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The football gods have blessed us with a potential Super Bowl matchup right away to kick off the NFL season. The consensus around the league points to these two teams competing for a Lombardi Trophy at the end of the year, so why not have them face off in the beginning as well?
While both rosters are incredibly top-heavy, featuring some of the best players at their position, a few independent factors could swing the outcome either way.
The Rams have Matthew Stafford, but questions persist over how healthy his throwing elbow is. It’s like a pitcher who needs to rest his arm. Only the season’s just getting started. Coach Sean McVay insists his QB has no limitations in practice, but some reporters believe the inflamed elbow could be an issue all season. Do we see any problems pop up right away in Week 1? We hope for a healthy game on both sides, but it’s a situation that bears watching.
If the Rams are firing on all cylinders, the ongoing absence of star cornerback Tre’Davious White will certainly impact Buffalo’s ability to cover Cooper Kupp, Allen Robinson, and Van Jefferson. White’s still recovering from the Week 12 ACL tear he suffered last season and will be out for at least the first four games.
Luckily the Bills aren’t devoid of talent in the defensive backfield. They have one of the best safety tandems in football with Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer. They’ll be asked to help out in coverage more often if the current stable of cornerbacks starts off slow without their ball-hawking CB1 in the lineup. That leads us right into our matchups for the game.
Buffalo Bills vs. Rams game details, where to watch
- Thursday, September 8, 2022
- Start time: 8:20 PM ET
- TV channel - NBC/Peacock
- Location - SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, CA
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Matchups to watch
Bills RBs vs. Aaron Donald
The one aspect that can definitively make the Bills one of the best, if not the top, offense in the NFL is the emergence of their running game. Zack Moss was ineffective last season as he battled through an ankle injury that sapped his burst and cutting ability. He looked like a changed man in preseason action, and the hope is that he can improve upon the 3.6 YPA he averaged in 2021. Since he averaged 4.3 as a rookie, seeing Moss get back to averaging nearly five yards per rush isn’t out of the question, especially with Rodger Saffold paving the way.
For what it’s worth, Devin Singletary has averaged 5.1, 4.4, and 4.6 yards per carry in his first three seasons in the NFL.
They also added James Cook with the 63rd pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. We’ll see how new Bills offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey works all three of them into the lineup on game day. Singletary and Moss won’t suddenly become stars, but maybe that’s the ceiling for Dalvin Cook’s brother with the Bills?
Meanwhile, Aaron Donald is one of the baddest dudes in the game. The Bills will be throwing double and triple teams at him at times, but No. 99 will make his impact felt at some point. Equally as filthy rushing the passer as he is at getting defensive stops on running downs, the Bills will have their hands full in the trenches against the three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
Fun Fact: Did you know Singletary, Moss, and James Cook were all born in Florida? It doesn’t mean anything on the field, but maybe it’s another way they can bond in the locker room.
Von Miller vs Joe Noteboom
Congratulations, Joseph Noteboom. Now that the 40-year-old Andrew Whitworth has retired, Noteboom is the starting left tackle, assigned with protecting their franchise QB’s blindside. Already a tough task, his first assignment pits him up against his former teammate, Von Miller. Looking to set the tone with his new team as he heads back to SoFi Stadium one last time, the strip-sack master has a chance to live in the backfield as Noteboom has played just 1,260 snaps since being drafted four years ago. This is equivalent to just over one year of starting experience, considering Whitworth played 926 snaps just last season.
The Rams gave him a large three-year, $40 million contract this past offseason, but he’s started just 17 games since 2018. Yet, despite the lack of experience, Noteboom has allowed just three sacks in that time, meaning he’s likely at least above average as a pass blocker. Still, he hasn’t seen all the various ways Miller can get past his man.
While he’s now 33, Miller has averaged 0.77 sacks per game in his career. This rate has slowed down over the past three years, with Miller averaging 0.63 in 2021 and 0.53 in 2019, but he’s back to 100% health as he begins his career in Buffalo. No matter what, Miller strikes fear in his opponents simply because of his legendary football résumé, but he’s still among the best pass rushers in football.
Kaiir Elam vs. Matthew Stafford
Why not throw the rookie into the fire right away? Only in this case, the Bills don’t have any other option but to start the 23rd overall pick out of Florida. Thanks to the injury of Tre’Davious White, the 21-year-old Elam will be tasked with covering the Super Bowl MVP Cooper Kupp at times.
The step from college to the pros is always a big one, but some rooks manage to narrow the gap quicker and better than others. For Elam, he has the experience of guarding opponents in the SEC conference, which is widely regarded as the best in college football. While Kupp is much more polished than the receivers he saw in college, it’s not like Elam has never been asked to lock down NFL talent.
Expect Stafford to test the rookie often, seeing just how equipped he is to handle the vastly experienced receiving corps the Rams have assembled over the years. Maybe Elam can surprise them with his quickness as they underestimate his abilities. But if it’s the other way around, Elam’s confidence could get shattered early on. Leslie Frazier will probably do as much as he can to help provide additional coverage to help Elam along if he needs it.
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Buffalo Bills vs. Rams game prediction
Last season’s record: Buffalo Bills 11-6, AFC East champions
Los Angeles Rams: 12-5, first place in NFC West, Super Bowl champions
As usual, this game will come down to the quarterback matchup, and if that proves to be accurate, there’s no reason why Bills Mafia won’t leave L.A. in celebration. Josh Allen has all the tools, not only on his belt but also out on the field, with Stefon Diggs, Gabriel Davis, and possibly a reinforced running game that makes the Bills tougher to predict.
The Rams may have home-field advantage, but yet the Bills are still favored by 2.5 points by Vegas oddsmakers. If that’s not an indication of how far this team has come and how far they’re expected to go in 2022, I don’t know what is.
The Rams just proved they were the NFL’s best team in February, and they didn’t experience a massive sell-off in talent. They may have reshaped a bit of it, with Von Miller and Andrew Whitworth leaving town, but they also added Allen Robinson and Bobby Wagner. It’s still one of the best rosters in football.
Just as the Bills have a big chip on their shoulders, as they felt they should have been the Rumbling Herd that carried their momentum all the way to the promised land, overtime rules got in the way.
The Bills may have been better than the Rams all along. We just didn’t get a chance to see it.
However, as strong as the Bills are, they too could experience some early growing pains. Not having their shutdown corner hurts against a team that lives and dies through the air. We also can’t ignore the fact that last year’s offensive play-caller Brian Daboll is no longer in Buffalo. Ken Dorsey and Allen have a great rapport, but is the former ready to continually put together one of the best game plans in football? He’ll be tested early against the Rams, with defensive playmakers at every level.
In a game that should feature plenty of points, it’s not hard to envision the Rams continuing their dominance over the league and managing to slip past Buffalo in Week 1 as well.
Game prediction: Rams 33, Bills 27 - Rams victory
Buffalo Bills 2022 Season Preview - Part One