Following up to last week’s post on the Buffalo Bills game vs the New England Patriots, I’ve decided to continue to series. Week 2 against the Carolina Panthers will not get much easier for the young, potential-on-paper Bills team. However if they wish to start getting respect around the league, they need to win games like this at home. The contest against New England last weekend was supposed to be anything but that; many predicted the Patriots to steamroll the Bills as part of their bi-annual ritual and move on. In fact, those that took the Bills with the spread did quite well last weekend, only losing to a last second field goal. However, being close is only sufficient in horseshoes as they say, and the Bills must look to finish the game strong this week. With that, here are my things to expect from this week’s game.
Nathaniel Hackett must get creative. As mentioned in an article written by the Buffalo News this week, Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine holds himself and his defense to high standards, something that has not been seen in Western New York really since Ted Cortrell was at the helm. Yet the coach that really needs to elevate his players is Nathaniel Hackett, as the Buffalo offense last week was far too soft and basic. E.J. Manuel took less than 5 shots past 20 yards down field, something that should never happen with the “embarrassment of riches” they posses in receiving. Hackett needs to find a way to get the running game going against teams that are looking to stop it by stacking the box. Carolina will look to do this today as well, and the best way to keep defenses honest is to spread the field vertically. With Marquise Goodwin out indefinitely with a fractured hand, T.J. Graham must step up his game. Graham is one of the fastest receivers in the league. Manuel made the mistake of under-throwing his receivers down field last week; this week he must let them use their God-given abilities to make some plays. Pulling Luke Kuechly and the Carolina LBs further back should open lanes for running backs C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson.
Cam Newton is nothing like Tom Brady. While Tom Brady has all the poise and demeanor you would want in your quarterback, Cam Newton is arguably one of the league’s most exciting dual threat QBs. Brady shys away from running; Newton embraces it. Newton can also launch the football and has shown this ability on several occasion, something that Brady did not do as much of last week. To win the game today, Buffalo needs to contain Newton and force several coverage sacks. DeAngelo Williams averaged a solid 5.1 yards per carry last week, but Cam Newton made the Seahawks pay several times as he ran for nearly 40 yds in just 5 carries. Look for Newton to try to exploit Buffalo’s relatively inexperienced and weaker linebacking corp today as well. Kiko Alonso will once again need to lead the team and show poise and intelligence, not to over-pursue and keep Newton in the pocket where the Bills front line can get to him. With Buffalo’s secondary already into 2nd and 3rd stringers in places, getting pressure on Newton is a key to winning the game.
Special teams will play a large part in this game. The Bills are no stranger to low-scoring, field position games, and I believe this game will take on that flavor. Of the Bills’ 21 points last weekend against the Patriots, 14 were scored on offense (2 E.J. Manuel throws) yet only 1 of those came from a long drive by consistently moving the ball and gaining first downs. Defense will be big in this game here, and special teams will be the deciding factor in it. Field position, critical field goals, and kick returns will determine who wins this game. In the special teams area, I believe the Bills have the advantage.
The 12th man should be a factor. Narrowly losing to New England last weekend will give Bills fans something to build on, and help make them another element in this game. I know that this was one of the keys to expect last week as well, but Carolina, who visits Buffalo only once every approximately 8 years, will not have the experience some of the usual AFC suspects have. If the game is close, the noise could be a huge beneficiary in the Bills’ favor.