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Buffalo Bills at Los Angeles Rams to open 2022 season; Denver Broncos at Seattle Seahawks on Monday Night Football

The NFL will open its new season where the last one kicked off — in Los Angeles’ SoFi Stadium, as the Super Bowl-champion Los Angeles Rams host the Buffalo Bills on Thursday, Sept. 8, the teams revealed.

The Bills-Rams matchup features elite quarterback play between Matthew Stafford and Josh Allen, who has guided the Bills to back-to-back playoff appearances. This game highlights a challenging calendar for the Rams, whose opponents have the league’s highest winning percentage from last year (56.7%). NBC will broadcast the game.

The Monday Night Football opener offers a spicy storyline

Russell Wilson making his Denver Broncos debut against his old team, the Seattle Seahawks, in Lumen Field.

Wilson guided the Seahawks to two Super Bowl appearances and nine winning seasons over 10 years. Seattle traded Wilson to Denver in March for multiple draft picks and veteran players.

Other key Week 1 matchups include the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday night, a rematch of last season’s Thursday night opener; the Los Angeles Chargers hosting the Las Vegas Raiders, reigniting a dramatic 2021 regular season finale with playoff implications; the Cincinnati Bengals at the Pittsburgh Steelers, a clash of fierce AFC North rivals; and the Kansas City Chiefs making the trip west to play the Arizona Cardinals, two high-powered offenses in the desert.

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The Buccaneers will face serious firepower in the first month of the campaign, with a Sept. 25 home opener versus the Green Bay Packers and a clash with the Chiefs the following week.

Other Week 1 matchups include the Jacksonville Jaguars, with new coach Doug Pederson, at the Washington Commanders, 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, meanwhile, are also on tap for Sept. 11: the New Orleans Saints at Atlanta Falcons, Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans, New England Patriots at Miami Dolphins, and the Packers at Minnesota Vikings.

Also, it will be the Cleveland Browns at Carolina Panthers, San Francisco 49ers at Chicago Bears, Eagles at Detroit Lions, Baltimore Ravens at New York Jets, and New York Giants at Tennessee Titans.

NFL teams started releasing information on their home openers a few hours before the 8 p.m. league-wide schedule reveal.

Teams have known their opponents since the end of last season, but the NFL builds drama around the schedule release, announcing the order, kickoff times and broadcast networks for all 272 games on one night each May.

This will be the second NFL season that follows a 17-game schedule, as agreed upon by the NFL and players union during recent labor negotiations.

The regular season runs through Jan. 8, with the Super Bowl set for kickoff Feb. 12.

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CB Patrick Peterson says he’s re-signing with Minnesota Vikings

Cornerback Patrick Peterson announced Wednesday on “All Things Covered,” the podcast he co-hosts with Bryant McFadden, that he will be re-signing with the Minnesota Vikings on a one-year contract.

“I’m gonna stay put in Minnesota and run it back with the guys. Keep it in the North,” he said, while donning a Vikings cap.

He stated other teams his agent was talking to included the Buffalo Bills, Chicago Bears, Indianapolis Colts, Washington Commanders and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He said Tampa Bay’s interest was dependent on whether they re-signed Carlton Davis, which they ultimately did.

He said the addition of new head coach Kevin O’Connell and his pick for defensive coordinator, Ed Donatell, has him excited to return. “I just felt it was right just to be there and grind with those guys and try to all come together for that common goal. The team is stacked,” he said.

“Like I always talked about last year, we just didn’t put it together in certain situations but we got even better, I believe, this year in the offseason by adding a great offensive mind in Kevin, adding pass rusher (Za’Darius Smith) to help Danielle [Hunter], with Ed coming from his defensive background … these guys are definitely trying to put the pieces into place and now it’s just on us, the coaching staff and the players, to go out and executive and put together the best game plan possible to get some dubs.”

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He said he would like to play three more seasons, including the 2022 season.

“I feel great, it just all depends on what the body feels,” he said.

After 10 seasons with the Arizona Cardinals where he earned three All-Pro honors and was named to eight consecutive Pro Bowls, Peterson signed a one-year prove-it deal with the Vikings in 2021.

Peterson, 31, brought a wealth of experience to the Vikings secondary as he transitioned into a role that did not rely on him shadowing opponents’ top receivers the way he had throughout the prime of his career in Arizona. While in Minnesota, Peterson played an important role in helping develop young cornerbacks like Cameron Dantzler, Kris Boyd and Harrison Hand.

