HANK’S HONEYS: It’s not often that a defending Super Bowl champ has found itself a Week 1 underdog. It’s happened only three times since 2000. In 2003, the Bucs were three-point dogs at Philly and covered. In 2013, the Ravens, having lost eight starters from their championship team, were eight-point dogs and blown away by the Broncos. In 2016, the Broncos covered as three-point dogs vs. Carolina. Notably, though, only the Peyton Manning-less Broncos were playing at home. Since 2000, all defending champs are 14-7-1 against the spread in openers. The Rams were 3-0 straight up and ATS as an underdog last season and 7-3 SU and ATS in those roles since 2020.
Motivation is thought to be on the visitors’ side. While the Rams try to shake off a Super Bowl hangover, the Bills know they could have been playing against the Rams in February. It’s the perfect statement game and it’s why the public has been heaping tickets on Buffalo, the presumptive Super Bowl favorite, all summer long. Still, the underdog role could be just what it takes to stoke the Rams and the smart money agrees.
While Von Miller took his Super Bowl ring to Buffalo, the Rams’ pass rush still has the NFL’s best defensive player in Aaron Donald. That unit will be up against what many feel is a downgraded Bills offensive line, particularly in the interior, where Donald reigns supreme. Josh Allen is terrific under pressure but this could be more than he can handle all game. The Bills drafted James Cook in the second round to bolster a lackluster backfield but he’s not a heavy-duty back and that could allow L.A. to scheme almost exclusively against Allen with Jalen Ramsey capable of holding his own against Stefon Diggs. Also, look for how free agent Bobby Wagner bolsters the Rams’ run defense.
We’ll also have to assess how the Buffalo offense operates without Brian Daboll, who is now the Giants head coach, calling plays and making adjustments. Most likely, offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey is going to need some time before he gets a real feel for his new headphones.
Matthew Stafford’s elbow tendinitis was a concern going into the preseason but he sat out the entire exhibition schedule and it shouldn’t be an issue until further down the schedule. Tre’Davious White, the Bills’ best cornerback, is out, which forces Kaiir Elam or Christian Benford — both rookies — to play extended snaps. They could be rudely welcomed to the NFL by Cooper Kupp and free agent acquisition Allen Robinson.
Either way, there is just too much explosiveness on the field not to favor the over. In addition, the Bills had the top scoring defense in the league last year while the Rams have been top 10 in that category two seasons in a row.
IF I WERE A BETTING MAN: Rams and the over.
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Best Bets: 13-8