 2 interceptions
One of the biggest questions heading into the season for the Rams is how defensive coordinator Raheem Morris will leverage the dynamic linebacker duo of Wagner and Jones. How much does Wagner have left in the tank, and will his struggles in pass coverage follow him from Seattle?
Jones is long and rangy, and he can use his length to interrupt passing lanes - we saw this from him in Super Bowl LVI.
The Bills will likely play a ton of 12 personnel, though their recent roster moves may suggest a sudden pivot. The Rams are uniquely capable of counteracting the heavier personnel packages by putting two starting quality inside linebackers on the field.
Tutu Atwell will snag a 50+ yard reception
Van Jefferson is expected to miss the first regular season contest, which creates opportunities for other Rams receivers.
Perhaps the biggest beneficiary of more time on the field will be second-year speedster Tutu Atwell. Training camp reports indicate he’s taken a significant step forward in year 2.
Also, Buffalo is short-handed (if not outright bad) in the secondary. Tre’Davious White will miss the first four games on the Physically Unable to Perform list. Rookie first rounder Kaiir Elam has been outplayed by another rookie corner, Christian Benford, who was taken five rounds later. Taron Johnson is the team’s best available corner, but he’s going to play mostly in the slot. Dane Jackson will probably start at one of the boundary corner positions entering his third year, though he’s more of a question than a known commodity at this point in his career.
In other words, things are setting up perfectly for Atwell’s big coming out party.
Cam Akers and Darrell Henderson will fail to reach 100 rushing yards total
As is growing more common among NFL defenses, Buffalo will invite opposing offenses to run the football - because, for the most part, earning three to four yards per attempt on the ground is overall less efficient than passing the football.
But the Rams have significant question marks at running back heading into the regular season - and it’s difficult to discern whether either Cam Akers or Darrell Henderson are ready to take the next steps in their respective careers.
The Rams may be able to get whatever they desire through the air in this game, which will make handing the ball off to Akers and Henderson less attractive. They won’t reach 100 combined rushing yards in this contest, though there will be games at some point this season that LA will need to lean harder on the ground attack.