Panthers vs Bills Game Preview
The Panthers of the embattled NFC South head up north close to the border to visit Buffalo’s New Era Field, aptly named for what this renaissance era Bills team is experiencing. Fresh off their first playoff appearance in almost two decades, Buffalo enters the season optimistic despite still being a rebuilding franchise.
Carolina has struggled to string consecutive winning seasons and continue to be the most enigmatic NFL franchise. At their best, they are a Super Bowl contender but their inconsistency makes them prone to upsets.
The Panthers finished last season with an 11-5 record before succumbing to their archnemeses, the New Orleans Saints in the Wild Card round. A stout team on the front, the Panthers continue to be one of the league’s best defensive units.
On offence, quarterback and former MVP has done the heavy lifting for the last few seasons but will get plenty of help from emerging running back Christian McCaffrey and offensive additions from the offseason.
Despite needing help from Cincinnati and finishing with a -52 point differential, the Bills made it back to the playoffs. But it was short-lived as they only managed three points and were quickly eliminated by the Jaguars in an ugly game.
The team then traded away starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor and moved up the draft to take the strong-armed Josh Allen signalling the start of a new era. With upgrades to the defence, Buffalo hopes to contend again though it won’t be easy.
In a game that pits each team’s backup units against each other, it’s a toss-up but the edge goes to the Panthers who have a stacked defensive core. Their front seven will wreak havoc on whoever the Bills put at centre. The Panthers should roll.
Panthers vs Bills Head-to-Head Records
The Panthers and Bills have faced each other seven times and the Bills hold the 5-2 edge. Buffalo destroyed Carolina in their first few meetings but over the last three meetings, it’s been a lot closer. The Bills still lead 2-1 but one of those wins came by a single point.
The Bills dominated the Panthers in the 1990s. This was around the Jim Kelly era right after when the Bills infamously reached and lost four straight Super Bowls. The expansion Panthers were no match and lost by a combined 38 points. The Panthers didn’t defeat the Bills until 2005 where they eked out a 13-9 victory.
In their last two games, the teams split 1-1. Buffalo edge Carolina 24-23 in 2013 but their most recent meeting was a defensive struggle which Carolina won 9-3.
The Bills have consistently won between seven to nine games in their last few seasons while the Panthers have alternated winning and losing seasons. If this trend continues, expect close games when they meet.
Carolina Panthers Recent History
As a relatively young NFL franchise, the Panthers have been pretty successful. They most recently made the Super Bowl and have made four of the last five playoffs despite a losing record in 2014. As a middling franchise in the late 2000s, the Panthers hired Ron Rivera as head coach and it was their turning point.
Drafting Newton in 2011 gave the Panthers a superstar QB and building a thunderous defence completed their transformation as a Super Bowl contender. Luke Kuechly, Newton’s counterpart on defence has been the team’s anchor in the middle.
Since the magical 2015 season where they went 15-1 punctuated by a Super Bowl appearance, the Panthers have been quiet. They were hit hard by injuries and slowly saw their offensive pieces crumble. But after patching their holes in this year’s draft, expect them to make another Super Bowl run.
Buffalo Bills Recent History
Since the Jim Kelly era, the Bills have been one of the worst franchises. Last season was their first playoff appearance in the new millennium and they haven’t won a playoff game since 1995 which predated the births of a quarter of their current team.
In the last five seasons, the Bills have gone through four head coaches and most recently, longtime team executive Russ Brandon quit following an alleged scandal with female employees within the organization. Despite this front office drama, Buffalo is trending thanks to a strong 2018 draft.
The Bills hit a home run in acquiring franchise quarterback Josh Allen and bluechip linebacker Tremaine Edmunds. They have plenty of work left as the offensive line needs more help and Allen is still raw. But head coach Sean McDermott is here to stay and general manager Brandon Beane has the progressive mindset.
Carolina Panthers Outlook
The Panthers are flying under the radar but sharps will snipe them as a sneaky Super Bowl bet. They are just two years removed from their 15-1 season and most recently acquired top-rated talent to fill their gaps in both offence and defence.
Drafting the likes of DJ Moore (WR) and Ian Thomas (TE) and acquiring veterans C.J. Anderson (RB) and Torrey Smith (WR) give Newton the weapons he’s been missing since Steve Smith Sr. left. And on defence, they acquired more depth for their pass rush and secondary.
Carolina is currently still peaking and they are building the right away by focusing on the passing game. Newton and Kuechly are at their prime and guys like McCaffrey and Moore are the next generation of offensive stars. Provided they stay healthy, the sky is the limit for this team.
Buffalo Bills Outlook
Bills general manager Brandon Beane was formerly of the Panthers’ organization and he is looking to build the Bills in a similar fashion. The battle is won in the trenches as they say and Beane is trying to establish the Bills defensive line. They are just a few pieces from being as deep as Carolina’s.
On offence, Allen will need all the help he can get. The o-line still needs patching up and this season could be rough. Incumbent running back LeSean McCoy is still a Pro-Bowl talent but has lately been involved in off-field issues that could be a distraction if it lingers.
This season could be a losing one for Buffalo. They got lucky last time but with improvements from other teams, the Bills will be fortunate to have a winning record. But Bills fans are optimistic for a good reason. This team has the right foundation and they are building the right way. Buffalo will be one to watch.
This is pretty much like a big brother versus little brother game with the Panthers playing the role of the former. With connections between the two, the Panthers are more at an advanced stage than the fledgeling Bills even with their backups.
Allen, the Bills’ quarterback of the future should see some snaps here though it could ultimately be third-stringer Nathan Peterman who plays most of the game. And poor Peterman as the Panthers’ backup defenders will have a field day eager to prove they deserve the starting job.
The Panthers have as many as half a dozen defenders in the front-seven who would be starters on most teams. This is a loaded Panthers team and will play like a regular season team. Though it’s unclear how good backup quarterback Garrett Gilbert is going to be and their backup receivers aren’t anything to write about.
Carolina has a better team all-around, especially on defence. On offence, it’s a bit more even with neither team having any notable backup players that can shine. But give the edge to the better defence as Carolina should run away with this game.