Peterson still excelled as a run defender and might opt to explore a move to safety at this point of his career, a move he discussed at the tail end of the 2020 season while still with the Cardinals.

The cornerback walked away from the 2021 season with a pick-six in the Vikings’ Week 18 finale versus the Chicago Bears to extend a streak of recording an interception in all 11 seasons he has played in the NFL.

He appeared in 13 games for the Vikings after a hamstring injury forced him onto injured reserve from Weeks 7-10 and a COVID-19 diagnosis caused him to miss a Week 13 loss at Detroit.

Peterson said his goal is to play 15 seasons before considering retirement, which could feature a move into broadcasting. His podcast that he co-hosts with Bryant McFadden, his cousin and a seven-year NFL vet, is a weekly obligation for the cornerback.

The Cardinals selected Peterson fifth overall in the 2011 draft. He has 29 interceptions in his 11 NFL seasons.

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Buffalo Bills to match Chicago Bears’ offer sheet to guard Ryan Bates, GM Brandon Beane says

The Buffalo Bills will match the offer sheet offensive guard Ryan Bates signed with the Chicago Bears last week, general manager Brandon Beane stated Monday at the NFL’s annual owners meetings.

The Bills had until Tuesday to match the offer sheet Bates signed with the Bears.

“We’ve kind of pondered that and worked through it. And obviously we’re tight on the cap, but we are going to bring Ryan back,” Beane said.

The deal is for four years, per a source, and the first two years are fully guaranteed.

“I just found that out. It stinks. But that’s part of the RFA process,” Bears general manager Ryan Poles said. “So we’ll adjust and we’ll keep adding players. It’s out of your control. It’s just part of the deal where you put your best foot forward and we did. We came strong, and that’s given back to their team and it’s up to them whether they want to match it. It is what it is. We’ll adjust like everything else.”

Bates, 25, had free-agent visits with the Bears, Minnesota Vikings and New England Patriots last week, after the Bills offered an original-round tender of $2.4 million. With the Bills, Bates will compete for the starting right guard spot. Rodger Saffold III was signed in free agency and is expected to start at left guard.

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The team also re-signed offensive lineman Ike Boettger to a one-year deal Monday.

Boettger started 10 matches at left guard for the Bills last year before tearing an Achilles versus New England in Week 16. Bates came in for Boettger when he went down with the injury.

“It’s really important for us to be strong up front, both lines, Ryan’s a versatile player,” Beane said. “He can actually play all five spots, but most importantly, he’s been a center, guard he’s filled in, and we thought when he had his opportunity this year, he did a heck of a job starting the last four regular-season [games] and then the two postseason games. It didn’t seem too big for him. You want to keep as many of those key pieces, he knows our system. He obviously knows Josh. RFAs are close to UFAs, but it was a deal that we felt we could match, and we plan to do that.”

The 6-foot-4, 302-pound Bates spent the past three seasons primarily as a backup for the Bills after he signed as an undrafted free agent in 2019.

Because of injuries along the offensive line, Bates started the final three games of the regular season and two postseason contests, most of which came at left guard, and played 223 total snaps between left and right guard last season. He also has experience at center.

While injuries led to him taking the field, Bates maintained the starting job for the end of the season and the playoff run because of his performance alongside left tackle Dion Dawkins.

For the season, Bates had a 93% pass block win rate at guard, which hovers around league average, and a 59% run block win rate, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.

The Bills’ offensive line as a unit improved with Bates on the field. Quarterback Josh Allen was not sacked once over the final three games of the season and was sacked twice in the postseason.

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Chicago Bears sign Buffalo Bills OG Ryan Bates to offer sheet

Buffalo Bills restricted free-agent offensive guard Ryan Bates signed an offer sheet with the Chicago Bears on Thursday.

Bates, 25, had free-agent visits with the Bears, Minnesota Vikings and New England Patriots this week, according to league sources, after the Bills offered an original-round tender of $2.4 million.

As a restricted free agent, Bates is free to meet and receive offers from other teams, but Buffalo has the right of first refusal to match any contract offer he gets.

The Bills now have five days to match the contract that Bates signed with Chicago. Because he is tendered at the lowest level, the Bears will not need to send a draft pick to the Bills if Bates ends up in Chicago.

