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


The 2022 NFL season has finally arrived. There will be a total of 272 games played this season before we reach the playoffs, and in the first of those games, the defending champion Los Angeles Rams kick off their Super Bowl title defense by welcoming one of this season’s favorites – the Buffalo Bills – – to SoFi Stadium on Thursday night.

In which projects will be an exciting debut match, we will see stars all over the field. From Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs to Matthew Stafford and Cooper Kupp, and Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey to Von Miller and Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde, the playing field will be filled with some of the league’s best players. There is almost no better way to open this campaign.

Before we break down the matchup, here’s how to watch the Thursday night match.

How to watch?

Date: Thursday Sept 8 | Time: 20:20 ET
Place: SoFi Stadium (Inglewood, California)
NBC | Current: fuboTV (click here)
Follow: CBS Sports App
Chances: Bills -2.5, O/U 52

When the bills have the ball

Before we get into the different stars around which the matchups will revolve on this side of the ball, it’s important to talk about structure.

No defense in the league played more early-down (first and second) snaps with six or fewer defenders in the penalty area last season than the Rams, according to Tru Media. In Buffalo’s offense, opponents played with light boxes during early downs more often than all but two other NFL teams. So the Bills are used to seeing this defensive stance — and finding success against it, as they finished the season in eighth place in EPA per game on those snaps.

Starting under Brandon Staley and now under Raheem Morris, Los Angeles first and foremost wants to take out the deep pass, and by structuring the defense this way they can do it while not giving up too much – at least the last two seasons. in the game. Without players like Sebastian Joseph-Day up front, it will be interesting to see if Morris can still play things the same way, or if he has to switch to more traditional four-man defenses and maybe even drop a safety in the penalty area more often than he does. would like. Either way, the Rams would definitely prefer the Bills put the ball in the hands of Devin Singletary, Zack Moss or James Cook than Josh Allen’s.

However, the Bills have an interesting counter at their disposal — Using All as, essentially, a running back. We saw them do this last season in their early season game against the Chiefs, when Allen had 11 carries for 59 yards and a touchdown, and played a big part in the Bills marching right across the field for a touchdown during their opening drive of the game. Allen had 31 designed runs against six or fewer men in the box last season, the most of any quarterback. He averaged 6.4 yards per carry on those games, an elite mark by any measure.

The Bills in the second half of the season also took advantage of heavier staffing groups to give themselves better numbers in the run game, as well as open play action passing against linebackers. It turned out to be quite successful and we could see more of that against the Rams. In the second half of the season, Allen also proved more willing to control the ball to secondary goals and let them play after the catch. Buffalo specifically focused on pass-catching backs this offseason to help with that style of play, first chasing JD McKissic in free agency, then signing Duke Johnson and drafting James Cook. If Cook (or Johnson, if active) can make the first man miss a swing pass or checkdown (a difficult task against the lines of Bobby Wagner and Ernest Jones), that can be very useful.

Buffalo’s other counter to the “take away deep shots” style defense was to just throw the ball all over the top of them. Allen was 13 of 31 for 534 yards and two touchdowns on throws of at least 30 air yards during the regular season, and we saw against both the Patriots and Chiefs that he has both the arm strength and confidence to hurl the ball that far. if he can, and the confidence in his receivers to come down with it.

How the Rams choose to play things in the back against Stefon Diggs, Gabe Davis, Isaiah McKenzie, Jamison Crowder and Dawson Knox is also a sight to behold. Morris used Jalen Ramsey in the slot more often than Staley, but Diggs doesn’t queue there that often; he did so on just 21 percent of his routes last season. McKenzie looks likely to open the season as the premier slot machine. Is Ramsey closer to the ball and the line of scrimmage worth as much as he spends most of his time covering Buffalo’s most agile wideout, but one that is nonetheless the third or fourth option in the passing game? And can Morris trust Troy Hill and David Long to hold up against Diggs and Davis in the perimeter? Morris didn’t use Ramsey to shadow receivers last season, but it might be worth considering in this matchup.

