Josh Allen, Bills look every bit like the Super Bowl favorites they want to be | News, Scores, Highlights, Stats & Rumors

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The defending champion Los Angeles Rams took on the Buffalo Bills – the 2022 Super Bowl favorite – to kick off the NFL season on Thursday night. When the dust settled, only one team looked.

The Bills were nowhere near a perfect game. Josh Allen had a few interceptions. Zack Moss had a late fumble that gave LA one last gasp. Rookie running back James Cook fiddled with his first professional carry.

Yet Buffalo still dominated the game in almost every way imaginable. Leslie Frazier’s defense confused Matthew Stafford early and often. The attack clicked throughout the match. Former Aries-turned-Bill Von Miller? He is still a difference maker.

Final Score: Bills 31, Rams 10. Had it not been for Buffalo’s mistakes, it could have been even uglier.

Buffalo came into the season with no glaring weaknesses. The Bills had a few questions, but they answered most on Thursday. One game won’t define a season, but Sean McDermott’s squad seems to be the team to beat right now.

Josh Allen’s Evolution Continues

The biggest reason Buffalo is seen as a Super Bowl contender is Allen’s presence. The 26-year-old Wyoming product is the epitome of a modern NFL quarterback. He is big, strong, can swing the ball anywhere on the pitch and can run around, over and through defenders.

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THIS JOSH ALLEN STIFF ARM WAS DIRTY

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However, what makes Allen really great is the growth he has shown over the past four years. He was incredibly raw when he got out of college – Allen closed his 2018 rookie campaign with a paltry 67.9 passer rating. That’s lower than what New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson (69.7) posted as a rookie last year.

Allen has gradually gotten better since then. He was a Pro Bowler in 2020 and took the Bills within a few games of the AFC title game last season, throwing nine touchdown passes and no interceptions in two playoff games. On Thursday, he flashed the kind of accuracy and field awareness that seemed unfathomable during his inaugural season.

Allen completed 26 of 31 attempts, hitting seven different receivers against Los Angeles. Those two interceptions look bad on the stats, but one was a drop by Isaiah McKenzie.

The Rams defense – who is still brimming with talent even after Miller’s departure – struggled to keep Allen in check after he went into halftime 10-10. His last stat line: 297 passing yards, three touchdowns, two interceptions, 56 rushing yards, one rushing touchdown.

Allen looks like an early favorite for MVP.

Questions asked and (mostly) answered

The biggest questions surrounding Buffalo were the departure of offensive coordinator Brian Daboll and curators Emmanuel Sanders and Cole Beasley. Daboll had led the offensive game planning since Allen was a rookie, while Sanders and Beasley combined had 1,319 yards and five touchdowns in 2021.

Under new coordinator Ken Dorsey, the Buffalo attack didn’t miss a beat on Thursday. Dropping 31 points on the defending Super Bowl champions doesn’t happen by accident.

And while replacing Sanders and Beasley’s tandem can be a challenge, Gabe Davis has established himself well as the new No. 2 target against Stefon Diggs.

Diggs led Buffalo with eight catches for 122 yards and a touchdown, and Davis (four catches, 88 yards, 1 TD) also gave LA’s secondary a lot of trouble.

Buffalo had high hopes for Davis in the regular season.

“While I was in the Bills camp, I was told with certainty that his four-TD performance in the Kansas City playoff defeat was the start of something big, not a fluke,” Peter King of ProFootballTalk wrote. “He’s a worker and Josh Allen sees him as a great addition – not a distant number two – to Diggs.”

So far, Davis has not disappointed.

The few problems the Bills showed on Thursday appear to be largely correcting. Both of Allen’s interceptions involved his slot receivers – he was a bit next to Jamison Crowder on the second. Buffalo will have to find some reliability there. The running game also remains a work-in-progress.

Allen led the Bills in a hurry, while Devin Singletary, Moss and Cook together reached 65 yards. Rumbling on the ground didn’t help. It’s worth noting that Singletary (6.0 yards per carry) and the running game as a whole (121 yards, 4.8 yards per carry) were effective.

Ball security can be emphasized and Dorsey can come up with a plan to make the ground play a success. Perhaps the biggest question remaining is how good Buffalo can be if it plays clean football for four full quarters.

The Von Miller Factor

We can’t talk about how dominant the Bills were on Thursday without mentioning Miller. The longtime Denver Broncos star and future Hall of Famer helped the Rams win Super Bowl LVI in February, and he helped put them away in Week 1.

Miller, who finished with four tackles, two sacks and three tackles for a loss, was almost unstoppable at times. If he’s lost a step at age 33, it’s not clear.

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Because as impressive as Miller was individually, his impact on Bills’ defense front would raise even more eyebrows. Buffalo had the league’s No. 1 defense, bagging 42 sacks last season, but never had “that man” who could grab a team’s attention on the brink.

Mario Addison led Buffalo by seven sacks in 2021 and he was the only Bills player with more than four.

Miller is that man and he’s going to create a lot of opportunities for AJ Epenesa and Boogie Basham. Stafford was sacked seven times on Thursday, throwing three interceptions and rarely appearing comfortable in the bag.

Aside from Cooper Kupp (13 catches, 128 yards, and a touchdown), most of the Rams offense seemed off the air.

While Bills’ defense was already great, Miller makes it even more dangerous, and that’s a problem for the other 15 teams in the AFC. Even when the Buffalo offense makes mistakes, like against LA, the defense will probably force them just as much.

On Thursday, the Bills showed the NFL world that it takes a near-perfect game from a highly talented team — and maybe a bit of luck — to beat them in 2022.