The Buffalo Bills open the 2022 NFL season as the Super Bowl favorites, and their quarterback, Josh Allen, is the favorite to win the Most Valuable Player Award. Their prize for the preseason accolades? A showcase matchup against the defending Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams to kick off the new NFL season. At the time of my sitting at my computer, Buffalo is a 2.5-point favorite to start the season 1-0, but with great power comes great responsibility. Here are the top five things I believe the Bills need to take care of to return to Orchard Park with a win.
Put Down the Papers
Reading your offseason press clippings is one of the worst things a team favored for success can do. The Bills are currently favored to not just three-peat as the AFC East champs, but to win the Super Bowl for the first time in franchise history. National pundits have been riding the bandwagon all summer, to the point some are turning on the narrative and arguing Buffalo is being crowned too early. On top of the presumed team accolades, Allen is also the leader to win the MVP. Despite the inability to reach the Super Bowl in over two decades, the target on Orchard Park is enormous. So, how do the Bills silence the noise? It sounds simple, but it’s something head coach Sean McDermott has drilled into their heads for years: they must “Trust The Process.” Yep, that simple! Do what has made you the favorite, play your game, and profit. In that order.
All Gas, No Brakes
The Bills must score points! I know what you’re thinking…DUH! Here’s the thing about the Rams’ last three games: they made coming from behind and scoring late to win their modus operandi. L.A. scored a walk-off field goal to top Tampa Bay 30-27 in the divisional round. The Rams were trailing the 49ers 17-7 in the third quarter of the NFC Championship before winning 20-17. They were down 20-13 in the Super Bowl before topping the Bengals 23-20. See the trend? So, Buffalo must score touchdowns when in the red zone and forget eating up the clock late. Go for more points!
No human has more QB pressures over the last three years than Los Angeles defender Aaron Donald’s 97. The Bills’ ability to move the offense could hinge on slowing down the seven-time First-Team All-Pro defensive tackle. To do so, I’d expect a committee approach by the Bills. It wouldn’t surprise me if ten or more guys blocked, chipped, or straight-up held the future Hall-of-Famer throughout the contest. This is where a vet center like Mitch Morse, as well as left tackle Dion Dawkins, come in handy. These two will be charged with guiding newcomers guard Rodger Saffold and tackle David Quessenberry as well as second-year tackle Spencer Brown in trying to contain the menace across from all of them as Donald has the freedom to roam about the Rams’ front. All that said, the ultimate trump card could be the man taking the snaps. Josh Allen has the ability to manipulate everything the Rams do with his pre-snap reads, and he can operate within the pocket better than anyone else while possibly leaving it any time he wants. If the line, tight ends, running backs, and Allen can find cohesion early, it will go a long way in slowing down football’s premiere game wrecker.
Let Josh Cook
This one is a compilation of the first three things I listed. Josh Allen is the MVP favorite for a reason. He is arguably the best quarterback in the league and has weapons galore. As much as the players must “trust the process,” McDermott and new offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey must trust their captain to do that right thing, as well. It will be on Allen’s arm and legs to put up as many points as possible against a Rams team that averaged over 27 points per game in 2021. Should he want to audible out of a run and take a shot to Gabe Davis because he likes what he sees, awesome! Should he want to work the hurry up because L.A. is stuck in a favorable personnel grouping, great! If he decides to…you get the point. The guy Brandon Beane traded up to pick #7 in the 2018 draft has become all you could want and more. In short, let the guy who is the favorite to fill his mantle with accolades go and earn them.
The first four were about the Bills’ offense. The Rams have some solid firepower when they have the ball, too. We know what we should get from the front seven as that unit is relatively the same with the addition of some dude named Von Miller and tackles DaQuan Jones and Tim Settle. If the future gold jacket-owning EDGE (Miller) and the rest of the line and backers perform to expectation, it will come down to a young and inexperienced set of cornerbacks to not let the rest down. Former seventh-round selection Dane Jackson and his 677 career snaps are the number one corner while Tre’Davious White recovers from an ACL tear. Listed on the depth chart opposite Jackson is rookie Kaiir Elam. The 23rd overall pick looked more than serviceable in the preseason, but he wasn’t playing Matt Stafford and the Rams during those reps. It will be baptism by fire for him and fellow rookie Christian Benford. Buffalo does have the benefit of a pair of All-Pro safeties in Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer. However, if the three corners listed above can’t hold down the fort, the challenge of slowing Stafford and his nearly 5,000 passing yards from 2021 will be harder than we anticipated.