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The 6-foot-4, 302-pound Bates spent the past three campaigns primarily as a backup for the Bills after he signed as an undrafted free agent in 2019.

Due to injuries along the offensive line, Bates started the final three games of the regular season and two postseason contests, most of which came at left guard, and played 223 total snaps between left and right guard last season. He also has experience at center.

While injuries led to him taking the field, Bates maintained the starting job for the end of the season and playoff run due to his performance alongside left tackle Dion Dawkins. For the season, Bates had a 93% pass block win rate at guard, which hovers around league average, and a 59% run block win rate, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.

The Bills offensive line as a unit improved with Bates on the field. Quarterback Josh Allen was not sacked once over the final three games of the season and was sacked twice in the postseason.

At the start of free agency, Buffalo signed Rodger Saffold III, who said he expects to be starting at left guard in 2022. The Bills released offensive linemen Jon Feliciano and Daryl Williams earlier this month.

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Buffalo Bills agree to deals with Duke Johnson, Jamison Crowder

The Buffalo Bills made two moves to bolster their offense Monday, agreeing to a deal with veteran running back Duke Johnson while also reportedly signing receiver Jamison Crowder to a one-year contract.

Johnson is signing a one-year deal with the team, his agents, Drew Rosenhaus and Robert Bailey, told ESPN’s Adam Schefter. The moves comes after Buffalo had lost out on running back J.D. McKissic to the Washington Commanders last week.

The Bills originally agreed to terms with McKissic last Tuesday, but the Commanders ended up swooping in, and — after initially not offering McKissic a deal — gave him a two-year contract worth up to $7 million, similar to what Buffalo was offering.

“I’ve had it before where the agent has agreed with you on something and then someone else calls and says, ‘Hey, what if I add a million dollars? Or what if I do this? What if I guarantee this?'” Bills general manager Brandon Beane said last week, expressing his frustration with how Washington handled the situation.

“Once you have an agreement the agent’s supposed to say it’s over. And this agent did that. And this agent told the other club it’s over. But the other club didn’t back off.”

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Similar to McKissic, Johnson, 28, has had success as a receiving back in the past, starting his career with five consecutive seasons with 400-plus receiving yards. He has 12 career receiving touchdowns after spending four seasons with the Browns, two with the Texans and one with the Dolphins.

The 2015 third-round pick played in five games for the Dolphins last year and had some success on the ground.

Johnson had two 100-yard rushing performances in the last four games of the season and 330 total rushing yards and three touchdowns on 71 carries for Miami.

Buffalo needed to add depth to the running back room after Matt Breida hit free agency following one season with the Bills and signed with the New York Giants on Monday. Breida saw limited action with the Bills, playing on 13.1% of the team’s offensive snaps. Johnson will likely be in a similar position on the roster and will have to earn his snaps.

Crowder, who turns 29 in June, led the Jets in receptions in each of the last three seasons, becoming the first player since Jerricho Cotchery (2007-09) to do that. On the downside, his production dropped each year, as he went from 78 catches to 59 to 51, with injuries as a big factor.

Plagued by soft-tissue leg injuries, Crowder missed nine matches over the last two seasons. He was on the reserve/COVID-19 list for one of those games while recovering from a groin injury.

Despite the injuries, Crowder has been one of the league’s most productive slot receivers. From 2019 to ’21, the 5-foot-9, 177-pound Crowder caught 132 passes out of the slot, eighth-most in the NFL.

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Buffalo Bills WR Cole Beasley on reserve/COVID-19 list, will miss game against New England Patriots

Wide receiver Cole Beasley was added to the reserve/COVID-19 list by the Buffalo Bills on Tuesday, becoming the fifth player on the active roster and seventh overall on the list.

Beasley tested positive, a source confirmed to ESPN’s Field Yates, and remains unvaccinated. He will at minimum miss the game versus the New England Patriots on Sunday and be out for 10 days. In an Instagram post Tuesday evening, Beasley said he was “feeling fine with mild symptoms.”

The game against the Patriots will decide which team takes the lead in the AFC East race with the playoffs just three weeks away. “Just to be clear COVID is not keeping me out of this game. The rules are,” Beasley wrote Tuesday on Instagram.

