Originally posted on FOX Sports | Multiple Authors | Last updated 9/8/22
Thursday, Sept. 8
Overview: The Bills lead the season series 8-5 (postseason included), winning seven of the past nine matchups and taking the past three road games against the Rams.
Los Angeles lost the most recent meeting between the two teams 35-32 in Buffalo in Week 3 of the 2020 season. The defending Super Bowl champion Rams will celebrate their title by hoisting a banner to the rafters of SoFi Stadium before this nationally televised Thursday night contest.
The last time the Bills played the Rams in L.A., Buffalo won 30-19 in 2016.
Matchup to watch: Bills QB Josh Allen vs. Rams DL Aaron Donald: The Rams will have their hands full trying to contain the Buffalo QB, one of the favorites to win this year’s MVP award. Allen fuels the Bills’ potent passing game and finished third among all signal-callers with 763 rushing yards last year. He will have to deal with a game-wrecker in Donald, who totaled six combined tackles and two sacks against Buffalo two years ago. Donald needs two sacks to become the seventh active player to record 100 career sacks.
Key stat: The Rams are 5-0 in season openers under coach Sean McVay.
Prediction: Even though the Bills are slightly favored, the Rams are the healthier team and should be properly motivated to defend their home turf. They will kick off the NFL season by celebrating their Super Bowl title on the field where they won it in February. Rams 31, Bills 27
Sunday, Sept. 11
Overview: These are two teams with new looks that are trying to recapture their old offensive magic after failed offseason runs at Deshaun Watson. In New Orleans, the days of Sean Payton and Drew Brees are gone — officially now, after Payton “retired” and handed the team to Dennis Allen. The Saints’ hopes hinge on the recoveries of QB Jameis Winston (knee) and WR Michael Thomas (ankle), and they’ll ride dynamic RB Alvin Kamara — as long as he’s not suspended after his offseason arrest.
Meanwhile, the Falcons dumped long-time QB Matt Ryan to give Marcus Mariota a second shot at being an NFL starter. He lost his No. 1 receiver when Calvin Ridley was suspended for the season, and that sure won’t help. But he does have dangerous weapons in TE Kyle Pitts and do-everything Cordarelle Patterson.
Matchup to watch: Saints DE Cam Jordan vs. Falcons RT Kaleb McGary. McGary, a former first-round pick, is certainly up to the task of handling the NFL’s top pass-rushers, but that’s never easy when it comes to Jordan. He’s the key to the Saints’ defense up front and had 12.5 sacks last season — his fourth double-digit sack season in the past five years.
The Saints have a tough secondary, too, and if they can get the pass rush going against Mariota, it could be a long day for him. Keeping him upright is the Falcons’ key to the game.
Key stat: The Saints went 5-2 in Winston’s seven starts last season and 4-6 in the games he missed. Once the Saints failed to land Watson in the offseason, they got off the Quarterback Carousel, mostly because they still have optimism that they can win with Winston. They believe he was just getting warmed up when he got hurt.
Prediction: I think there is some misguided hope with both of these teams, particularly considering their choices at the quarterback position. Both Mariota and Winston are capable of big games, but it’s unlikely they can sustain that kind of production over the season.
For one game, though, Winston seems more likely to have a big day, mostly because he doesn’t have to go against New Orleans’ defense. The Saints’ D looks legitimately good again, coming off a top-10 year, and it will be too much for Mariota, who has barely played since his last start in 2019. Saints 17, Falcons 9.
Overview: The Jets are trying to prove they’re not losers anymore. The Ravens are trying to prove they remain Super Bowl contenders. Jets quarterback Joe Flacco, who will start in place of an injured Zach Wilson, might have a revenge game in mind, but that won’t be enough to overcome the talent gap between these two teams.
New York is still rebuilding. Baltimore has continuity under John Harbaugh and Lamar Jackson. Those two will make for a tough opponent for every NFL team.
Matchup to watch: Ravens WR Rashod Bateman vs. Jets CB Sauce Gardner. There might not be a more fun matchup between young playmakers around the NFL. Bateman had a quiet rookie season while dealing with an injury, but it is clear the Ravens expect a major breakout in year two, partly because their wide-receiver room is devoid of top talent aside from him. Gardner, the No. 4 overall pick in this year’s draft, gets a chance to show why the Jets believed in him.
Key stat: Lamar Jackson will be making his 50th regular-season start. He is 37-12 (.755) in 49 career regular-season starts and can become just the sixth QB in NFL history to win at least 38 of his first 50 regular-season starts.
Prediction: Baltimore doesn’t have to be one of the AFC’s elite to take care of New York in Week 1. The Jets are constructed in a way where they might need time to find their footing. The Ravens, meanwhile, are built completely around Jackson and I have zero doubt that, with his contract situation still unsettled, he will go off against this spotty defense. Ravens 31, Jets 13.
Read about the rest of the matchups here.