Bills vs. Rams: 6 things to know about the 2022 NFL opening game originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia
Football is back.
The 2022 NFL season gets underway Thursday night with a heavyweight showdown in primetime on NBC.
Here are six storylines to know before kickoff of the highly anticipated matchup at SoFi Stadium:
1. Bills want to be where Rams finished last season
The Bills once again had the looks of a Super Bowl contender last season and were on the verge of their second AFC Championship Game in as many seasons. But Buffalo was outlasted by the Kansas City Chiefs in a divisional round overtime thriller.
Entering this season, Buffalo still has its sights set on that elusive Lombardi Trophy. The Bills, who currently have the best odds to win it all, are one of 12 NFL teams that have never captured a Super Bowl title. They made it to the Big Game in four consecutive seasons from 1990-93 and lost each time. Those four Super Bowl defeats without a victory are tied with the Minnesota Vikings for the most all time. Will this finally be the season Bills Mafia gets to celebrate a Super Bowl?
2. Josh Allen vs. Matthew Stafford
How about this for an opening night quarterback matchup? Both Allen and Stafford are coming off incredible 2021 campaigns. Allen showed his 2020 MVP runner-up season was no one-year wonder as he posted 4,407 yards and 36 touchdowns through the air along with 763 yards and six scores on the ground.
And it was harder to have a better debut season with a new team than Stafford in 2021. The Rams gave up three draft picks, including two first-rounders, to acquire Stafford from the Detroit Lions, and their gamble instantly resulted in a Lombardi Trophy. After throwing for 4,886 yards and 41 touchdowns in the regular season, Stafford completed 70 percent of his passes for 1,188 yards and nine TDs in the postseason.
One thing to keep an eye on with the 34-year-old signal caller is his right throwing arm. Stafford had offseason surgery for bad elbow tendonitis, also known as “thrower’s elbow,” that gave him trouble dating back to last season. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that Stafford does feel better now than he did at this time last year.
3. Rams welcome in Bobby Wagner, Allen Robinson
Rams general manager Les Snead actually thought he was being pranked when he received a text from Wagner saying he was interested in joining the reigning champs. And after the Rams confirmed it was actually Wagner on the other end of the text message, the two sides eventually reached a five-year, $50 million pact.
Los Angeles is very familiar with Wagner, as he spent the last decade quarterbacking the rival Seattle Seahawks’ defense. Following his release from Seattle, the decorated linebacker, whose resume includes eight Pro Bowl appearances, six All-Pro nods and a Super Bowl title, switched NFC West allegiances.
Robinson, meanwhile, came from the Chicago Bears on a three-year, $46.5 million deal. The one-time Pro Bowler recorded 293 receptions for 3,561 yards and 18 touchdowns over four seasons in Chicago. Now, after catching passes from the likes of Blake Bortles, Chad Henne, Mitch Trubisky, Nick Foles, Andy Dalton and Justin Fields, Robinson will be playing with by far the best QB of his pro career while forming a dangerous 1-2 punch at wide receiver with Cooper Kupp.
4. Von Miller faces old team in debut with new team
Bills-Rams will be both a debut and homecoming for star pass rusher Von Miller. While the eight-time Pro Bowler only had a cup of coffee with the Rams, it was a memorable one. After being acquired midseason from the Denver Broncos, the 2011 Defensive Player of the Year posted nine sacks, 14 QB hits and 18 tackles for loss in 12 total games, including the postseason, en route to his second Super Bowl ring.
Buffalo was able to pry Miller away from sunny Southern California with a massive six-year, $120 million deal in free agency. The 33-year-old Miller now looks to become just the second player to ever win a Super Bowl with three different teams.
5. Sean McVay-led Rams look to keep this streak alive
Sean McVay, whom the Rams signed to an extension Thursday, has put together quite the head coaching tenure with Los Angeles. Over McVay’s five seasons at the helm, the Rams are 55-26 with three division titles, four playoff berths, two NFC championships and one Super Bowl – and all while never falling below the .500 mark. That’s right, the Rams have yet to own a losing record under McVay.
That streak will be put to the test against Buffalo, but if history is any indication, Los Angeles has a very strong chance to keep it alive. The defending Super Bowl champion is 14-2 all time when opening the NFL season at home on Thursday night. Despite that, the Bills are still listed as road favorites in the matchup.
6. Aaron Donald meets his match in The Rock
Ahead of the new season, Aaron Donald hit the gym with a fellow physical specimen: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. The Rock paid the three-time Defensive Player of the Year a visit at the Rams’ practice facility, where the two worked out while discussing family, Donald’s Super Bowl triumph and more. The Rock even tried on a Super Bowl ring and held the Lombardi Trophy.
Imagine The Rock, who played college football for the University of Miami, lining up alongside Donald on the defensive line for a snap or two?