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NFL

2022 NFL season Week 1 picks: Bills vs Rams, Buccaneers vs Cowboys...

AS USA’s Ariel Velázquez offers up his predictions for Week 1 of the 2022 NFL season, which begins on Thursday with a clash between the Bills and the Rams.

Ariel Velázquez
Update:
Josh Allen con los Bills
JAMIE SQUIREAFP

There are no better three words with which to bid farewell to sunny summer days than: football is back.

The 2022 NFL season is finally here, and starts off with a blockbuster clash. The Los Angeles Rams begin their defence of the Vince Lombardi trophy against the Buffalo Bills, the favourites in the betting to win Super Bowl LVII in February.

Let me be clear: I’m no soothsayer. The NFL is a more and more complex league with every passing year, and has become borderline impossible to predict. But together with my colleague Iván Pirrón, I’ll be offering up my picks each week of the season based on the data and trends available.

Just look at how fine the NFL margins were in 2021

Last season was one of the most competitive in league history and was the first year of a structure in which each team played 17 regular-season games.

Throughout the 18 Weeks, 34 matches were decided by a touchdown or field goal on the last play, the most in a single year. All four divisional Playoff games were decided on the last play, and both the Conference Championship Games and the Super Bowl were won by a margin of three points or less.

  • 18 teams were still in the race to make the Super Bowl on the final day of the 2021 regular season - the joint-most since 2006 (20).
  • Four teams won their division having failed to come out on top in their section the year before.
  • Seven teams claimed a Playoff place after missing out on the 2020 postseason.
  • There were 21 overtimes last season, including three in Week 18.

GAME OF THE WEEK

Bills (-2.5) at Rams

According to multiple predictions based on simulations of hundreds of games, the 2022 season will end where it started: with the Bills taking on the Rams and trying to banish the memory of past tragedies.

Josh Allen returns to California, having never played professionally in his home state. The quarterback has guided the Bills to consecutive AFC East titles and is 3-1 against teams from the NFC West, including a win about the 49ers in 2020, played in Arizona due to health restrictions in California.

The Bills will try to bring the defending champs back down to Earth with a bump and in the process end the winning streak held by Sean McVay, who has never lost as head coach in the first game of the season. The most recent coach to post six wins in Week 1 was Mike Shanahan (1988-89, 1995-98). Incidentally, Shanahan hired McVay, then 24, as offensive assistant coach in 2010 at Washington.

The Rams have been at home in their opening game of the season since 2004 and in that time they’ve gone 14-2.

The addition of Von Miller to Buffalo’s defence will have an immediate impact on the Rams, not only because they let him go, but because they must now come up against him right away.

If Miller and the rest of the Bills’ defence can put pressure on Matthew Stafford, Los Angeles will be in trouble, since they only managed to win three of seven games in which their quarterback was sacked.

Prediction: Bills 37-30 Rams

The Los Angeles Rams' Sean McVay has never lost as a head coach in Week 1 of the NFL season.
Full screen
The Los Angeles Rams' Sean McVay has never lost as a head coach in Week 1 of the NFL season.Justin CasterlineAFP

SURE PICK

Saints (-2.5) at Falcons

It’s not hard to say: the Atlanta Falcons are a team that in 2022 seems to be on track to earn the first overall pick in the next Draft. The team’s offensive line is one of the weakest and the Saints can take advantage of that to exploit turnovers. The Saints’ defence is fantastic, and New Orleans have been on the receiving end of a lot of praise this offseason.

The Falcons lead the series 53-52 but the Saints have won four of the teams’ last five meetings.

Prediction: Saints 28-20 Falcons

UPSET

Eagles (-1) at Lions

One of the teams that have improved the most from last year to this season is the Lions. Jared Goff is obviously not an elite quarterback, but his level has risen since he stepped away from the Hollywood lights.

The Eagles also improved by bringing in AJ Brown, who gives Jalen Hurts a legitimate No. 1 wide receiver ahead of the skilled DeVonta Smith. Detroit will pull off one of the upsets on Sunday.

Prediction: Eagles 27-28 Lions

TWO MINUTE DRILL

Buccaneers (-2.5) at Cowboys:

At 45 years old, Tom Brady is coming up on his first divorce and also his first win in 2022.

Prediction: Buccaneers 30-27 Cowboys

Colts (-7) at Texans:

Lovie Smith is a good coach who will bring order to Houston’s chaos, but he won’t be able to overcome Indianapolis’ talent.

Prediction: Colts 35-21 Texans

49ers (-7) at Bears:

Trey Lance will have an enjoyable day at the office in Chicago.

Prediction: 49ers 35-21 Chicago

Patriots at Dolphins:

I’ve lost track of what Bill Belichick is doing or trying to do, but one thing is for sure: having Matt Patricia as offensive coordinator is as embarrassing as walking into the ocean in a T-shirt.

Prediction: Patriots 20-30 Dolphins

Ravens (-7) at NY Jets:

Lamar Jackson may not have his big contract locked in yet, but the first win of this season is in the bag.

Prediction: Ravens 33-17 Jets

Chiefs (-6) at Cardinals:

Two of the most electric quarterbacks will face each other, and Patrick Mahomes will come away victorious and with a couple of touchdown passes to his name.

Prediction: Chiefs 33-28 Cardinals

Packers (-2) at Vikings:

Let’s hope Aaron Rodgers isn’t high on the ayahuasca he sampled on his South American trip, but even if he is, Green Bay will celebrate their first triumph of the season.

Prediction: Packers 42-40 Vikings.

Browns at Panthers (-2):

Who doesn’t like revenge movies?

Prediction: Browns 20-27 Panthers

Jaguars at Commanders (-2.5):

Having established negative records in their last two seasons, the Jaguars are longer as bad as that.

Prediction: Jaguars 21-14 Commanders

Steelers at Bengals (6.5):

The AFC champions take the stage. They’ll win, but it won’t be easy.

Prediction: Steelers 20-23 Bengals

NY Giants at Titans (5.5):

Brian Daboll takes charge of his first regular-season game as head coach of the Giants. They will improve, but not enough to defeat the Titans, the top seeded team in the AFC last year.

Prediction: Giants 17-21 Titans.

Raiders at Chargers (-3.5)

The Chargers will shine under the lights of Hollywood.

Prediction: Raiders 14-21 Chargers

Broncos (-6.5) at Seahawks:

Russell Wilson loves Seattle so much that he’ll return to town to do what he does best: win.

Prediction: Broncos 30-14 Seahawks

2022 NFL season Week 1: video preview

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