“Vaxxed players are playing with Covid every week now because they don’t test. One of my vaxxed teammates is in the hospital missing games. I’m sure he didn’t get this same energy. Thank you for those who support. Everyone else, if you don’t get what’s happening then there is nothing anybody can do for you.”

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Teammate Jon Feliciano, who also is on the COVID-19 list, posted on Twitter Tuesday that he “ended up in the ER on Sunday.” He appears to be the teammate “in the hospital” Beasley referenced in his post.

Left tackle Dion Dawkins, guard Feliciano, defensive end AJ Epenesa and linebacker Tyrel Dodson have been placed on the list in the past week.

All four missed the team’s victory over the Carolina Panthers, although Epenesa was out due to an ankle injury and placed on the list Monday.

Beasley was previously placed on the COVID-19 list in August after being designated a close contact with a member of the team’s training staff, but tested negative at the time. He was also fined, along with receiver Isaiah McKenzie, for not wearing masks in the facility.

Beasley was outspoken on social media regarding the COVID-19 vaccine, but the slot receiver deleted his Twitter account during the season, calling it a distraction.

“When I first got here, I got away from [social media], and then things happen,” Beasley stated in October. “And the issues that we have at hand, and I just felt like I needed to take responsibility for the guys that couldn’t.

“But it’s good for me to get back to where I wanted to be, and it’s not on there. The real world is out here and not there. Most people say things on there that you don’t want to hear. And it’s definitely a weight lifted, and I feel like I did the right thing.”

Beasley referenced not having an issue with others being vaccinated, but instead aimed the response toward those who chose not to. He often got into conversations on Twitter with fans and even teammates, speaking out against the NFL and NFLPA’s protocols.

Despite Beasley’s absence, the Bills’ passing offense still has a plethora of weapons available. McKenzie will likely see increased opportunities in the slot against New England without Beasley on the field.

Stefon Diggs is the top receiver, and Gabriel Davis has emerged as a strong No. 2 option with touchdowns in each of the past three games, in addition to tight end Dawson Knox being one of quarterback Josh Allen’s top targets in the middle of the field.

Beasley has 76 receptions for 640 yards and one touchdown this year.

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New Orleans Saints again to be without RB Alvin Kamara vs. Buffalo Bills

Running back Alvin Kamara has been ruled out for the third consecutive week with his knee injury as the New Orleans Saints prepare to host the Buffalo Bills on Thanksgiving night.

Right tackle Ryan Ramczyk (knee) and defensive ends Marcus Davenport (shoulder) and Tanoh Kpassagnon (ankle) were also ruled out for Thursday’s game.

Running back Mark Ingram II (knee) and left tackle Terron Armstead (knee/shoulder) are listed as questionable after practicing on a limited basis Wednesday.

If Ingram is out or limited, the Saints will obviously be short-handed at running back. Second-year pro Tony Jones Jr., RB/WR Ty Montgomery and backup quarterback Taysom Hill would likely be among those who fill the void.

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Kamara is not expected to be sidelined long term, and he was not placed on injured reserve after he first started experiencing knee soreness during the Saints’ Week 9 loss to the Atlanta Falcons.

The Saints will play another Thursday night match at home versus the Dallas Cowboys in Week 13 before having three extra days between games in Week 14.

Kamara has obviously been missed in a depleted Saints offense that has been short on playmakers in the passing game all season.

He leads the team with 840 yards from scrimmage, 7 touchdowns and 32 receptions this season.

The Saints (5-5) have battled injuries all season — but especially over the past month (including quarterback Jameis Winston’s season-ending ACL tear and receiver Michael Thomas’ season-ending setback with an ankle injury).

The Saints have hit a three-game losing streak for the first time since 2016

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Veteran WR Chris Hogan opts to retire from NFL, ending 10-year career

After a brief return to the NFL this season with the New Orleans Saints, wide receiver Chris Hogan decided to retire.

The 10-year veteran, who collected two Super Bowls with the New England Patriots, was placed on the reserve/retired list Saturday.

Hogan had flirted with retirement earlier this year, when he switched careers and joined the Premier Lacrosse League. But the Saints lured him back in late July, and he earned a roster spot with the team — catching four passes for 41 yards and a touchdown in five matches.

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It’s unclear exactly why Hogan decided to retire.

He was not dealing with any known injuries. But the Saints have added depth to their wide receiver corps in recent weeks.

