Bills at Rams: Time, channel, how to watch, key matchups, pick for Week 1 ‘Thursday Night Football’ showdown

The 2022 NFL season is finally here. A total of 272 games will be played this season before we get to the playoffs, the first of which sees the defending champion. Los Angeles Rams Kick off their Super Bowl title defense by welcoming one of this season’s favorites Buffalo Bills — to SoFi Stadium on Thursday evening.

We’ll see stars across the field in what plans to be a thrilling debut match. From Josh Allen and Stephen Diggs to Matthew Stafford and Cooper Kupp, and from Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey to Von Miller and Jordan Boyer and Micah Hyde, the gridiron will be filled with some of the league’s best players. There couldn’t be a better way to open this campaign.

Before breaking down the matchup, here’s how you can watch Thursday night’s game.

How to see

Date: Thursday, September 8 | Time: 8:20 p.m. ET
Location: Sophie Stadium (Inglewood, California)
TV:
NBC | Stream: fuboTV (Click here)
Follow: CBS Sports App
Contradictions: Bills -2.5, O/U 52

When the Bills have the ball

Before discussing the various stars surrounding the matchups on this side of the ball, it’s important to talk about structure.

According to True Media, no defense in the league played six or fewer first-down (first and second) snaps with six or fewer defenders last season. Buffalo’s offense, meanwhile, has seen opponents play with more light boxes in the early going than all but two other NFL teams. So, the Bills are used to seeing this defensive posture — and finding success against it, as they rank eighth in the EPA in those snaps.

Starting under Brandon Staley and now under Raheem Morris, Los Angeles has preferred to eliminate the deep pass first, and structuring the defense this way has allowed them to do so — for the past two seasons, at least — without giving up. More in the run game. Without players like Sebastian Joseph-Day, it will be interesting to see if Morris can still play the same way, or if he has to switch to more traditional four-man defensive lines and even drop a defense into the box. More often than he would like. Either way, the Rams would certainly prefer to put the ball in the hands of Devin Singletary, Zach Moss or James Cook over Josh Allen.

However, the Bills get an interesting counter — using Allen as, essentially, a running back. We saw them do this in their early-season game against Leaders Last season, Allen had 11 carries for 59 yards and a touchdown, and was instrumental in the Bills going straight down the field and scoring a touchdown on the game’s opening drive. Allen engineered 31 runs against six men or fewer last season, the most of any quarterback. He averaged 6.4 yards per carry on those plays, an elite mark by any measure.

The second half of the season saw the Bills use heavy personnel groups to provide better numbers in the run game and open up play-action punting against the linebackers. It proved to be very successful and we can see more of it against the Rams. In the second half of the season, Allen showed a greater willingness to check the ball to secondary targets and make plays after the catch. Buffalo specifically targeted pass-catching this offseason, helping that style of play, first by pursuing JD McKissick in free agency, then signing Duke Johnson and drafting James Cook. If Cook (or Johnson, if he’s active) can make the first man miss a swing pass or a check down (a difficult task against Bobby Wagner and Ernest Jones), it can be very effective.

Buffalo’s other counter against “take away deep shots” style defenses is throwing the ball all over them. Allen went 13 of 31 for 534 yards and two touchdowns with at least 30 air yards during the regular season, and we saw that against both. Patriots And the Chiefs said he has both the arm strength and confidence to sling the ball as far as he can and trust his receivers to bring it up.

How the Rams choose to play on the back end against Stephen Diggs, Gabe Davis, Isaiah McKenzie, Jamison Crowder and Dawson Knox. Morris used Jalen Ramsey more often in the slot than Staley, but Diggs doesn’t get there as often; He did so on only 21 percent of his routes last season. McKenzie is likely to open the season as the primary slot man. Is it worth it if he’s going to spend most of his time covering Buffalo’s shiftiest wideout to get Ramsey closer to the ball and the line of scrimmage? Can Morris trust Troy Hill and David Long against Diggs and Davis? Morris didn’t use Ramsey to shadow receivers last season, but may be worth considering in this matchup.

