Welcome to the newest edition of Thursday Night Showdown. I’ll be guiding you through the important aspects to watch in each TNF showdown. It’s been a long wait, but regular season football has finally returned. 544 football games across 18 weeks, and the journey kicks off tonight at SoFi Stadium. Without further ado, let’s see what the Buffalo Bills and the Los Angeles Rams have in store for us in the 2022 NFL debut contest.
Advanced stats and analytics will be utilized to identify favorable matchups and players to avoid. The purpose of this article is to paint a picture of how the teams play and matchup with one another in less than 1,000 words.
As the season continues, less emphasis will be put on last season and early season’s stats. Vegas trends will also be implemented to help predict the game flow. I’ll conclude the article with a Cliff Notes section and give the readers my prediction for the game.
Vegas Trends (A Tale of Dueling Sean’s)
- Buffalo are 3-2 SU and ATS in their five opening games under head coach Sean McDermott.
- The total has gone OVER in four of Buffalo’s last five games on the road.
- Los Angeles are 5-0 SU and ATS in all five of their opening games under head coach Sean McVay.
- The total has gone UNDER in six of Los Angeles’s last seven home games.
- Buffalo are 1-0 SU and ATS versus the Rams under both teams’ current head coaches.
Key Offseason Additions
- Von Miller (Free Agency)
- Kaiir Elam (2022 draft, 1st round)
- James Cook (2022 draft, 2nd round)
- Jamison Crowder (Free Agency)
Key Offseason Departures
- Cole Beasley
- Emmanuel Sanders
- Brian Daboll (Personell)
- Jordan Poyer (Elbow, Fully participated Tues)
- Isaiah McKenzie (Groin, Fully participated Tues)
- Tre’Davious White (ACL, Out – PUP List)
Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills look to repeat and build upon their rampant success from 2021. Allen led all quarterbacks in fantasy scoring. He generated 24.6 Fantasy Points per Game and led the Bills to their second top-three finish in scoring offense in as many years. The gunslinger steps up in big moments. He put up 27.4 fantasy points per game against top-10 defenses last year. There’s no stopping Allen. Defenses can only hope to contain him.
Still by Allen’s side is his trustee sidekick Stefon Diggs. Last season, at many points, the route running savant and his maestro played off beat, leading to a reduction of 3.7 Fantasy Points per Game from 2020 for Diggs.
With his opportunity share remaining at an elite level, it’s likely he overcomes the variance and cuts into last season’s 923 (No. 2 of qualified receivers) Unrealized Air Yards. Tonight, he’ll be shadowed by star corner Jalen Ramsey. Diggs will certainly get his, but expect fireworks between these two stars.
Right on target. 🎯#LARvsBUF | 📺: FOX pic.twitter.com/fBL7jI8r9P
— Buffalo Bills (@BuffaloBills) September 27, 2020
The most polarizing player in fantasy football, Gabriel Davis, is set to take on the No. 2 role in this passing game. Like it or not, ADP bros, he might just be good at football. The Bills publicly displayed their confidence in him by foregoing any significant adds to the position in free agency and the draft. He’s a reliable target in all situations, racking up an impressive +14.3 (No .4) Production Premium. We’re anxiously awaiting the encore to the AFC Divisional supernova performance.
Start Davis and take the OVER on his O/U 60.5 receiving yards
In deeper leagues or daily fantasy lineups, you may be looking to play Bill’s slot-man Isaiah McKenzie. It’s not common to see a 27 year old gadget receiver suddenly earn a hefty role on a top passing offense, but life is crazy. One fateful, windy night in Foxborough changed his career. You won’t find many advanced metrics in his favor at this point, but that doesn’t bother the analytically-driven Bills. McKenzie has flex-appeal in PPR leagues.
Isaiah McKenzie Week 16 vs New England Patriots
🔹 12 Targets
🔹 11 Receptions
🔹 124 Total Yards
🔹 1 TD
🔹 29.4 Fantasy Points
— PlayerProfiler NFL (@PP_NFL) September 4, 2022
Another question mark in this offense is the opportunity split between rookie running back James Cook and veteran Devin Singletary. Singletary is currently listed as the starting back, signaling Cook will likely begin the season as the 3rd-down/pass-catching back. Ultimately, this makes both backs lower-end RB2’s. Cook will likely have the safer floor earning more fantasy-friendly touches. Singletary will get early down and goal-line work. Cook should see your fantasy lineups, so play Singletary at your own risk.
