The Bills will face a big test on Thursday night when they open the 2022 NFL season against the defending Super Bowl champions. This matchup might have been viewed as a daunting task if this were the Bills of 2018—a team who was trying to figure out their identity and find a franchise quarterback under a new head coach and general manager.
Now in 2022, this team's identity runs deep within the walls of One Bills Drive, they have their franchise quarterback who's one of the best in the league and they have big goals to play deep into the playoffs. Buffalo will face the defending Super Bowl champs in a season opener for their second time in franchise history, and this time the test isn't too big.
These reasons are why the NFL couldn't help but put the Bills on the biggest stage to kick off the season. It's LA. It's the Rams. It's Josh Allen. It's Von Miller taking on his former team and so much more.
"It is a mecca for sports, glitz and glamour," Bills Legend and Southern California resident Andre Reed said of Los Angeles. "And the Bills get to come in here and play at SoFi, a stadium that's the best in the league. You're going against the defending Super Bowl champions, Aaron Donald, Sean McVay. To come in there and not only play well but beat them in their own building in LA would be a big boost for the start of the season for the Bills because it could be a Super Bowl preview."
"I've talked to a lot of different people about having the opening game, and they do say it's a playoff-like atmosphere," quarterback Josh Allen shared. "Obviously, everybody who cares about football will be watching this game. It's the kickoff to another season. And to have the hopes that we have, and the dreams and aspirations that we have, it's the first chance for us to take a step forward in the right direction."
There's a lot that makes this matchup the hottest ticket in town. And from our perspective, it all starts with QB1. After his playoff performance against the Chiefs last year, the national opinion on him changed to believing there's no doubt he's in an elite category among few.
"Last year in that playoff game, you saw the future of the NFL between Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen," NFL Network's Cynthia Frelund said. "It was Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. It was John Elway, it was Joe Montana. It was these guys in this historic battle. It's not that we didn't know he was special before that, but we saw the birth there of a guy that looked unflappable.
"That wasn't the turning point game, but to me, that was where you saw him become generational."
The kid from the small town of Firebaugh, California with a population of just over 8,000 has become the kid that everyone's talking about.
"The first thing that people bring up is Josh Allen when they're talking about the Bills because he's an absolute superstar now," Bills Legend Eric Wood explained. "He's so exciting to watch. Most NFL fans are playing fantasy football, and he's the number one ranked fantasy football quarterback heading into the season, so he comes up in conversations constantly."
"I'm in a fantasy football league with my buddies from California, and I'm the only Bills fan in it and everyone knows that," the official Grill Master of the Buffalo Bills Jack Mancuso said. "I was seventh in the draft. Normally people take running backs in the first round or wide receiver, but when people were taking Josh Allen before me as their first-round pick in fantasy football, that's when I was like, 'Oh, man. Everyone has faith in Josh Allen, even non-Bills fans.'"
Allen has broken and set several records in his first four seasons including, quarterbacking the NFL's first perfect game, becoming the only player in NFL history with 4,000+ passing yards, 30+ passing touchdowns and 8+ rushing touchdowns in a season (2020) and is now one of three quarterbacks in NFL history with 120+ passing and rushing touchdowns and 30+ wins in their first four seasons.
The conversations surrounding Allen are no longer bout him proving himself, but instead about him potentially winning the MVP and a Super Bowl.
"What I hear mostly about him is that he is in the MVP race every year now," Reed shared. "And that's a great thing for him because that's the expectation for him. You don't want to ever settle for being just mediocre. His expectation is getting to the Super Bowl and winning the championship. Flat out, that's it.
"It isn't the passing yards, it isn't the rushing yards, it's not the touchdowns or any individual goals. It's about getting this football team to the promised land and delivering for the team, for the City of Buffalo, which has been wanting this forever."
Allen's superstar games have turned him into a household name. Although, Bills fans know QB1 is way too humble to ever admit he's a celebrity. Buffalo native and artist Benny the Butcher has been a Bills fan his entire life and thinks Allen's attitude is really what makes him a celeb.
"I think what makes him a celebrity is the humility," Benny said. "He's just so humble. He's like a Rockstar and people see him as a superhero, but he's just so calm and so relaxed. He's just so personable.
"You see him and he's out joking around with his teammates. I think things like that just draw people toward him."
The type of person Allen is and the story behind his rise to fame is another thing that makes this game so special.
"It's kind of the perfect Hollywood story," Frelund said of the quarterback who had no scholarship offers out of high school. "You come in and you're kind of overlooked, you're in this small town growing up and then you come to this big city with a brand new stadium. You're starting the season and there's just tons of expectations. But I don't think Josh is going to be overwhelmed. He's going to feel right at home."
Part of SoFi's crowd will feel like home because a big group of Allen's friends and family will be int he stands to witness his first game in his home state.
"It is kind of crazy," Allen said of it taking till his fifth season to play in California. "I know we had a game that was supposed to be in San Francisco two years ago and it ended up being in Phoenix. But it is kind of weird, it'll be surreal playing in my home state. It's still four hours from where I grew up. But my family, my friends, they'll travel well, and they'll represent my hometown pretty good too."
With a playoff-like atmosphere and the talent level of both teams, this game could definitely be a sneak peek to what we might see in January or February. The bright lights of LA, the big stage, the celebs on the sidelines, it all just makes sense knowing the work Allen and his teammates have put in to progress over the last four years together.
"It's almost like a Super Bowl," Benny the Butcher said. "You got the Super Bowl champs of last year against this year's Super Bowl favorite. And it's in LA and it's the first game of the season, so it's like a blockbuster event. You get to measure up two of the best teams in the league, the first day of the season."
"Both of these teams are looking at February, whether or not they want to admit it, I think anything less than the Super Bowl would be at least a letdown," Frelund said. "These are teams who were built to win, and one just did. And one probably should have. An entire rule change happened because of something that felt unfair in overtime. So, the Bills have this unfinished business and then there's the Rams who obviously went all out this offseason, they spent so much in free agency. Those expectations are sky high.
"So how lucky are we as fans that we get to watch this? We are really kicking the season off right."
Scroll through to meet the 2022 Buffalo Bills!