Of course, Allen needs enough time to throw the ball to those wideouts, which may be more difficult than imagined. Aaron Donald has the ability to single-handedly disrupt any game plan, and last season the Buffaloes struggled offensively on plays where the offensive line was simply overwhelmed by opposing defensive fronts. How well the interior of that line can hold up against the best player in the game may be a very important factor in Buffalo’s offensive success.

When the Rams have the ball

The big thing to watch here is how the Bills’ defensive backfield handles the Matthew Stafford-Cooper Kupp connection and whether the Rams’ other receivers can take advantage of the attention the league’s most productive receiver received from last season.

Buffalo will be without star cornerback Tre’Davious White, who is still recovering from an ACL tear he suffered last season. Two rookies — Keir Elam in the first round and Christian Benford in the sixth round — got more playing time with Dane Jackson and Darron Johnson. Can the Bills play as much man coverage as they normally would (three teams played man at a higher rate on early downs last season, according to True Media) without their star corner? Kupp had 24 more receptions against zone coverage last season than any other player in the league.

What Stafford really stepped up for the Rams last season was their ability to connect on big plays down the field. A year after Jared Goff went 13 of 49 on throws of at least 20 yards, Stafford completed 31 of 73 attempts and tied for the fifth-best EPA in the league in those dropbacks. The Bills were better than any team in the NFL at controlling big plays in the passing game. Buffalo allowed 10 completions of 20 or more yards through the air all last season, holding opponents to a hilarious 10 of 45 for 283 yards, zero touchdowns and seven interceptions on those passes. With Micah Hyde and Jordan Bowyer still patrolling the deep side of the field, the Rams will have to attack short and intermediate areas more often; If the Bills have to play more zone due to the lack of experience at cornerback, that area of ​​the field will open up for them.

Beyond Kupp, it will be interesting to see how the Rams use their new No. 2 receiver, Allen Robinson. He is a very different player than either Robert Woods or Odell Beckham Jr. Robinson is 6-2, 220 and more of a perimeter ball-winner than either of those players, and if he and Stafford develop instant chemistry on back-shoulder-type throws, Buffalo’s defensive backs will be tough to deal with. (Stafford’s elbow injury is also worth noting here. Can he throw the ball out with his usual elite arm strength?)

The biggest area of ​​concern for the Los Angeles offense is up front. It’s an offensive line that was overwhelmed at times last season, and both no longer have Andrew Whitworth at left tackle and Logan Press lost the ability to get injured in the preseason. Von Miller, Gregory Rousseau, A.J. Ebenezha, Shaq Lawson, Boogie Basham, Ed Oliver, Daquan Jones, Jordan Phillips and Shawn McDermott and Leslie Frazier will not run anyone out. Tim settled on testing Rams in a variety of ways.

Not having to resort to blitzing against the Rams is key, as Stafford punished defenses to a hilarious degree when he sent six or more rushers behind him last year, averaging 1.01 EPA per dropback — best in the league by a mile and more. Better than the league average of just 0.15 per dropback, it’s hardly worth comparing. Buffalo exploded at a league-average rate a year ago, but without White early this season, the young corners may be tempted to do so early this season in hopes of spending some time in average coverage. snap

Recent Contradictions:

Los Angeles Rams +2.5

Finally, he looks at how the Rams split snaps and touches between Cam Akers and Darrel Henderson. Before he tore his Achilles last season, the team had planned to use Akers as a Todd Gurley-style workhorse. When he returned amazingly quickly from injury, despite his lack of talent, they shifted several jobs onto his plate. Sean McVay has been talking about a couple of groups coming up this season. It will be interesting to see who he trusts and if he’s willing to ride the hot hand instead of going with the guy they had so much faith in. Buffalo finished outside the top 10 in run defense last season, according to Football Outsiders’ DVOA, and was too vulnerable to runs on the perimeter past the Bills’ aggressive pass-rushers. If the Rams find some success attacking the zone in the run game, it can open up play-action and bootleg shots down the field against a defense that normally doesn’t allow completions.

Prediction: Bills 33, Rams 30

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