Happy Friday, everyone! Hope you're well.
Let's get right to it.
Good morning to everyone but especially to...
THE BUFFALO BILLS
Josh Allen can solve any problem, any time. Von Miller can create any problem, any time. Put that together, and Buffalo is going to be a major problem for any opponent this season.
The Super Bowl-favorite Bills rumbled into Los Angeles and dominated the Super Bowl-champion Rams, 31-10, to make a statement on opening night.
- Allen threw for three touchdowns and ran for another, making several jaw-dropping plays in the second half, when Buffalo outscored Los Angeles 21-0.
- It's Allen's 21st game with at least one passing touchdown and at least one rushing touchdown since he entered the league in 2018, eight more than anyone else over that span.
- Stefon Diggs and Gabriel Davis combined for 12 catches, 210 yards and two touchdowns.
- The Bills sacked Matthew Stafford seven times -- the most a Sean McVay-coached team has ever allowed in a game -- and picked him off three times. Miller had two of the sacks.
While the final score wasn't remotely close, this was far from a breeze for Buffalo. After scoring a touchdown on their first drive, the Bills turned the ball over on three of their next four possessions: an Allen interception that Isaiah McKenzie should have caught, a James Cook fumble on his first career touch, a field goal and then another Allen interception -- to go into the half tied 10-10.
Cue the Josh Allen takeover -- leading (and finishing) three consecutive touchdown drives to start the second half:
- A touchdown pass to McKenzie
- A ridiculous touchdown run on 3rd-and-goal shortly after a 47-yard throw to Davis
- A 53-yard touchdown pass to Diggs while on the run
After running just one time for 7 yards in the first half, Allen ran nine times for 49 yards and the aforementioned score in the second. He hit two huge deep passes after mostly throwing shorter stuff in the first half, and yet he still managed to complete 26 of his 31 passes on the night for an 84 percent completion rate, a franchise record (min. 20 passes). There's simply nothing he couldn't -- or didn't -- do last night.
On the other side, Miller proved worth every cent of the giant contract he signed this offseason, living in the backfield of his former team. Five different Bills had a sack. Between Miller and recent early picks Gregory Rousseau, Boogie Basham and A.J. Epenesa, the Bills have invested a ton in their pass rush. So far, so good.
Overall, it's a strong statement made by Buffalo (and a strong statement received by Caesars Sportsbook).
- Dabo Swinney got a huge extension to stay at Clemson through the 2031 season.
- Erik McCoy is now one of the NFL's highest-paid centers.
And not such a good morning for...
THE LOS ANGELES RAMS
Many of the biggest stars -- Matthew Stafford, Cooper Kupp, Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey -- are back for the Rams, but make no mistake: This is not the same team that won the Super Bowl seven months ago. At least not yet.
Gone are Odell Beckham Jr., Robert Woods, Andrew Whitworth, Austin Corbett and, of course, Miller. Those losses aren't insignificant, and that showed:
- Allen Robinson, brought in to replace Beckham Jr. and/or Woods, had one catch for 12 yards on just two targets.
- Without Whitworth and Corbett, the new-look offensive line was under siege from a relentless Buffalo pass rush.
- Without Miller, the Rams registered just two sacks, the same number Miller had by himself.
The result? The second-largest season-opening loss by a defending Super Bowl champion ever. Not great. It's also the first time McVay, at 0-1, has ever been under .500 during a season.
There has been exactly one game this NFL season to react to, so the natural tendency is to overreact. It's all we have. The Rams will be fine. Robinson will build chemistry with Stafford, the line will jell and the defense will improve.
The Rams are too well-coached and have too much talent for those things not to happen. But Thursday night was very much the rudest of awakenings.
Not so honorable mention
- Rondale Moore could miss Week 1 after suffering a hamstring injury.
