Another summer of OTAs, mini-camp and training camp are in the books and now the NFL is getting back to playing real football. The defending Super Bowl champions against the “future” Super Bowl champions. It’s a game worthy of the opening night of the season.
As we head into the 2023 campaign, Nostrathomas has some work to do. His record straight-up was 168-84-1 for a solid .664 winning percentage but my grandma can pick over .500 when there’s no point spread involved.
The positive last season against the spread, the final record was 124-120-2 so over .500. And that record wasn’t built by cherry-picking only the best games on the schedule. That’s picking all of it, every week.
Still, that’s too close to .500 for comfort. Nostrathomas has risen from his summer-long drunken stupor…er, hibernation and is ready to go on the attack against the 2022 NFL schedule. So let’s get started.
Thursday Night Football
Buffalo Bills vs Los Angeles Rams +2.5; Over/Under 52
This is a strange point spread. The norm is that the Super Bowl champion heads into their first game of the season as the favorite to get off to a winning start to defending their crown.
As a matter of fact, the betting public is usually ready to follow that line of thought and over-value the Super Bowl champs by at least two points. Not this year though. The Los Angeles Rams are at home and still getting points against a team most are projecting to reach Super Bowl LVII.
And that’s the key. The public has embraced the Buffalo Bills as the favorite to come out of the AFC this season. That has kept 57 percent of public point spread money coming in on Buffalo.
Why The Buffalo Bills
That reason is as easy to see as your jersey on game day. Josh Allen, you say. Yes, there’s no disputing he rose to become one of the elite quarterbacks in the NFL last season. The real reason the Bills are so dangerous though is because of their defense.
Buffalo gave up 16 yards per point on defense in 2021. That means opponents were averaging 112 yards of offense to score seven points. The Bills were first on defense in points per drive, net passing yards per attempt, passer rating and third down percentage.
Because of that defense Buffalo’s average drive started on their 32-yard line. That topped the NFL last season. Allen was cleaning up on short fields.
Why the Los Angeles Rams
They’re pretty damn good on defense too. They gave up 15.8 yards per point in 2021. That averages out to opponents needing 110.6 yards of offense to scrape together seven points. Los Angeles finished in the top 10 in every major defensive rating last season which makes them a formidable foe to score against.
Both teams have a group of receivers that keep the 30 other NFL general managers up at night. Los Angeles receiver Van Jefferson has been declared out for this game but the Rams still boast the AP Offensive Player of the Year in Cooper Kupp plus the addition of free agent Allen Robinson with Matthew Stafford delivering the ball.
For Buffalo, they’ll be hoping that Isaiah McKenzie can replace Cole Beasley’s production at receiver. Beasley caught 82 of 112 targets in 2021 for 693 yards. That’s a big hole of production for McKenzie to fill.
The Bills will also have to hope that promoted quarterbacks coach Ken Dorsey can step into Brian Daboll’s big shoes. We’ll begin to see the answer to that in this game.
Buffalo can still play defense but needs to prove that their offense won’t skip a beat with Brian Daboll pacing the New York Giants sideline as their new head coach. Their defense will also be challenged to hold down a Rams offense that is just as formidable as last season’s.
Key stat, under head coach Sean McVay, Los Angeles is 5-0 both straight-up and against the spread in season openers. The Rams players won’t be allowed to think they can just throw their equipment on the field and win this game.
As for the total, both teams feature headline offenses but elite defenses. The total of 52 is high for a game of this caliber.
Take the Los Angeles Rams to win and cover at home and add the under for a little extra cash.
Los Angeles Rams 26 Buffalo Bills 23