Here’s just three of the three thousand things on my mind as we FINALLY get ready to kick off this 2022 season…

The Other Guys

Even with an array of different options for winning, the pass game should still be the Bills fastball in 2022 with Stefon Diggs taking it up to 100 on a regular basis. Just probably not this week.

Jalen Ramsey is as good as they come on the outside. It should be a good battle if he and Diggs spend the afternoon in each other’s shadow, but that means the Bills are going to need production elsewhere.

Right off the bat, I think we’ll find out if Gabriel Davis is ready for the big stage as the number two receiver. Isaiah Mckenzie, too. The Bills will need wins with their secondary receivers to keep the offense moving.

I think this point will also stand when the Rams have the ball. Taron Johnson is one of the better answers the league has for Cooper Kupp if the Bills want to move their slot corner around a little more. That leaves Allen Robinson and, potentially, Van Jefferson for Dane Jackson and whichever rookie corner the Bills have on the field.

Robinson is talented enough to abuse a rookie not ready for the big spotlight. Kaiir Elam and Christian Benford will at least have to hold their own without holding the Rams so many times that downfield referees wear out a rotator cuff throwing flags.

Rams Fully Staff-ed?

Matt Stafford’s elbow has been the story of Rams training camp. He’s missed a ton of practice, but has been back to normal the last couple of weeks. Sean McVay said this week there will be no limitations on Stafford. Many who cover the team believe he will be dealing with manageable pain all season.

The strong bet is that Stafford can still play at or real close to the same level that landed L.A. a Lombardi trophy last year. It helps that this is the first game of the year. Stafford won’t ever be better rested all season than he will be against the Bills.

Bottom line, when the quarterback’s throwing arm has a problem, it’s a thing until it isn’t a thing. If it’s a thing Thursday night, it’s hard to see the Bills going home a loser.

The Unstoppable Force And The Immovable Object

One thing is almost for certain on Thursday night–Aaron Donald is going to get his.

His second half in Orchard Park two years ago that accounted for two sacks, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and plenty of pressure likely still gives the Bills offensive players nightmares. Von Miller was asked this week if he had any secrets to stopping Donald. His answer was a shrug and a laugh. “I’d be setting (the offense) up for failure if I told them, ‘do this and it’ll work’.”

If a pass rushing savant like Miller has nothing, it’s time to simply embrace the horror.

I think Josh Allen hit on how the Bills deal with Donald. They have to do a lot of other things well. Allen talked about being on time with the passing game and using the run game to keep the Rams honest. Even if Donald has a superb game with, say, three sacks and four tackles, that still leaves 60-something plays where he isn’t immediately blowing things up (hopefully).

The Bills gotta win on THOSE plays. As Rodger Saffold said, “Be as efficient as we possibly can”.

Betting Things

The game props I’m taking:

  • Gabe Davis over 4.5 catches. This is getting plus money in most places and I love it. As mentioned above, I think he gets plenty of targets. In the six games to end the season last year (playoffs included) where he played over 70 percent of snaps, he had five catches or more in half of them.
  • Under 51.5 points. I think both defenses could be really good this season. I have questions about both offenses. Stafford’s injury on the Rams side and game one for new coordinator Ken Dorsey on the Bills side. I love the main under and was happy to drop down a couple points for plus money.
  • Donald over 0.75 sacks. Over the last three years, Donald would hit this prop about every other game. If it hangs at +150 (the number this week), I might bet it every week.
  • Also like but won’t play: Allen under 6.5 rushes (think the Bills will make an effort to limit his punishment) and any Stefon Diggs under (Ramsey gets my respect).

The Pick

It’s so damn hard to figure out who has what kind of team for week one. It’s one of the best parts about football in general and the NFL in particular, but it makes picking a winner between two teams so talented and evenly matched next to impossible.

Dorsey is going to be a story for the Bills all year and especially in games like this where the Bills don’t have a giant talent advantage. Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris doesn’t have a ton more experience calling plays than Dorsey, but he’s been at the top of coaching food chains for the better part of a decade and has the personnel to take advantage of any Dorsey growing pains.

Most Bills admitted playing the Thursday season opener and watching the Rams raise a championship banner will be a bit different than the myriad other primetime games they’ve played. However, this team is well versed at handling the primetime spotlight. I think they’ll be as equally unaffected for this game.

Despite Jordan Phillips doubts, I think this spot will produce about as big a homefield advantage as the generally disinterested L.A. crowd will generate. If I have to find a way to separate these two teams (and that’s kinda the point here), I’ll take the home team. I’ll take the elite team with less changes during the offseason. I’ll also take the team with the head coach that is 5-0 in season openers (Sean McDermott is 3-2 with all three wins against the Jets).

There will be zero surprise if the Bills win this game, but I’ll take the Rams 24-20.