The 7-6 Buffalo Bills will be at home this week to face the 5-8 Carolina Panthers. The Bills are coming off a 33-27 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, while the Panthers are coming off a 29-21 loss to the Atlanta Falcons. Who will bounce back from the loss and get back in the win column? Here is what to look for in this game.
Josh Allen is coming off a game where he truly showcased his dual-threat ability. He completed 36 passes for 308 yards, two passing touchdowns along with rushing 12 times for 109 yards, and a rushing touchdown. Yet an area to monitor will be Allen’s ankle, on one of his rushing attempts in the game he came down awkwardly and was in a walking boot after the game. In addition, wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders left the game early with a knee injury, if he can’t go it should be another big game for Gabriel Davis. Davis has become one of Allen’s most reliable targets, just in the last game against the Buccaneers he saw his highest targets this season with eight. Then there was also the involvement of Cole Beasley, after four weeks of seeing five or fewer targets he is coming off a game where he had 11.
At the cornerback position, the Panthers have been facing injury problems at this position with A.J. Bouye, Jaycee Horn, Troy Pride, and Donte Jackson being injured. Bouye is questionable and could play Sunday which would help the secondary but isn’t particularly favorable for the Panthers still against a pass-heavy Bills team. There will be the matchup again of Stefon Diggs and Stephon Gilmore to pay attention to as last year when Gilmore was on the Patriots he was on injured reserve or inactive both times. So if Diggs can’t get open against Gilmore, look for Davis and Beasley to see the same if not more targets than last week.
The Panthers defensive front has been a strength of the team this year specifically on the edge. Brian Burns has eight sacks so far this season, 27 pressures, and 11 quarterback knockdowns. Then there is linebacker Haason Reddick who has been used frequently as a pass rusher which has led to him leading the team in sacks with 10.5 and pressures with 28. In the NFL the Panthers defense leads the NFL with the highest pressure percentage of 29.6% while the Bills offensive line has struggled with slowing down pressure allowing the ninth most pressures at 127. In the game against the Buccaneers specifically, the Bills offensive line allowed 34 pressures and two sacks. With Allen’s ankle sprain, keeping him clean will be essential for the Bills in this game.
The Panthers offense is currently struggling compared to how they started the season. They have rotated through quarterbacks, they started with Sam Darnold until he suffered a shoulder injury, and brought in Cam Newton. His first game back on the team was against the Arizona Cardinals but he was not the starter, it was P.J. Walker who was and led them to a win. Since his return to Carolina, Newton as their starter has not led the team to a win, and just recently in their loss to the Miami Dolphins and the Falcons he got benched during the game. The Panthers head coach Matt Rhule stated on Monday that they would run a system where Walker and Newton split reps, so the Bills will need to prepare for both. Newton will be a familiar face for the Bills defense as they faced him twice last year in his one-year stint with the Patriots. The Bills would win both of the matchups and held Newton to completing only 20 passes over the two games for 208 yards and no touchdowns. In terms of Newton’s running ability, he had a total of 78 rushing yards against the Bills in 2020 with 38 coming after contact.
The Bills rushing defense has been tested in back-to-back weeks with the New England Patriots rushing for 222 yards on them and then the Buccaneers rushing for 137 yards. This week though should be a different story for them as they will not be facing Christian McCaffrey who is out for the season with an ankle injury, and instead will be rookie Chubba Hubbard. While Hubbard has shown promise for the future, he has had only one game over 100 yards this season and that was back in week five against the Philadelphia Eagles. The Bills will also have to be ready for Newton to play a role in the ground game, not just Hubbard but will still need to clean up the missed tackles in the process. The Bills now have the fifth most in the NFL with 91, but the two Bills linebackers in Tremaine Edmunds and Matt Milano are coming off a game where they had a season-high number of tackles. Milano tied his number of tackles from week 10 and 11 with making 9, while Edmunds made 12. One thing Rhule has said about the Panthers is that he wants the offense to run the ball more, if that’s the case Edmunds and Milano will play a huge role.
Not only have the Panthers struggled offensively to find rhythm in the run game, but they have also struggled trying to pass the ball as well. The leading receiver for the team is D.J. Moore with 938 yards, the next is Robby Anderson with 372 yards. The Bills have the second-best passing defense in the NFL so the Panthers’ struggle in this area may continue and this comes down to the offensive line of the Panthers. From watching the Panthers offensive line this year they get thrown off by defenders easily which has led to them having the eleventh most sacks at 32. They also have allowed the second-highest pressure percentage with 28.3%, this has led to the Panthers quarterbacks not having enough time to establish vertical passes for more than 10 yards. The Bills defensive front is one of the best in the NFL at generating pressure, if they can keep that up they should be able to limit the Panthers offensively.
The way this game matches up the Bills know they need to win this to stay in the playoff contention. In addition to matching up well against the Panthers in multiple areas it should be the Bills who get the 33-16 win.
For more NFL content from around the league make sure to follow TWSN on Twitter and Instagram. For more Buffalo Bills content and updates throughout the season make sure to follow myself on Twitter and Instagram as well!