Both the Bills and the Panthers are coming off gut-wrenching losses in the final minutes of their home openers. This week, both teams are fighting to avoid an early 0-2 deficit at the Ralph. This matchup features two young and aggressive teams, each trying to take the step to the next level, meaning we are in for a physical, competitive, and exciting contest.
What it Means
For the Bills, the highly esteemed and competitive AFC East that seems impossible to win unless you are named the New England Patriots does not seem to be so this year. The Patriots barely pulled a victory out of Buffalo, and nearly lost to the ever so dramatic New York Jets. Miami did look good, but they are also beatable. The Bills may be last in the division, but there’s only been one game. The Bills need to make a splash at home this week and show the NFL that Buffalo is a competitive team, and that beating them isn’t a cake-walk.
For Carolina, they are in a very competitive division meaning that any winnable games that appear on the schedule become must-win games. These two teams are evenly matched in almost all aspects: age, physicality, talent, and almost identical records from last year. A loss here, although early on in the season, could be the difference between making and missing the postseason.
Neither team has seen the postseason for quite some time now. This even-keeled matchup will provide exciting and explosive plays on both sides of the ball. This will definitely be a close one.
Matchups to Watch
Cordy Glenn vs. Greg Hardy
The former 6th round draft pick started making some noise last year when he broke out with 11 sacks. He’s definitely entering this game on a hot streak registering nine sacks in the last ten games. Other defensive end Charles Johnson usually gets more attention, leaving Hardy to wreak havoc in the backfield. The defensive line, bolstered with rookie Star Lotulelei looked good week one, but the Bills must not forget about Hardy, otherwise the Bills will have less of a rushing attack than they did vs. the Patriots.
Leodis McKelvin vs. Steve Smith
Steve Smith’s revived career is thanks to nobody other than Cam Newton. Since Newton’s arrival, it was quite clear who his favorite target was. Smith may be 34, but he can still fly and make plays. McKelvin had a strong week one, but it must continue with a depleted secondary. Without Byrd, Gilmore, and Ron Brooks, the Bills secondary will be tested, but as they showed last week, if the Bills D-line can get pressure on Cam Newton, their passing game will be disrupted and the secondary will fare much better.
C.J. Spiller vs. the Panthers Front Seven
The Panthers front four put on a great performance last week holding Marshawn Lynch-one of the premier running backs in the league-to a meek 43 yards. The Panthers may have some of the best defensive fronts in the NFL, and they definitely disrupted the Seahawks. The Panthers ultimately lost the game, but they held the Seahawks to twelve points. Spiller had trouble getting started last week, only rushing for 41 yards. If the Bills hope to be successful offensively, they have to get him going. It was not all on Spiller. The offensive line did not block particularly well, and thus, Spiller didn’t rush well, and the Bills offensive wasn’t very productive.
The Bills Will Win If…
Nathaniel Hackett changes the offensive play calling because it was very predictable and sub-par. Secondly, the Bills can’t penalize themselves the way they did. These first two things, both of which are in their control, lost them the game. What I’ve found since watching the Bills is that they lose games themselves. Thirdly, if Spiller doesn’t get going, it will be difficult on Manuel. Manuel had a solid performance, showing some signs of brilliance, but the Bills shouldn’t make it harder on the rookie than they need to. Finally, if the Bills can disrupt AND CONTAIN Cam Newton, it will do wonders. The key word though is contain. Remember, Cam Newton is a dual threat quarterback, so he’s dangerous when he runs too.
The Panthers Will Win If…
They contain Spiller. Spiller was contained last week, limiting the Bills offense. They are a run-first team, so if the Panthers can stop him, then they can stifle the Bills offense. Secondly, they need to get pressure on Manuel. He was only blitzed about six times last week against the Patriots, but he is good enough to make reads down field if given enough time. The Bills have a great wide receiving core, so it would be to the Panthers best interest not to let Manuel find one of them. Finally, as a young team, it is easy to lose focus. Last week, the Ralph was really loud, I mean really, really loud. The energy was comparable to the game against the Pats in 2011 where the losing streak snapped. The Ralph will be loud again as long as the Bills are in the game. Therefore, communication will be key and focus required.
Although the Bills came off such a disappointing loss, there were many positives. It looks like the Bills have started to right the proverbial ship, and fans will definitely feed off of last week. They may not have won, but there was certainly some momentum picked up after last week. The Panthers also lost in similar fashion, but showed improvement. This game will be close, but at home, I don’t think the Bills will lose two in a row.
Bills Win 24-20!