5 games that will define the Carolina Panthers 2021 season

(Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports) Christian McCaffrey
(Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports) Christian McCaffrey /
5 of 6
Carolina Panthers
(Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports) Josh Allen /

Carolina Panthers at Buffalo Bills (Week 15)

When the Jets took Sam Darnold No. 3 overall in 2018, the Buffalo Bills selected quarterback Josh Allen just four picks later.

Now entering his fourth year in the league, Allen is one of the premier young quarterbacks in the NFL, and depending on who you ask is one of the favorites to compete for the MVP award next season.

The two signal-callers have faced off five times in their young careers, with Allen currently holding a 3-2 lead in the head-to-head series. However, this year’s Week 15 matchup will be their first with Darnold in a Panthers uniform.

With that being said, the showdown will be a bit different this time.

The move to Carolina puts Darnold on the best roster he has ever been a part of and pairs him with the most innovative play-caller he’s worked with at the next level. The Panthers have set him up for success in a way that the Jets never could or did, and with that will come increased expectations.

One of those expectations will be to beat good teams, which includes Allen and the Bills, who are one of the top teams in the AFC.

Now in his second year as a head coach, Matt Rhule will also have to deal with winning expectations, both from team owner David Tepper, as well as by the team’s fanbase.

Fortunately for him, his track record as a team builder should aid him in transforming the Panthers into consistent winners. And in speaking of winning, perhaps no victory would be more impressive this season than taking down Buffalo on the road in December.

There is no question that the Bills are where the Panthers want to be.

Buffalo was essentially a hapless franchise until just a couple of years ago, but thanks to solid roster construction, good coaching, and a developing quarterback, they are one of the teams to beat for the Vince Lombardi Trophy.

How they compete against such a high-caliber team could indicate just where the Panthers are in terms of becoming contenders themselves.