They signed veteran Kenny Stills last month and designated veteran Tre’Quan Smith to return from injured reserve this week. All-Pro wide receiver Michael Thomas could also return soon, though he has not started practicing after having ankle surgery in June.

Hogan began his career as an undrafted free agent with the San Francisco 49ers in 2011 and bounced around from San Francisco to the New York Giants to the Buffalo Bills before finally making his NFL debut in December 2012 and catching his first pass in 2013.

He then played for the Bills until 2015 before spending three seasons in New England from 2016 to 2018 and winning two championships. He also spent one year each with the Carolina Panthers and New York Jets in 2019 and 2020, respectively.

He caught a total of 220 passes for 2,836 yards and 19 touchdowns in the regular season, plus another 34 catches for 542 yards and four touchdowns in the playoffs.

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Buffalo Bills restructure contract of WR Stefon Diggs

The Buffalo Bills converted more than $11.7 million of wide receiver Stefon Diggs’ base salary into a signing bonus, a source told ESPN’s Field Yates, saving the team roughly $8 million of salary-cap space.

Diggs was scheduled to make roughly $12.7 million in base salary in 2021; that figure is now down to $990,000. Buffalo, meanwhile, now has $11,084,995 in cap space, per Spotrac.

The timing of Diggs’ restructured deal comes as teams can take on less dead cap money after a June 1 trade or release — and will create some curiosity as multiple players, including Philadelphia’s Zach Ertz and Atlanta’s Julio Jones, are expected to be moved from their current teams.

It also creates more breathing room for the Bills, who have yet to sign first-round pick Greg Rousseau or third-round pick Spencer Brown.

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There’s also the matter of an upcoming extension for quarterback Josh Allen, who concluded as the league’s MVP runner-up in 2020.

Bills GM Brandon Beane has publicly expressed interest in signing Allen long term — interest Allen has reciprocated over the past year.

Beane said a deal likely won’t be done until this summer at the earliest but didn’t rule out negotiations extending into next offseason. Either way, Spotrac estimates Allen’s market value at $42.2 million per year, which would make him the second-highest-paid player in the league

Diggs, the NFL’s leader in receptions and receiving yards last season, is not the only Bills player to rework his contract this offseason. Buffalo has also agreed to restructures or pay cuts with Mitch Morse, Vernon Butler and Mario Addison.

Last season with the Buffalo Bills, Stefon Diggs had 1,525 receiving yards and eight touchdowns in the regular season. He also had 311 receiving yards and two touchdowns in the postseason.

This is the reasoning as to why some big names will get traded or drafted at this time of the calendar year. The teams that make trades for players will have large salaries, and won’t have a negative effect on their cap space.

The Buffalo Bills have been very vocal about their plans to sign quarterback Josh Allen to a long-term extension. Most specifically, to do it by the summer, before or during training camp. The Bills could also be one of the many teams interested in players like Julio Jones and Zach Ertz.

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Kansas City Chiefs LT Eric Fisher out for Super Bowl LV with torn Achilles

Left tackle Eric Fisher will not play for the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LV versus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after he tore his Achilles tendon in Sunday’s AFC Championship Game.

The Chiefs shifted right tackle Mike Remmers to Fisher’s spot after he left Sunday’s game against the Buffalo Bills, and Remmers is the likely starter at left tackle against the Bucs, who concluded the regular season tied for fourth in sacks with 48.

The Bucs have seven sacks in their three playoff games, including five Sunday in their NFC Championship Game victory over the Green Bay Packers.

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The Chiefs have had to dig deep into their offensive line depth this season.

They will play versus the Bucs with three starting offensive linemen out with injuries, including both starting tackles (right tackle Mitchell Schwartz has been sidelined since Week 6 with a back injury).

The Chiefs also had one starter, Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, and one backup, Lucas Niang, opt out before the start of training camp.

Duvernay-Tardif missed all of 2020 as he, a medical school graduate, returned to Canada to assist with COVID-19 relief and treatment in the medical field.

“They’re talented guys,” Reid said when asked how the offensive line has been able to hold up well through so much depletion. “In some cases we’ve had some young guys step in and … we’ve had some older guys step in. That combination has been able to get us through some games here. Most of all, I think the quarterback trusts them, as do the running backs.”

Fisher started 15 regular-season games for the Chiefs, then both playoff games. He was named to the Pro Bowl for the second time in his career.

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