The LA Rams will be welcoming the Buffalo Bills in the season opener, a game that Rams head coach Sean McVay typically considers a very winnable contest. And why shouldn’t he? In five season openers, the Rams have won all five games. So it’s pretty clear that the Rams know how to prepare for Game 1.
And there is no reason to suddenly expect them to fail this time.
But there is a new twist to every new NFL season. Players are drafted, free agents are signed, and the coaching staff is reloaded. In many ways, the start of a new NFL season is the start of falling in love with the LA Rams team all over again
But sometimes, NFL teams are forced to make roster changes on the fly. The LA Rams are intimately aware of the challenges that a sudden swap of contributors can pose to the game plan. This year, the Buffalo Bills are learning how to cope with unexpected changes as well.
For example, the Buffalo Bills elected to waive rookie punter Matt Araiza after allegations were made regarding sexual assault that occured during his attendance at San Diego State. In response, the Bills announced the signing of former Broncos punter Sam Martin to a one-year deal, just one week before they face the LA Rams.
So what do we know about Martin? He was a long-time punter for the Detroit Lions, from 2013 through 2018. He didn’t play in 2019, but signed on and earned the starting punter job for the Denver Broncos for 2020 and 2021. When he refused to accept a pay cut from the Broncos, he was subsequently released on August 29, 2022. Two days later, he signed on with the Buffalo Bills to take over their starting punting duties. Talk about timing, sheesh.
In all honesty, the Bills may have upgraded at the position. Martin is a savvy NFL veteran and has been among the league-leading punters over his career. Araiza was impressive, but he was an NFL rookie nevertheless, and his hang time was a matter of debate among NFL analysts leading up to the 2022 NFL Draft.
The Rams’ special teams will have their work cut out for them. While the team is fairly confident in Pro Bowl veteran kicker Matt Gay, and in the electrifying returns of Brandon Powell, the punting of newly signed veteran punter Riley Dixon has been a bit lukewarm so far. While Dixon can boot the ball far enough, he has struggled with placement and hang time, allowing NFL teams to put up impressive punt returns against him.
If this one comes down to punters and field position, I’m afraid that the Buffalo Bills, even with a late swap-out of punters, still appear to have a leg up on the Rams. Let’s hope it doesn’t get decided by punters.