The 2022 NFL season kicks off with a one-sided blowout, but what does it mean? Here are 3 key takeaways from Bills-Rams:
The lights were on, the stage set, the storylines were written, and the football hype was at its peak. Finally, after what felt like years of waiting, the NFL was back, and boy, was it back. To kick off the new season we got arguably one of the greatest matchups on paper. It would be the Super Bowl favorite Buffalo Bills versus the defending Super Bowl champs in the Los Angeles Rams. This matchup was already argued as one of the best of the year – before it even began. 60 minutes of football later, we were all shocked to see a blowout, with the Bills embarrassing the Rams to the tune of a 31-10 stomping. But what did we really learn? Below are my 3 key takeaways from Bills-Rams and storylines to watch for both teams going forward.
1) Josh Allen looks even better than his almost-MVP season last year
After putting up video-game-like numbers last year, many expected Allen to once again be in the conversation for MVP. Yet somehow, only a year removed from tossing for 4,407 yards and 36 touchdowns, he looks even better this year. Going up against what many considered to be a top-10 defense in the Rams, who welcomed back star players such as Aaron Donald, Leonard Floyd, and Jalen Ramsey. They also brought back Troy Hill and signed Bobby Wagner, but it didn’t phase the Bills’ franchise QB at all.
He remained calm and was surgical, dicing up the Rams’ defense all night long. If it wasn’t for Isaiah McKenzie’s blooper of a turnover near the end of the 1st quarter, he might’ve put up a perfect passer rating on the night. Perhaps the only Ram to make Allen look human all night was the aforementioned Troy Hill. Hill baited Allen into his one questionable throw of the night, picking him off late in the 2nd quarter.
With many questioning how Allen would be able to build off of 2021, they didn’t have to wait long for their answer with the quarterback putting up a stat line of 26-31, 297 pass yards, 4 total touchdowns, and only 2 interceptions. With the Bills heading back to Buffalo to face the Titans on Monday Night Football, skeptics will get another opportunity to see if Allen’s hot start is just that, or if he is en route to another MVP candidacy.
2) Cooper Kupp cannot be expected to shoulder the Rams’ offense single-handedly
Here are two stat lines that will speak volumes: 13 catches for 128 yards and 1 touchdown versus 16 catches for 112 yards and 0 touchdowns. The first line? That one belongs to Cooper Kupp, the Rams’ star WR coming off of a historic season. The second one? The rest of that “high-powered” Rams offense. To say that Kupp was a big part of the Rams’ offense last night would be like saying that Josh Allen was a game manager last night. Kupp was the sole reason the Rams were still given a shot after halftime. With the rest of the offense looking dead or missing for most of the night.
It’s no secret that they badly missed Odell Beckham Jr. last night. Beckham was instrumental in taking some of the attention away from the electric Kupp. To rub salt on the wound, his replacement, Allen Robinson II, was little more than a blip on the radar, recording a meager 1 catch for 12 yards all night.
Rams fans are more than justified to be worried that if something does not change fast, it could result in the offense slowing to a halt. Or even worse, Kupp has injury woes due to the heavy workload. Either way, last night was reminiscent of watching one of Stafford’s former teams, the 2012 Detroit Lions, who had Hall-of-Fame WR Calvin Johnson rack up almost half of the teams passing yards by himself. For Kupp’s sake, let’s hope that one of the other Rams playmakers steps up to help carry the load.
3) Both offenses looked very sloppy – and why you should expect more in Week 1
Both the Bills and Rams were among the teams who sat the highest amount of starters during the preseason. Shockingly, the Rams elected to not play some of their starters for the entirety of the preseason. It comes as no surprise then, that both teams looked sloppy and tired at times last night. This resulted in both teams combining for a mind-boggling 7 turnovers, with one-third of the drives being halted short by a turnover. While the Rams’ turnover woes fall more on the shoulders of Matthew Stafford, who had 3 interceptions, the Bills’ problems are a little more complicated. Buffalo ran into fumble issues with their backup running backs. Rookie James Cook fumbled on his first carry and Zack Moss coughed it up late.
If the turnover bug bites two of the strongest NFL teams this hard, it is more than safe to assume that the rest of the league will have more than its share of rust and fluky play. So be more willing to give some of your players a bit of time to straighten themselves out. Because as last night showed, it might not be smooth sailing from the get-go.