Thursday's NFL: Rams to host Bills to open NFL season; Broncos at Seattle
To the Super Bowl winner goes the spoils of opening the entire schedule at home.
So the Los Angeles Rams will host the Buffalo Bills on Thursday night, Sept. 8, to begin the 2022 season.
It's a juicy matchup of the team generally considered the title favorite by oddsmakers in the Bills traveling to SoFi Stadium, where the Rams won the championship over Cincinnati in February.
The Bengals are home to their division rivals, the Steelers, on Sunday, Sept. 11 when all but two other teams get started. Those two clubs playing on Monday night also offer an enticing storyline: Russell Wilson bringing his Broncos to Seattle. The Seahawks traded their longtime quarterback to Denver in the offseason.
Sunday's prime-time game features Tom Brady — unless he retires again before September — and the Buccaneers at Dallas. Brady's decision to unretire after a short hiatus forced NFL schedule makers to scramble and redo some of the game slots.
The rest of the opening Sunday has some eye-opening matches, such as Jacksonville, with new coach Doug Pederson, at Washington, with new quarterback Carson Wentz. Pederson coached Wentz in Philadelphia and won a Super Bowl with the Eagles, although Nick Foles was behind center with Wentz injured.
Several key division matchups are on tap for Sept. 11: New Orleans at Atlanta, Indianapolis at Houston, New England at Miami, Las Vegas at the Los Angeles Chargers and Green Bay at Minnesota.
"Expecting to have an unbelievable crowd there,” Vikings coach Kevin O’Connell told the Vikings' website. “I’ve talked a lot about being on that visitor’s sideline, so I know what the Packers will be in store for on opening weekend. I expect to see a stadium full of purple. It’s a great opportunity for us and a challenge.
“What a way to start your season — a challenge but also a great way to kick-start what is hopefully going to be a great 2022."
Also, it will be Cleveland at Carolina, San Francisco at Chicago, Philadelphia at Detroit, Baltimore at the New York Jets, Kansas City at Arizona, and the New York Giants at Tennessee.
Teams that will open on the road and will be home in Week 2 include Kansas City hosting the Chargers in the first Amazon Prime Video game on Thursday night. Also, it will be Miami at Baltimore, the New York Jets at Cleveland, Indianapolis at Jacksonville, Tampa Bay at New Orleans, Carolina at the New York Giants, New England at Pittsburgh, Seattle at San Francisco, Houston at Denver, Arizona at Las Vegas, Chicago at Green Bay at night, Tennessee at Buffalo on Monday night, followed by Minnesota at Philadelphia.
Finally playing at home in Week 3 will be Indianapolis against Kansas City, Minnesota against Detroit, New England vs. Baltimore, and Tampa Bay vs. Green Bay, with Brady facing Aaron Rodgers.
The remainder of the entire schedule will be released later Thursday evening.
Previously revealed was that one of the Christmas Day tripleheader games, Denver at the Rams, will be televised by Nickelodeon as well as CBS. Slime, anyone?
Another twist will have that doubleheader on the second Monday night of the schedule — with an overlap. On Sept. 19, the Titans at Buffalo starts 7:15 p.m. EDT. At 8:30 p.m., Minnesota takes on the Eagles in Philadelphia.
Previously announced were the international games:
—Nov. 13, the first regular-season NFL game in Germany, Tampa Bay vs. Seattle in Munich.
—Oct. 9, Green Bay becomes the final team to play in Europe, facing the Giants at the home of Premier League soccer team Tottenham in London. The previous week, Minnesota plays New Orleans there.
—Oct. 30, Wembley Stadium will host the Broncos against the Jaguars.
—Nov. 21, San Francisco and Arizona at Mexico City.
Top pick Travon Walker signing $37.4M contract with Jaguars
Jacksonville, Fla. — No. 1 overall draft pick Travon Walker and the Jacksonville Jaguars agreed to terms Thursday on a four-year, $37.4 million contract that includes a $24.4 million signing bonus.
Walker's deal is fully guaranteed and includes a team option for a fifth year, both standard for NFL first-round picks. He's expected to sign the deal later Thursday, one day before the Jaguars begin a rookie minicamp.
He's the 10th first-rounder from the 2022 draft under contract, including four of the first six selections. He will count $6.8 million against the team's salary cap this fall.
The Georgia pass rusher rose up draft boards following an impressive combine and landed in Jacksonville to play opposite 2018 Pro Bowl alternate Josh Allen.
The Jaguars chose the 6-foot-5, 272-pound Georgia native over Michigan star Aidan Hutchinson, who set a school record with 14 sacks in 2021 and finished second in Heisman Trophy voting. The team later added a pair of inside linebackers, Devin Lloyd and Chad Muma, in hopes of improving a defense that ranked 20th in the league in yards allowed in 2021 and gave up nearly 27 points a game.
Picking Walker, though, wasn’t nearly the slam dunk that drafting quarterback Trevor Lawrence at No. 1 was a year ago. Critics argued that Hutchinson was the more polished product and pointed to Walker’s limited college numbers. He had 9½ sacks in three years in Athens, including six during last season’s national championship run.
But Jaguars general manager Trent Baalke and coach Doug Pederson see a more versatile player in Walker, who logged snaps at defensive end, defensive tackle and outside linebacker in Georgia’s vaunted defense last fall. His highlights include more than sacks; he stops the run, tackles speedy receivers in the open field and tips passes that lead to interceptions.
He bided his time as a backup for two years with the Bulldogs and started to blossom as a junior. He started all 15 games in 2021, finishing with 37 tackles, including 7½ for a loss, and two pass breakups.
The Jaguars plan to take it slow with Walker, letting him learn the outside linebacker position before shuffling him to other spots along the defensive front.
Broncos WR Jerry Jeudy arrested in domestic-violence case
Denver — Broncos wide receiver Jerry Jeudy was arrested Thursday on a domestic violence-related charge in suburban Denver and was being held at the Arapahoe County Jail, which is next to the team's training complex.
Jeudy, the Broncos’ first-round draft pick out of Alabama in 2020, was taken into custody on suspicion of second-degree criminal tampering with a domestic violence enhancer, a misdemeanor, the Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office said.
Arapahoe County Sheriff Tyler Brown called a news conference for Thursday evening to discuss the case.
Here's what was known ahead of that news conference:
__Jeudy was arrested around midday during a “call for service,” sheriff's spokesman Deputy John Bartmann said.
__The report on the incident that led to Jeudy’s arrest could not be released Thursday because the case was still under investigation, said sheriff’s spokeswoman Ginger Delgado.
__Delgado said domestic violence enhancers are added to cases when the victim is someone who either had or has an intimate relationship with a defendant. Because of the domestic violence enhancer, Jeudy couldn't be released on bond until appearing before a judge, she said.
Messages were left for Jeudy's representatives, and the team issued a statement saying it was “in the process of gathering more information.”
Jeudy, 23, was the 15th overall pick in the 2020 NFL draft but has largely been a disappointment in the pros.
He had a propensity for drops his rookie year when he caught 52 passes out of 113 targets for 856 yards and three touchdowns. He sustained a high ankle sprain in the 2021 opener and finished with just 38 catches for 467 yards and zero touchdowns last year.
“There are things you can control and things you can’t control. Those first two years are gone now, so I’m just focused on this year,” Jeudy said last week during a break in the Broncos' offseason training program.
Jeudy also spoke about the recent birth of his second daughter and he said he was aiming for a bounce-back season this year under new coach Nathaniel Hackett and newly acquired QB Russell Wilson.