Week 1 Preview: Los Angeles Rams vs Buffalo Bills

The 2022 NFL season is finally here! The Los Angeles Rams host the Buffalo Bills in the NFL Kickoff game tonight in what promises to be one of the most closely-contested season openers in recent memory.

The Thursday night kickoff game began in 2002 and has functioned primarily as a celebration for the previous year's Super Bowl Champion since 2004. Since that tradition's inception, the reigning champs are an astounding 14-3. Should the Bills pull out the win, they'll join the 2017 Chiefs, the 2013 Denver Broncos, and 2012 Dallas Cowboys as the only teams to topple the defending champs in a season opener. It's not impossible. Apparently, it may even be likely. In this year's matchup, the Rams find themselves the rare home underdog with most sportsbooks declaring the Bills 2.5-point favorites.

That shouldn't come as a shock. The Bills are this year's top pick to win the Super Bowl due in large part to the superlative play of quarterback Josh Allen. Since breaking out in 2020, Allen has evolved into one of the league's premier dual-threat passers, combining an overpowering run style with a laser-guided bazooka for an arm. Over the past two years, he has accounted for 8951 passing yards and 73 passing touchdowns to go along with 1184 rushing yards and 14 rushing touchdowns at an impressive 5.3 yards per rushing attempt. It's no wonder so many have him tabbed as the potential MVP this year.
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The Bills have inspired relentless optimism this offseason, but certain weaknesses have been lost in the delirium following last year's close-as-could-be loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in the divisional round. The team showed real struggles in close games all last year, failing to win a single contest in which they trailed or were tied in the fourth quarter. Conversely, the Rams won seven times in those circumstances. Should the Bills not be able to put away the Rams early, they could be in for a long night.

Meanwhile, the Rams return much of the talented squad that won last year's Super Bowl; the team sports three of the 10 highest ranked players on this year's NFL Top 100. They're healthy, too. The team continues to downplay quarterback Matthew Stafford's elbow injury, and the only player poised to miss action is third wide receiver Van Jefferson. But there are subtle differences between this team and the squad that won last year's Super Bowl: wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr has been replaced by free agent addition Allen Robinson, and linebacker Von Miller, who now plays for the Bills, has made way for former Seattle Seahawks great Bobby Wagner. Tonight's game will go a long way to revealing whether those moves are fair tradeoffs.

The Rams host the Bills Thursday night on NBC's NFL Kickoff game.

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