With week 2 of the 2013 campaign on the horizon, the Buffalo Bills hope to put the crushing last-second loss to the Patriots behind them and look forward to the Carolina Panthers. Here are some things to look for Sunday.
Offensively, I expect the Bills to open up the playbook a little more. If you remember, E.J. Manuel missed the last two preseason games after having minor knee surgery. Manuel didn’t practice until last week Wednesday, only giving him a few practices to get back in the swing of things before taking on the Patriots. In the 1st quarter and a half last week, the Bills ran the ball a lot. When they did decide to pass, they were short quick passes to help build Manuel’s confidence. On the last drive of the 2nd quarter and the first couple drives of the 3rd, coach Doug Marrone let Manuel drop back and throw the ball down field a little bit.
Now that Manuel has his first game under his belt and a full week of practice, I would expect to see the Bills throw the ball down field more. Last week the Panthers were dissected by Russell Wilson, giving up 320 passing yards and not picking him off once. Carolina has one of the best, if not the best front 7 in the NFL, but has a suspect secondary. Manuel, much like Russell, has the ability to escape the pocket when things are breaking down to make throws down field. If Manuel can avoid getting sacked, I expect him to be able to get good chunks of yards through the air.
Speaking of Carolina’s front 7, running the ball against them is going to be tough. Last week, C.J. Spiller had a tough time getting through New England’s line of scrimmage. Not to say New England’s d-line is terrible, but it is a significant drop off compared to Carolina’s. I expect Spiller to again have trouble getting yards on the ground. I expect to see a lot of Fred Jackson this week. Jackson had a much better game against the Patriots than Spiller and has a size advantage. I think the majority of Spiller’s touches screen passes and check downs, where as Jackson will be taking the majority of the hand offs.
Defensively, containing Cam Newton is a must. Last week Buffalo did a good job of getting pressure on Brady all game with blitzes from the secondary and defensive line penetration. But, unlike Newton, Brady’s 40 time is measured in minutes so he wasn’t exactly a threat to break out of the pocket and run for a big gain. Newton has the ability to scramble and make plays with his legs along with being able to throw the ball downfield. The Bills’ front seven will need to stay disciplined and not over-rush the quarterback, giving Newton running room.
In week 1, Buffalo did a pretty good job at limiting what Brady did through the air. Brady threw for only 288 yards on a secondary that is missing its two best players (Stephon Gilmore and Jerious Byrd). I know that 288 seems like a lot of yards, but in this new pass-happy NFL, it’s not that bad. Against Seattle, Cam Newton had trouble moving the ball through the air, only throwing for 125 yards. Seattle’s defense if far superior to Buffalo’s (and arguably the rest of the league), but I feel like the Bills secondary can keep this Panthers offense in line.
Last week against the Patriots, Buffalo was gashed on the ground by Shane Vereen. In 2012, Buffalo was ranked 31st in stopping the run and in week 1 it looked like they were headed in that direction. If Buffalo is not going to be able to stop the run, DeAngelo Williams and Cam Newton are going to have a field day. Last week against a stingy Seattle defense, Williams and Newton were able to run for 86 and 38 yards respectively. Buffalo’s front 7 will need bring their A-game to limit the damage the Panthers can do on the ground.
Most importantly, Buffalo can’t beat themselves again. The Bills absolutely cannot keep shooting themselves in the foot by committing stupid penalties. Last week the Bills were constantly giving New England second chances. It doesn’t matter who you play, if you’re constantly getting flagged, you’re going to lose the game.
According to Vegas, the Panthers are favored over the Bills by 2.5 points. I would like to respectfully disagree with our friends in the desert. My prediction: 27-17 in favor of the Bills.