NFL Kickoff Weekend Thursday Night Football: The Champs vs. The Favorites

by

September 8

The 2022 NFL season kicks off tonight, and the matchup couldn’t be better, as the Super Bowl Champion Los Angeles Rams host the Super Bowl favorite Buffalo BillsBuffalo Bills @ Los Angeles Rams 

Time: 8:20 p.m. ET | TV: NBC

Betting Lines @ FanDuel

Bills -2.5 | Bills -134 | Rams +114
Total: 51.5 OVER -114 | UNDER -106

Super Bowl Champion Los Angeles Rams

While the defending Super Bowl Champions haven’t repeated since 2004, they have started the following season with a win in the past four years, three coming on the Thursday Night opener. 

Kickoff Weekend Under Sean McVay:

  • Won the past five Kickoff Weekend games

  • The most wins without a loss among active coaches

  • Longest streak among NFC teams

  • Outscored opponents 163-80

In his first season in LA, quarterback Matthew Stafford set a new franchise record with 4,886 yards and tied Kurt Warner’s TD mark (41), a new career high for the former No. 1 overall pick. They added free agent wideout Allen Robinson, who, when healthy, has performed like a No. 1. 

Of course, Stafford’s primary weapon remains Super Bowl MVP Cooper Kupp, who had a historic season in leading the league in receptions (145), receiving yards (1,947), and touchdown receptions (16). Jerry Rice is the only player with more catches or yards in a season. You may have heard of him.

Super Bowl Favorite Buffalo Bills

Buffalo edge rusher Von Miller is looking to disrupt LA’s attack a season after he recorded nine sacks in 12 games for the Rams, including two in the Super Bowl. Miller’s 115.5 sacks are the most among active players.

He joins a Buffalo defense that was first in the league in scoring (17 PPG), total (272.8 YPG), and pass defense (163 YPG), which was the fewest passing yards allowed by a team since 2010. Ballhawking safeties Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde had five INTs each in 2021.

The face of the Bills franchise is Josh Allen, who has elevated his level of play over the past two seasons, coinciding with Stefon Diggs’s arrival, who is third in the NFL in receptions since 2020. Allen has gone from being a pitcher who can hit 100 on the radar gun but has no idea where the ball is going to a true ace. 

Allen Unparalleled Dual-Threat:

  • 1st w/ 100+ TD passes & 30+ rushing TDs in first four seasons

  • 31 TD runs 2nd to Cam Newton (33) through four years (QB)

  • 2nd w/ 35+ TD passes & 5+ TD runs in a season (Steve Young)

The Rams have a star-studded defense of their own led by defensive tackle Aaron Donald, who is considered by many to be the best non-QB player in the NFL. Cornerback Jalen Ramsey’s ability to defend the run and pass makes him a versatile piece, while linebacker Bobby Wagner comes over from Seattle.

LA’s League Leaders:

  • Donald: 98 sacks since 2014 leads the NFL

  • Wagner: 1,377 tackles since 2012 leads the NFL

I know the Rams don’t have the same home-field advantage as the Bills, but my square take is surprised that Buffalo is favored in LA. Think of it this way. If the game were in Buffalo, this line would be 8.5, maybe nine. It feels kinda high, doesn’t it?

Thumbnail photo via USA TODAY Sports Images

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