The stage is set.
The Buffalo Bills travel to the West Coast to face the defending Super Bowl Champion Los Angeles Rams Thursday night to kick off the 2022 NFL regular season. Discussing the opening game of any team’s season is always difficult because there are two factors to any preview that are both foggy at the start: what you’re walking into and what you’re walking in with. In this game, the picture might be clearer than usual.
The Bills feels like they’re walking in with a Super Bowl-caliber team: they’re the odds-on favorite to take home their first Lombardi in the waning hours of Sunday February 12, 2023 and Josh Allen is the leading vote-getter in most mock NFL MVP tallies. They return all of the key pieces of the league’s top-ranked defense (minus an injured Tre’Davious White, who won’t be seen until at least Week 4 after the team elected to place him on the PUP list) and they added a top pass rusher with Super Bowl pedigree in Von Miller. Josh Allen returns with the probability that he won’t face a below-median home weather situation in 2022 as he did in 2021, which should only increase his chances of winning an MVP. Stefon Diggs signed an extension this offseason and the hype around third-year wide receiver Gabriel Davis has only been increased through effusive praise from normally-reserved head coach Sean McDermott. The Bills think they’re walking in with their best team in at least 25 years.
What they’re walking into is a Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams team that, like the Bills, returns all meaningful pieces from last year’s regular season. Well, minus Odell Beckham Jr. (who suffered the same ACL injury as Bills cornerback Tre’Davious White), and of course the aforementioned Von Miller. They added Allen Robinson II to ease the loss of both Beckham and previous reliable receiver (and former Buffalo Bill) Robert Woods. They signed future Hall of Famer and criminally underrated linebacker Bobby Wagner away from their division rival Seattle Seahawks to lead the middle of their defense. Plus, they’re hoping third-year running back Cam Akers can return to form after a 2021 offseason Achilles injury robbed him of the entire year and most of his productivity even when he miraculously returned at the end of the regular season.
Very little is new for each of these teams.
The expectations are still high for them. The talent level is still high on both squads. The coaching, whether bordering the Great Lakes or the Pacific Ocean, is still well-thought-of around the league. The front offices of both organizations are modeled by other teams looking to replicate the successes they see.
The change at offensive coordinator for the Bills from Brian Daboll to Ken Dorsey might be the variable that injects the biggest question mark into this game. What they’re walking into is easier to see than usual. What they’re walking in with is easier to see than usual.
We can all see it. The fog of war has lifted.
It’s time to go do it.
...and that’s the way the cookie crumbles. I’m Bruce Nolan with Buffalo Rumblings. You can find me on Twitter and Instagram @BruceExclusive and look for episodes of “The Bruce Exclusive” every Thursday on the Buffalo Rumblings podcast network!