Sun stun Sky with late-game rally, advance to WNBA Finals 🏀
Welcome to the WNBA Finals, Connecticut Sun! Fueled by a shocking late-game run, the Sun closed out the Sky with a 72-63 Game 5 win.
- The Sun trailed by 11 with 7:10 to go before a 22-2 run that included Connecticut scoring each of the last 18 points.
- All five Sun starters scored in double figures, with Jonquel Jones and DeWanna Bonner each contributing 15. Alyssa Thomas had a near-triple-double with 12 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists.
It's Connecticut's fourth Finals trip, but the franchise is still seeking its first title. In order to claim that title, they'll have to beat the Aces, who won two of the three meetings during the regular season.
Sports world reacts to Queen Elizabeth II's death
Queen Elizabeth II, the longest-reigning monarch in British history, died at 96 years old Thursday after 70 years on the throne. Her death sent shockwaves around the globe, and the sports world was no exception.
- There was a moment of silence before the Bills-Rams game.
- Play at the BMW PGA Championship in England was suspended.
- Plenty of Premier League clubs, including Arsenal and Manchester United, paid tribute, and upcoming games across many leagues -- including EPL ones -- have been postponed.
- Several notable sports stars and leagues took to social media to pay their respects.
Fantasy football Friday: Who to start, who to sit and more 🤔
The NFL is back, which is awesome. That means fantasy football is back, which is also awesome. That also means deciding who is going to be in your starting lineup is back, which is... less than awesome. More like "keep-you-up-at-night stressful."
Lucky for you, our fantasy gurus are here to help you make your decisions. We'll start with Dave Richard's all-encompassing Starts, Sits, Sleepers and Busts for every game. One of Dave's top sleepers is...
- Richards: "Trey Lance's sleeper appeal puts him in the top-12 among Fantasy quarterbacks this week... Whatever downside there is with Lance as a passer is at least partially made up by his rushing. He averaged 10.3 rush attempts in the three games he played a large chunk of the snaps in and averaged 5.2 yards per carry."
I love this take: In two starts last year, Lance totaled 120 rushing yards on 24 attempts, and he's facing a Bears team that's expected to struggle. For what it's worth, fantasy expert Jamey Eisenberg named Lance his Start of the Week in his excellent Start 'Em & Sit 'Em column, too.
Here are position-by-position previews for Week 1 as well:
Who will win the NL East? ⚾
The NL East went from snoozer to thriller in seemingly the blink of an eye, and we're now set up for one heck of a finish as the Mets and Braves vie for the division crown. The Mets led the division by 10 1/2 games at the start of June, but that lead is now just 1/2 game as Atlanta is an MLB-best 63-24 since June 1.
The Mets haven't been too shabby themselves at 53-34 over that span, sixth in MLB. Our experts picked their NL East champion in their latest Batting Around roundtable, and here's Matt Snyder's take:
- Snyder: "I'm going with the Mets. I think it's hilarious that both teams could win 100 games and one would have to be a wild card after 88 wins took the division crown last season -- and then led to a World Series title. That doesn't have anything to do with who will win it this year, obviously, I'm just thinking out loud. I dig the Mets having such an easy schedule and seeing them wake up to dismantle the Pirates Wednesday after three straight bad losses helped a little."
What we're watching this weekend 📺
⚽ We're watching Serie A all weekend long on Paramount+. Same with NWSL on Paramount+.
🏈 Louisville at UCF, 7:30 p.m. on ESPN2
🏈 Boise State at New Mexico, 9 p.m. on CBS Sports Network
🏈 No. 1 Alabama at Texas, Noon on FOX
🏈 No. 24 Tennessee at No. 17 Pittsburgh, 3:30 p.m. on ABC
🏈 No. 20 Kentucky at No. 12 Florida, 7 p.m. on ESPN
🏈 No. 9 Baylor at No. 24 BYU, 10:15 p.m. on ESPN
🏈 Here's the Week 1 NFL schedule.
🏀 Sun at Aces, 3 p.m. on ABC