Freshly extended, and now a top-five paid tight end, Dawson Knox aims to prove his 2021 season was no fluke. In the past, he’s struggled to earn a significant Target Share. However, he possesses a desirable athletic profile, has generated at least 1.50 yards of average Target Separation in all three seasons, and is a reliable target in tight-window and red zone situations. Now the third target in the pecking order, Knox is a weekly starter in fantasy.
Los Angeles Rams
Key Offseason Additions
- Allen Robinson (Free Agency)
- Bobby Wagner (Free Agency)
Key Offseason Departures
- Von Miller
- Johnny Hekker
- Odell Beckham Jr.
- Van Jefferson (Knee, DNP Tues)
The reigning Super Bowl champions begin their repeat campaign as underdogs despite playing at home. Should-have-been 2021 MVP Matthew Stafford took this team to an upper echelon, throwing for 4886 (No. 3) passing yards and 41 (No. 2) touchdowns. The Bills will bring the pressure to slow down the passing game. Posting a 6.5 (No. 9) Under Pressure Accuracy Rating, Stafford will have no problem finding his guys and racking up fantasy points.
Jared Goff: "Why does Matthew Stafford get so much more credit for leading the Rams to success than I did?"pic.twitter.com/k03oZ8zDQJ
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) October 22, 2021
Can Super Bowl MVP Cooper Kupp repeat his 2021 dominance? There’s no denying he has both the talent and the opportunity to do so. He beat his man on 40-percent of his routes, and earned 3.21 (No. 1) Yards per Team Pass Attempt. His ability to un-tether himself from the defense and gather targets in heaps is truly uncanny. With the Bills missing Tre’Davious White, Kupp will have his way with this defense.
Allen Robinson will be the newest product of the Ram’s rotisserie of receivers. With the chains of Nagy broken, we get to see the version of Robinson who finished as a top-12 fantasy WR in 2020 and 2019. He finished with a 42.2-percent (No. 14) Win Rate vs Man last season and gets to kick off his debut against an undermanned Bills secondary.
Allen Robinson: Definitely not washedpic.twitter.com/2LN4sy8UUu
— Dave Kluge (@DaveKluge) August 4, 2022
Similarly to Gabriel Davis, Cam Akers has also been quite the polarizing prospect this offseason. Akers is being brought down for not performing up to snuff despite returning from an Achilles injury in record time. He hit a play speed of nearly 20 miles per hour on a 40 yard reception during wild card weekend (per Next Gen Stats) and earned 17 carries just one week after his return. He faces a stout run defense, but will get a start-able level of opportunity.
We know McVay’s true feelings about Akers. Start him tonight, and let Henderson ride the pine for Week 1.
Finally, Tyler Higbee looks to take further advantage of the increased volume he saw last season. He ran 30.4 (No. 6) Routes per Game, and his target volume increased after the arrival of Odell Beckham Jr. by almost 2 targets per game. Talent aside, the Bills were one of the best teams at slowing down tight ends in 2021, and should limit Higbee to being a streaming option.
- Stefon Diggs is primed to return to his unstoppable form.
- Gabriel Davis is about to show us that he’s the real deal.
- James Cook is the time-share back to target in this offense.
- Whether Van Jefferson starts or sits, the Rams WR3 will not be very involved tonight.
- Allen Robinson will remind everyone that he is still an alpha.
- Cam Akers will hit the ground running in 2022.
The Rams enter tonight’s contest as 2.5 point home underdogs. For an underdog, facing a team without their all-pro cornerback on your own turf is as good of a spot to be in as you’ll see. Despite the Rams [probably] missing their WR3 in Van Jefferson, the Rams’ receiving core is poised to tear up this Bills undermanned secondary. Both of these teams are elite on both sides of the ball, likely making this a game of “Who gets the ball last?”. In an air-tight matchup, I’m picking the Rams to cover the spread on opening day once again.
The over/under point total is set at 52.5 points. Last season, these teams averaged a combined 55.5 points per game. Even when two elite defenses are paired against each other, high powered offenses clashing tend to lead to an eruption of offensive production. It’s the unstoppable force meets the immovable object. Given the offensive prowess of these squads, I’m taking the over. Strap in, folks, we have a Thursday Night Shootout in store.
Prediction: Bills 31-30