The Bills and Panthers both enter play Sunday coming off wins over teams towards the bottom of the NFL. The Panthers took care of business on the road, beating the 49ers 23-3. The Bills stayed at home to beat the Jets 21-12 in a game that wasn’t as close as the score suggested. A Bills-Panthers game wouldn’t usually mean much, but this Week 2 is a homecoming of sorts for some in the Bills organization.
Bills GM Brandon Beane spent the last 19 years in the Panthers organization, and FB Mike Tolbert had started for the Panthers since 2012. In addition, Head Coach Sean McDermott returns to Carolina after 6 years of being a defensive coordinator under Ron Rivera. McDermott credits much of his success and his ability to land the Bills head coaching job to Rivera, citing Rivera’s abilities both on and off the field. Defeating the Jets at home is a step in the right direction, but the Bills will have to come out firing on all cylinders in order to take down a team that made the Super Bowl just two short seasons ago.
Keys to the Game
The Bills odds of winning on the road this week hinge on their ability to contain Cam Newton. Last week, Newton was just 14-25 for 171 yards, 2 touchdowns and an interception against the 49ers. Newton looks to come out to impress at home in front of fans that were disappointed in his play last season. The Bills will rely on the big guys up front such as Kyle Williams, Jerry Hughes and Lorenzo Alexander to get pressure on and also contain the elusive Newton. Going against mobile quarterback Tyrod Taylor in practice everyday will help, however Newton is much bigger than Taylor, standing at a towering 6 foot 5, and weighing 245 pounds. The 49ers were able to keep Newton off his legs, as he had 6 rushes for a lowly 3 yards. Of course, the Bills secondary can’t fall asleep on the rocket of an arm that Newton possesses.
FS Jordan Poyer looks to stay hot, coming off of a Week 1 performance where he recorded a sack and an interception. Rookie CB TreDavious White will most likely be assigned to guard the Panthers #1 option Kelvin Benjamin, who had just one catch for 25 yards last week, but always has big play ability. Perhaps the most daunting task for the Bills this week lies with rookie RB Christian McCaffrey, who runs the ball and catches out of the backfield. McCaffrey racked up 85 yards total last week, the majority coming on the ground. The Bills defense allowed just 38 rushing yards against the Jets, and will have their hands full with the two-headed monster of McCaffrey and veteran RB Jonathan Stewart. All in all, the Panthers have a lot of weapons the Bills will have to deal with. However, the Bills have enough weapons on the defensive end to keep up.
On the offensive end last week, Tyrod Taylor impressed going 16-28 for 224 yards, 2 touchdowns and an interception that went through the hands of Charles Clay. In addition to his contributions through the air, Taylor ran for 38 of the Bills league-leading 190 Week 1 yards. LeSean McCoy shouldered most of the load for the Bills, rushing for 110 yards on 22 carries. Although it was against the Jets, the Bills come into Week 2 after putting up 408 yards. That total is good for 3rd in the NFL.
The running game will have its hands full with Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short on the line and Pro Bowl linebackers Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis to back them up. Last week, Carolina allowed just 51 yards of rushing to a 49ers team led by Carlos Hyde. However, the Panthers do have some weaknesses in the secondary that can be exploited if Tyrod Taylor is given enough time to make throws and converts on his passes. Look for Taylor to find veteran TE Charles Clay. Last week, Clay caught 4 passes for 53 yards and added a touchdown to his line. The Bills offense won’t finish the season in the top 3 for total yards, however, they do have big playmakers. Buffalo’s offense should not be overmatched if the line holds up against a mean Panthers front 7.
The Bottom Line
This Week 2 matchup will be much closer than Vegas has given it credit. The Panthers open up a 7.5 point favorite, however I can almost guarantee this game will be closer than that. Whichever offense can breakthrough will determine the winner in a game that will most likely be a defensive struggle. Either way, this should be a fun Week 2 matchup at Bank of America Stadium.
(Picture credits: FingerLakes1.com)
Luke Owens is a freshman at Oswego State in the broadcasting program. He hopes to one day host his own TV and radio shows, while also announcing games. He roots for the Yankees, Bills, Magic, Sabres and Syracuse. Follow him on Twitter @LuketheKid3 and be sure to check out his podcast, Off the Wall with Luke Owens on Soundcloud.