We thought they’d be there last year
When the Buffalo Bills lost in the 2020 AFC Championship Game, we thought their rematch in the season opener would make a ton of sense. They played both Super Bowl teams in away games the following season, so they were atop the list. Instead, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers hosted the Dallas Cowboys and the returning Dak Prescott in the season opener. The Bills vs. Chiefs became a marquee Sunday night game and Buffalo’s game against Tampa ended up in a nationally televised late-afternoon time slot.
In 2022, the Bills are once again playing at both Super Bowl entrants and should be at or near the top of the list of matchups the NFL wants to see if either the Cincinnati Bengals or Los Angeles Rams win the big game.
Cincy’s schedule really lends itself to a Bills matchup, should they win. Kansas City, Buffalo, and Pittsburgh are the only playoff teams the Bengals host in 2022 and unless the Steelers swing a big trade for an established quarterback, they won’t be ready for primetime in the opener. A rematch of the AFC Championship Game would make sense, but so would seeing the first battle between Josh Allen and Joe Burrow as opposed to the third game between Patrick Mahomes and Burrow in just over a month of NFL games. (They played in Week 16 and the Conference Championship this year.)
For the Rams, they have a multitude of opponents that fit what the NFL is looking for, unlike the Bengals. A rematch of the NFC Championship Game against the San Francisco 49ers makes sense, but who knows what their quarterback situation is going to look like. The Arizona Cardinals aren’t a ratings draw, faltered badly in the playoffs, and they don’t play in a major market but their QB is always must-see TV. The Dallas Cowboys, Las Vegas Raiders, and Bills are all on their home schedule, too, where multiple storylines could sway it away from the Bills. The Denver Broncos also go to Los Angeles in 2022, and if they pull off a big QB trade for a player like Aaron Rodgers, it could be a centerpiece for the league’s opening night.
No matter what happens, Bills fans can say goodbye to the normal Sunday 1 PM Eastern timeslots. The Bills were a huge ratings draw in the playoffs and every time they were on national TV in 2021. They have games against playoff teams in the New England Patriots, Green Bay Packers, Steelers, Bengals, Chiefs, Tennessee Titans, and Rams plus the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens. Buffalo is going to get a lot of eyeballs in 2022.