Confetti still tumbles about Inglewood, California, in the aftermath of the Los Angeles Rams’ 23-20 Super Bowl LVI victory over the Cincinnati Bengals. But we’re not going to wait for the street sweepers to pick up those celebratory streamer bits to consider the next meaningful game to take place at SoFi Stadium.
With the Rams becoming the second consecutive team to win the Super Bowl in their home building, the 2022 NFL season will kick off where it ended.
As always, there will be changes in the offseason. Players will retire or move on, and newcomers will be added, but with Matthew Stafford inching toward an extension that will keep him in L.A. beyond 2022 and Cooper Kupp and others still in town, the nucleus will remain for the Rams’ title defense.
That defense starts with the NFL Kickoff game, traditionally at the Super Bowl winner’s house. For the ’22 season, L.A. is set to host the Arizona Cardinals, San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks, Atlanta Falcons, Buffalo Bills, Carolina Panthers, Dallas Cowboys, Denver Broncos and Las Vegas Raiders.
Let’s take a look at three of the best options to kick off the 2022 campaign.
In an alternate universe, the Bills and Rams met to crown the world championship this season. Buffalo has young star quarterback Josh Allen, who should be an MVP candidate in 2022. In addition, the Bills have stars on offense like Stefon Diggs and a defense that was among the best in the NFL this year. With the back-to-back AFC East winners on tap to travel to L.A., the league would get two marketable clubs with star QBs. Pitting the Bills and Rams to open the season would also offer a potential preview of Super Bowl LVII.
Would the NFL want the Cowboys in back-to-back Kickoff games? Given the success of last year’s affair and the eyeballs Jerry Jones’ team brings, the Cowboys should always be considered a favorite to be in the major network windows. It helps that the Cowboys boast a plethora of talented stars, from Defensive Rookie of the Year Micah Parsons to quarterback Dak Prescott to receiver CeeDee Lamb and others. A Rams-Cowboys matchup to kick off the season could have significant ramifications for the NFC playoff race with two division winners battling it out.
Las Vegas Raiders
With the NFL’s penchant for saving divisional opponents for later in the season likely ruling out an NFC title game rematch with the 49ers, the Raiders are the next best option of the rest of the bunch. While the league doesn’t usually put new coaches in that position, this is Josh McDaniels’ second-go-around as a head coach. The long-time Patriots OC joining Vegas offers a cavalcade of storylines, starting with quarterback Derek Carr building on a solid season. The Raiders opening against the Rams would certainly draw intrigue, but could the potential for the Silver and Black fans invading SoFi cause the NFL to think twice?
If the Broncos pull off a trade for a certain quarterback who is currently a minority owner of the Milwaukee Bucks, all bets are off, and Denver leaps to the top of this list.