Week 2 of the NFL season is upon us and with that comes a big game for the Carolina Panthers and Buffalo Bills. Both teams lost their opener at home and will be looking to get to .500.
If the Bills have any hopes of surprising the league this year they are going to have to come away with a victory against the Panthers. Not only would they be facing an 0-2 hole with a loss but both losses would be at home. It’s hard to say that Week 2 is a must-win game, but for Carolina it definitely is a psychological must-win game. If this team were to drop to 0-2, and with the history of the past two seasons in starting slow, it would be a devastating loss that would make one wonder if the team had the mental makeup to come back from.
I’ve complied a list of players from each squad who don’t get the attention as others do, but who will leave their imprint on the game. Admittededly, my knowledge of Buffalo’s defense is limited so I stuck with a pair of offensive players. We’ll start with the visiting Panthers.
Domenik Hixon—The oft-injured wide receiver is set to make his debut with the Panthers against the Bills. Hixon is a bit of an enigma due to his inability to stay on the field, but he has the talent to be a factor. Carolina is going to be more aggressive after scaling things back against Seattle. The passing attack is going to be the beneficiary of the offense opening up and it stands that another receiving option other than Steve Smith will emerge. I expect Hixon to be that guy.
Chase Blackburn—He didn’t see any snaps in Week 1, but Ron Rivera said he wants to get him involved this week. With the Panthers taking a cautious approach to the handling of Jon Beason I see Blackburn playing a more pivotal role than anticipated. Beason looked like a guy who was battling rust against the Seahawks and he referred to his knee as a “work in progress” after playing 30 snaps in the opener. It would be great to see him come on strong this week, but he will continue to see a set amount of snaps, which should open the door for Blackburn.
Frank Alexander—Getting ejected for throwing a punch is probably not how Alexander envisioned his debut to his sophomore season going. The punch cost him $15,750 and likely landed him in the doghouse with the coaching staff. You may think that because the Panthers have Greg Hardy and Charles Johnson that the loss of Alexander wasn’t that big of a deal, but having him to spell those two would have been nice. The Seahawks were able to wear down the defense in the second half and missing Alexander didn’t do the team any favors. With the punch behind him, look for a man motivated to redeem himself.
Fred Jackson—C.J. Spiller gets all the publicity in Buffalo, and rightfully so, but Jackson proved against New England that he’s still going to be a factor on this team. He ran for more yards in less carries and caught four balls for 41 yards. This is still Spiller’s team and Jackson outperforming him won’t be a common occurrence. Still, Jackson is going to be featured as Buffalo’s physical back that they can go to in those short-yard and goal-line situations, especially if Spiller is gassed. With the Panthers featuring a physical front seven, and the Bills leaning on a rookie quarterback, the Buffalo running game should see plenty of work.
Robert Woods—It was an interesting debut for the rookie USC receiver. On one hand he caught only one ball and was only targeted twice. On the other that one catch was a touchdown. In his second game of his rookie season Woods will have the opportunity to take advantage of a porous secondary. As stout as the Panthers’ front seven is its back end is equally as bad. If EJ Manuel is able to buy himself a few extra seconds here and there to evade the rush of the Panthers he’s going to find receivers open. Woods will be one of them.