Since the NFL colonized Thursday nights, only one team that won the season’s inaugural game has gone on to win the Super Bowl. That is, of course, a loaded statistic, as the Super Bowl winner is always scheduled in the first Thursday night slot and the last team to win successive championships was the ’03 and ’04 Belichicks, so you can see how the idea breaks down immediately.
But as you may have noticed, every paid pundit and all those people who parrot-pundit have all concluded that the Buffalo Bills are by any measure the best team in the sport, making last night’s 31-10 groining of the Los Angeles Rams a potential possible conceptually viable harbinger of a future that we may not even live to see.
The Bills? Well, we cannot have that, even though the idea of a team that has never won the Super Bowl, and whose last championship happened in 1965 in an alien league known only for Joe Namath and for bringing the NFL to its knees, would seem to be appealing. The Bills are lionized for having the loopiest and least shirted fans, and by the looks and sounds of last night they travel well. They suffered through the four almost years of Jim Kelly, Bruce Smith, and Marv Levy, the many not-close years of nearly everyone else, even the threats to move the team to Toronto. By any valid social measuring stick, they have this coming.
But their just desserts would also mean a tsunami of “I told you so back in Augusts” backslap fests that will escalate normally irksome viewing of studio shows into an unbearable drone of smugness. There are a few exceptions, sure, but why ruin the flow of an elegantly constructed blog by mentioning all the genii-for-hire?
Still, the first returns suggest that the Bills are awfully well-positioned to be the first team in nearly two decades to go Thursday to Sunday. In slowly squeezing the defending champs, the Bills got a slightly-less-than-vintage Josh Allen, meaning he threw two interceptions, but otherwise he missed only three targets and the Bills converted nine of 10 third downs. They indeed seemed like they should have had the ball for 41 minutes instead of the 31 they actually did, particularly if you also factor the seven times their defensive front led by Wheel of Fortune combatant Von Miller terrorized Matthew Stafford into never doing another cellphone commercial ever again. Lily has clearly moved on, probably to someone on a rookie contract.
Indeed, Buffalo looked like the most imposing challenger in a conference full of them, while the Rams looked, well, kind of old, a bit creaky, with a hint of being yesterday’s news. Which is also something that the punditocracy made clear in that locksteppy way of theirs. That would be another bad sign for our enjoyment, although not picking a champion to repeat is a fairly low branch to hit with one’s head.
In short, the Bills looked the way all the TV heads said they would, and in some ways, so did the Rams. Thursday revealed nothing most folks didn’t already predict, so we need a sleeper and we need it soon. The problem is, almost every team is detestable in its own way, so finding one that will satisfy both your soul and the casino’s inefficiencies will not be easy.
There is, however, good news. None of the pregame shows this year can possibly be as unifyingly horrendous as last night’s. With Hoda Kotb shifting in a nanosecond from “The Queen is dead” to “The woman who was supposed be with me on this dreadful set had to fly to London to make sure the queen is still dead” to “HOW ‘BOUT THAT FOOTBALL!” we got new levels of cringeworthy TV producerism, the kind that makes people flee to podcasts, or wooded areas with no wifi. It all made us wish that however you felt about monarchy, colonialism, and empire, you still wanted Liz to live until the NBA all-star break at the earliest, just to keep the airwaves bearable.
We’ll have a full Sunday of more faux queen-mourny faces, especially since the Premier League kicked in all their games this weekend, but the one thing that saves the NFL from its own corny excesses is this: Elizabeth II’s shelf-life as talking point almost certainly won’t reach much further than Chargers-Chiefs in Week 2.