Following a Week 1 loss to the Seattle Seahawks, the Carolina Panthers come into Week 2 facing a team who also lost a heartbreaker in the last few minutes, the Buffalo Bills. Now while comparisons between the two teams are wildly abundant they aren’t exactly needed.
Sure the Panthers and the Bills share some similarities; very solid Defensive Lines, young offenses, and Week 1 losses that seemed to be within grasp. All of those similarities are excuses. The Panthers have all the tools to be a successful football team and they should have won last week’s game as they should win Sunday’s matchup, and here’s why.
The Panthers offense is going up against a very uneven Bills defense. I’ll start out with the Buffalo’s weakest unit, their secondary. Carolina had a tough time scoring against the Seattle Seahawks, a really tough time. But then again, the Panthers were up against the Legion of Boom, quite possibly the best secondary in the NFL. In Week 2, the Panthers are up against an extremely weakened secondary in the Buffalo Bills, the complete opposite of the Seahawks. Buffalo is out three secondary players, including starting players Safety Jairus Byrd and Cornerback Stephon Gilmore. The Panthers come into this game with a healthier receiving unit; both Armanti Edwards and Domenik Hixon participated in full practices this week. Along with those two, the Panthers still have Greg Olsen, Brandon LaFell, and of course Steve Smith.
Smith matches up against the second corner on the Bills’ depth chart, Leodis McKelvin. We’ve seen Smith erase cornerbacks off the map before and he’s going to deliver a fantastic game. Along with Smith, LaFell matches up against nickel corner Justin Rodgers, who has only started three games in his career. Carolina’s receiving attack will overpower the secondary of Buffalo, with Smith, LaFell, Olsen, and (surprise!), Ted Ginn Jr. getting a lot of looks and productive yards.
Now Buffalo’s strongest unit is its defensive line and the Panthers weakest is ironically their offensive line. For the Panthers to be successful on Sunday, they need to keep Buffalo’s front seven at bay. Limiting the Bills’ chances at Cam as well as DeAngelo will be key. New England was able to run the ball against the Bills, with Shane Vereen recording 101 yards. Vereen isn’t exactly up to DeAngelo’s standards so, I expect Williams to have a good game.
Protection of Cam is a different story. Newton needs to have time to get the ball off, and the Bills have a decent pass rush. I don’t like the odds of our line against ours, but I can’t really pick who has the advantage here since the Bills line is known to be underachieve. Whatever happens, just expect there to be a war in the trenches.
The Panthers’ defense is talented, very talented. New England’s defense pales in comparison to Carolina’s and the Panthers should make mincemeat of the Bills’ offense. Carolina’s’ front seven should make E.J. Manuel look exactly like he is, a rookie and the pass rush should force him to throw when he doesn’t want to, which will lead to turnovers for the Bills.
With Frank Alexander back we should see more pressure on Manuel, something the rookie hasn’t seen yet in the NFL. Along with that, the Panthers who controlled Marshawn Lynch should shut down both Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller. Spiller and Jackson are both not Lynch type players, even though they both are great backs. I wouldn’t expect a 100-yard game from the Bills’ rushing attack.
Carolina’s secondary is a little weaker than its front seven, but they are underrated by the rest of the league. Steve Johnson is their No.1 receiver and the Patriots made him a non-factor. Expect the same if not more from the Panthers. Both of the Josh’s should have great games and with Quintin Mikell and Mike Mitchell, the Panthers should have a great game in the secondary.
The Bills have a few other options as receivers, with tight end Scott Chandler being a possible playmaker. The Panthers struggle on containing the short pass routes and I expect the Bills to make use of that. Still, the advantage is to the Panthers.
All of my predictions lead to the Panthers having an extremely productive game against the Bills. Carolina’s defense is extremely tough and the offense should produce at a much higher level than they did against the Seahawks. Manuel will more than likely throw a long touchdown pass, making the Panthers cornerbacks look slow and unresponsive. However, the Panthers will more than likely record a few turnovers as well as some pretty offensive plays from Cam and others. This one goes to the Panthers easily, with the final score being 27-10.
Before I leave, I’d like to point out a cool initiative being made by Tide. Yes, they are the laundry detergent guys, but bear with me. Tide is teaming up with the NFL to bring fans closer to players with the Team Colors campaign. Each of the 32 teams in the NFL has a “Team Color Captain” and Tide has selected Greg Olsen as the Panthers “Color Captain.” Olsen will be providing fans with an inside look at the Panthers locker room, Panthers events, his family as well as other Panther player families, and most importantly us, the fans!
Be sure to follow @gregolsen88 and @TideNFL for pictures of anything and everything sporting Panther’s colors. You can also tweet a picture of yourself sporting Panthers colors using the hashtag, #ourcolors. Let the world know your blood runs Black and Blue! Please continue to support Tide’s initiative and if you haven’t checked it out already, please do!
Also let me know if you think the best Panthers writer ever, Tony Cardwell, should have a twitter presence? Let me know in the comments below or shoot me an e-mail if you’re really fired up!