Predator vs. Prey is a new weekly column that will feature a preview of the Panthers’ opponent for that given week. We will breakdown the X’s and O’s, matchups on both sides of the ball, and predict the outcome for the game. Whether it’s Sunday, Monday or Thursday night, CatCrave.com has you covered for everything you need to know leading up to the big game.
Predator: Carolina Panthers
Prey: Buffalo Bills
Environment: Bank of America Stadium
Time of Kill: 7.30pm
Welcome Cat Crave Nation to the first installment of “Predator vs. Prey”. This week, the Panthers welcome EJ Manuel and the Buffalo Bills to Bank of America Stadium. Buffalo is looking to bounce back after a loss to the New York Giants five days ago and regain their focus as the preseason wears on. The Bills posted a 6-10 record in 2013 and fell short of expectations and postseason play.
The Bills are a young team that is trending upward on both sides of the ball. They hit a homerun by moving up in the 2014 Draft and selecting most expert’s #1 wide receiver, Sammy Watkins. EJ Manuel, their top-pick in 2013 has high expectations on his shoulders being the new leader of the Bills’ offense. The backfield is even more of a mystery this season because they feature an old veteran, an enigmatic potential stud, and a newly acquired youngster with upside. Much like the Panthers, the Bills strength lies on the defensive side of the ball. Their front-seven is nasty, young and very athletic. The secondary took a major loss this offseason when Jarius Byrd signed in New Orleans.
Predator on Offense:
Starting QB Cam Newton will not see much (if any) reps tonight. He has been very vocal about not being 100% to date, and he will not risk hampering the ankle any more than it already is. Look for back-ups Derek Anderson and Joe Webb to get most of the burn tonight under center. The Panthers will take it easy as it’s their first live action, but will like to take some of their new shiny toys for a spin.
WRs Kelvin Benjamin, Jerricho Cotchery, Tiquan Underwood and Tavarres King will look to get comfortable in their new home. DeAngelo Williams will run with the 1′s and then turn the RB duties over to Kenjon Barner and rookie Darrin Reaves. The offensive line will be the most watched position on the field tonight to see how the two bookend tackles perform under an aggressive defensive line.
Predator on Defense:
The Carolina Defense cannot wait to get back on the field after an impressive 2013 campaign. Luke Kuechly, Thomas Davis and Charles Johnson still lead this unit, and will have their collective ears pinned back for EJ Manuel tonight.
The new look secondary in Carolina will have most coaches and fans attention this evening. FA addition Antoine Cason, rookie Bene Benwikere, veteran Charles Godfrey and Thomas DeCoud are all taking over vacated positions. Cason will be viewed as the veteran anchor to solidify a young cornerback unit. He and Melvin White will draw the explosive Sammy Watkins and veteran Mike Williams. Robert Woods is a sneaky WR that our DBs will have to keep an eye on too.
Look for the dominating defensive line and linebacking unit to shut down EJ Manuel early and force pressure on the young signal caller. Thaddeus Lewis and Jeff Tuel are next inline for the Panthers’ ferocious defense after Manuel takes a seat. The Bills feature a lot of depth at receiver and running back, so they will have fresh legs on the field throughout most of this contest.
The Panthers open the preseason with an opponent that mirrors themselves. Stingy and stout defense, young quarterback looking to win games and an electric young receiver. Carolina is thankful that they face such an intense defensive combatant so that they can see how the offensive line holds up. Look for a few big punches to be thrown throughout the game, but all-in-all, I see a conservative affair.
FINAL VERDICT: CAROLINA - 17 BUFFALO - 16