Imagine being told, seconds after Josh Allen hit Gabriel Davis for his fourth touchdown in the AFC Divisional Game last year, that the Bills would be one of the teams in the 2022 Thursday Night NFL kickoff game. You would have thought the Buffalo Bills spent the summer as world champions, with the demons of the past firmly behind them. Well, we have arrived at opening night. However, the Bills have spent the summer doing their best to avoid talking about the worst collapse in franchise history. All while making changes to insure that it will never happen again.
Not so long ago, the Buffalo Bills were the laughingstock of the league, relegated to strictly 1pm start times. Now, that same organization garners massive respect around the league; culminating in an appearance in the NFL’s official kick off showcase. Let’s dive into the matchup as the Bills kick off a season that they hope ends in a “super” way.
The Last Five
Bills 35 Rams 32 (2020)
Bills 30 Rams 19 (2016)
St. Louis Rams 15 Bills 12 (2012)
Bills 31 STL. Rams 14 (2008)
Bills 37 STL. Rams 17 (2004)
The Bills and Rams were not originally scheduled to play again until 2024. However, the 17th regular season game has the Bills traveling to Inglewood for their extra road game of the season. Their most recent game was a memorable one; it was after Allen’s performance in that game the Bills were viewed as contenders in the AFC. Allen, and the Bills, and have not looked back since. Outside of a laughable game in 2012 that officially stuck a fork in the Chan Gailey era, the Bills have gotten the better of the Rams over the past two decades.
What To Watch For: Buffalo Bills
Goodbye Daboll, Hello Dorsey – The biggest question mark heading into the 2022 season is how the offense will look with a new voice inside of Josh Allen’s helmet for the first time in his career. When Brian Daboll left Buffalo to become the Giants’ HC, Ken Dorsey was rumored to be Allen’s preference for OC. Josh Allen and the Bills were able to retain Dorsey and hand him the reigns to a championship-caliber offense. While it is impossible to judge performance on the ultra-vanilla preseason, Ken Dorsey has been impressive from what we have seen in his approach with the players and his time spent with the media. The real test begins tonight for the first-time play caller.
Gabriel Davis Discovered – The Gabriel Davis hype train has been off the rails since his record-breaking performance in the playoffs last year. Before the Chiefs game, I would argue that Davis was still an unknown and undervalued player in many league circles. Any hope the Bills had at keeping Davis under the radar went away with his four TDs at Arrowhead last January. Even betting markets are aware of Davis’ potential for this year; most props have Davis floating around the 800/850 yard mark. What will Davis’ production look like now that teams know the damage that he can inflict on defenses? Teams can’t double everyone on the Bills offense. I am interested to see how Davis responds to this newfound attention and how teams look to attack him this year.
How the Bills Respond – As if reflecting on 13 seconds isn’t bad enough, I have to bring up one more Buffalo heartbreak in this article. The ‘06-07 Sabres opened up their season on the road against the Carolina Hurricanes. As they sat in their locker room listening to the Canes celebrate their Stanley Cup victory, the Sabres players seemed to channel that energy throughout the year – pushing them to a 10-0-0 start and an eventual President’s Cup trophy. As the Bills listen to the Rams’ trophy presentation tonight, one that I believe was 13 seconds away from happening in Orchard Park, it will be interesting to see if they can harness that feeling and use it as motivation throughout the 2022 season, just as the Sabres did 16 years ago.
What To Watch For: Los Angeles Rams
Championship Hangover? – Just as the Bills’ response to the Championship festivities is a question mark, so too will be the Rams’ response. Defending champions have fared well as of late in season openers, and the Rams will look to continue that trend. The Rams have taken motivation out of being underdogs in this game, as well as having the fourth-best Super Bowl odds. Los Angeles will be eager to prove they are more than a team that got hot down the stretch last winter against a team that most are expecting to beat them.
Aaron Donald – Donald is literally a one-man wrecking crew. We all watched in awe last February as Donald single-handedly ended the Bengals’ chances at a Super Bowl comeback victory. If there is a man who can spoil the Bills’ chances at starting the season 1-0, it is Donald. Aaron Donald is two sacks away from 100 on his career, a milestone that he will be striving for tonight. In the 2020 matchup with the Bills, Donald nearly won the game for LA, registering 2 sacks, 6 tackles (2 for loss), and 1 forced fumble and recovery of Josh Allen late in the 4th quarter. When dealing with Donald, teams must look at how to mitigate his damage, as he is impossible to totally eliminate.
Ramsey vs. Allen Ep. 3 – This is the feud that just keeps on giving. Since calling Josh Allen “trash” back in his rookie season, Allen has torched Jalen Ramsey in their two games against each other. Ramsey softened his stance ahead of their 2020 matchup, calling Allen “talented”. He did not bite when asked to comment on his previous assessment of Allen. Like Bills fans, I am sure Josh Allen has not forgotten about Ramsey’s initial scouting report. Allen will go for the knockout punch in round 3 tonight against Ramsey.
Buffalo Bills 24 LA Rams 20 The first game of the year is always difficult to predict. I think the Bills secondary will be put to the test without Tre’Davious White. And, while it may falter a few times throughout the night, I think the new and improved Bills defensive line will make enough plays to push them to victory. Expect Allen to come out hot in his first game with Ken Dorsey calling the plays; we are sure to see some new facets of this offense that we did not see with Daboll at the helm. I have the Bills winning a close, back and forth game to kick off the 2022 campaign.
Featured Image: AP Photo/Adrian Kraus