Of course, Allen needs to have enough time to actually throw the ball to those wideouts, and that can be harder than expected. Aaron Donald is capable of single-handedly destroying any game plan, and the games in which Buffalo struggled offensively last season were those where the offensive line was simply overwhelmed by the opposing team’s defensive front. How well the interior of that line can hold up against the best player in the game is arguably the single most important factor in Buffalo’s offensive success.

When the Rams have the ball

The important thing to watch is how Bills’ defensive backfield handles the Matthew Stafford-Cooper Kupp connection and whether the Rams’ other receivers can take advantage of the attention to be given to last season’s most prolific receiver in the league.

Buffalo will be without a cornerback without Tre’Davious White, who is still recovering from an ACL tear he sustained last season. That leaves two rookies — first-round pick Kaiir Elam and sixth-round pick Christian Benford — in line for heavy playing time alongside Dane Jackson and Taron Johnson. Will the Bills be able to play as much man cover as they normally would (only three teams played at a faster pace man during early downs last season, according to Tru Media) without their star corner? Given that Kupp had 24 more receptions against zone coverage last season than any other player in the league, it might be advisable not to let him just look for weak spots between defenders.

What really boosted Stafford for the Rams last season was their ability to connect to big plays on the field. A year after Jared Goff threw just 13 out of 49 on throws at least 20 yards down, Stafford completed 31 out of 73 such attempts and finished fifth best EPA per game in the league on those dropbacks. However, the Bills were better than any team in the NFL at limiting big play in the passing game. Buffalo allowed only 10 completions of 20 or more air yards last season, limiting opponents to a hilarious 10 of 45 for 283 yards, zero touchdowns and seven interceptions on those passes. With Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer still patrolling the deep end of the field, the Rams may need to attack the short and medium areas more often; and if the Bills have to play more zone due to their lack of corner experience, those parts of the field will be open to them.

Outside of Kupp, it will be interesting to see how the Rams use Allen Robinson, their new No. 2 receiver. He is a very different player from Robert Woods or Odell Beckham Jr., the last two players to fill that role. Robinson is 6-2, 220 and is much more of a perimeter ball winner than either of these players, and that could prove difficult for Buffalo’s defensive back if he and Stafford can develop instant chemistry on back-shoulder type throws. (Stafford’s elbow injury is also worth mentioning here. Can he blast the ball out with his typical elite arm strength?)

The biggest concern for Los Angeles Offensive is up front. This is an attacking line that was sometimes overwhelmed last season, and both no longer have Andrew Whitworth on the left and lost potential start guard Logan Bruss to pre-season injury. Buffalo has a show of both firepower and depth along the defense line as Sean McDermott and Leslie Frazier each take on the Rams from Von Miller, Gregory Rousseau, AJ Epenesa, Shaq Lawson, Boogie Basham, Ed Oliver, Daquan Jones, Jordan Phillips and Tim Settle. test in different ways.

Not having to resort to the blitz is key against the Rams, as Stafford punished the defense to a hilarious extent when they sent six or more rushers after him last year, averaging 1.01 EPA per dropback – the best in the league by a mile and so much better than the league average of just 0.15 per dropback, it’s hardly worth making the comparison. Buffalo blitzed around a league average a year ago but might be tempted to do this more often early this season due to the absence of white, hoping the young corners spend a little less time on average on snap cover.

Last Chances:

Los Angeles Rams +2.5

Finally, how the Rams split snaps and touches between Cam Akers and Darrell Henderson bear watching. The team planned to use Akers as a Todd Gurley-style workhorse before rupturing his Achilles tendon last season. When he returned miraculously quickly from the injury, they shifted a lot of work on his plate, despite his relative ineffectiveness. Sean McVay has spoken of the pair’s backs as more of a commission coming in this season. Who he trusts and if he’s willing to ride the hot hand instead of just going with the guy they had higher hopes for will be interesting to see. Buffalo finished just outside the top 10 in running defense last season, according to the Football Outsiders’ DVOA, and was most vulnerable to edge runs — just past the Bills’ aggressive pass-rushers. If the Rams can find any success in attacking that area in the run game, it can open game action and bootleg shots on the field against a defense that normally won’t allow it to be completed.

Forecast: Bills 33, Rams 30

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voice
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.


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