By ROB MAADDI
LOS ANGELES (AP) – Matthew Stafford, Aaron Donald and the Los Angeles Rams will raise their Super Bowl banner Thursday night before kicking off the NFL season at home where they became the second straight team to hoist the Vince Lombardi trophy in their own stadium. Somehow, they’re underdogs against the Buffalo Bills.
“It’s going to be fun,” Rams All-Pro defensive tackle Aaron Donald said. “I’m pretty sure it’s going to be loud. … We definitely got to go out there and play a good team and try to find a way to win.”
The Bills are preseason favorites to win the Super Bowl after falling short in the AFC divisional round against the Kansas City Chiefs last January. Josh Allen leads a dynamic offense and the Bills had the league’s stingiest defense in 2021.
“Going to play the defending Super Bowl champs and watching them raise their banner, that’ll be an interesting feeling for sure,” Allen said. “And I’ve talked to a few people who have played and coached in this game before, and just really the unanimous thing that they were talking about was it feels like playoff atmosphere. So, we got to understand that going in, not get too high, not get too low. Understand the flow of the game and just try to put our best foot forward.”
Under Sean McVay, the Rams are 5-0 in season openers. Defending champions are 19-3 in Week 1 since 2000.
FanDuel Sportsbook has the Bills as a 2 1/2-point favorite. Pro Picks disagrees.
UPSET SPECIAL: RAMS, 29-26
Green Bay (minus 1 1/2) at Minnesota
Aaron Rodgers and the Packers were routed 38-3 by the Saints in Week 1 last year. The two-time reigning NFL MVP has something to prove without All-Pro receiver Davante Adams. Packers spoil the debut of Vikings coach Kevin O’Connell.
BEST BET: PACKERS, 26-23
Pittsburgh (plus 6 1/2) at Cincinnati.
The AFC champion Bengals solidified their offensive line after losing to Donald and the Rams in the Super Bowl. They’ve won three in a row against the Steelers, who turn to Mitchell Trubisky after Ben Roethlisberger’s retirement. Under coach Mike Tomlin, Pittsburgh is 18-6-2 against the spread as an underdog in division games.
Philadelphia (minus 3 1/2) at Detroit
The Eagles restocked their roster after making the playoffs last season, adding key players on both sides. The Lions are expecting to build on their 3-3 finish down the stretch in coach Dan Campbell’s rookie season.
Indianapolis (minus 7 1/2) at Houston
Matt Ryan’s debut with the Colts should be a successful one. Indianapolis outscored Davis Mills and the Texans 62-3 in two games last season.
New Orleans (minus 5 1/2) at Atlanta
Jameis Winston is back, and the Saints begin their first season without retired coach Sean Payton against the rebuilding Falcons. Marcus Mariota takes over for the departed Ryan after Atlanta’s bid to lure Deshaun Watson failed. The Falcons were 0-7 against the spread at home last season.
Baltimore (minus 6 1/2) at New York Jets
The Ravens lost their last six games last season after an 8-3 start but are healthier now and have the superior talent. There’s excitement surrounding the Jets following an impressive draft, but New York has lost 12 in a row in September and is 1-11 against the spread in those games.
New England (plus 3 1/2) at Miami
The Dolphins gave Tua Tagovailoa more protection and playmakers, including Tyreek Hill. Mac Jones led the Patriots to the playoffs as a rookie. Mike McDaniel makes his coaching debut against Bill Belichick.
Cleveland (plus 1 1/2) at Carolina
Baker Mayfield wins his Super Bowl in Week 1.
San Francisco (minus 6 1/2) at Chicago
Trey Lance and Justin Fields face off in a matchup featuring two of the five quarterbacks chosen in the first round of the 2021 draft. Lance ended up in a better spot with a dominant run game to help him.
Jacksonville (plus 2 1/2) at Washington
Carson Wentz plays his first game with the Commanders against his former coach in Philadelphia, Doug Pederson. The Jaguars will be a better team with a Super Bowl champion coach. Washington has also improved with Wentz.
Las Vegas (plus 3 1/2) at Los Angeles Chargers
The Raiders gave Derek Carr another playmaker in Adams. But he needs more protection, especially against Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack. The Raiders ended the Chargers’ season with an overtime victory in the final game of the regular season. Justin Herbert helps them get revenge.
New York Giants (plus 5 1/2) at Tennessee
Old-school football fans should like this one. Expect to see a lot of Derrick Henry and Saquon Barkley.
Kansas City (minus 5 1/2) at Arizona
The Chiefs have won seven straight season openers. Patrick Mahomes helps them make it eight in a row against the banged-up Cardinals.
Tampa Bay (minus 2 1/2) at Dallas
Tom Brady is back minus Rob Gronkowski and a pair of starting offensive linemen. The Cowboys nearly pulled off the upset in the NFL opener at Tampa last year.
Denver (minus 6 1/2) at Seattle
Russell Wilson makes a triumphant return to Seattle in his new orange colors.
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