Top 3 Individual Matchups
1 – Jerry Hughes vs. Matt KalilKalil was signed as a free agent to protect Cam Newton's blind side more effectively. Hughes didn't have a sack last week, but had three quarterback knockdowns, good for fourth-most in the league last week.
2 – Micah Hyde vs. Greg OlsenSince 2012 there isn't a tight end with more receiving yardage than Olsen. With a touchdown catch in each of his last two matchups with the Bills, Hyde will be looking to put an end to that streak.
3 – Richie Incognito vs. Kawann ShortIf you like line play this is a matchup worth watching. Two players with Pro Bowls on their resumes, the hand fighting on pass plays alone with be high caliber entertainment.
Top 2 Bills Advantages
Good advantage: Run defense
The Panthers run defense is good in its own right, but Buffalo's run defense has been stifling. After a solid preseason, the Bills run front held the Jets to just 38 yards on the ground last week. Corralling Jonathan Stewart and Christian McCaffrey should be a task that Buffalo can handle.
Best advantage: Run gameThe Carolina front seven is one of the most talented in the league, but Buffalo has proven they can run against just about anyone. It will be tough sledding, but the Bills don't quit on their run game even when they don't have early success.
Check out photos of memorable Bills versus Panthers games through the years.
Bills Number 1 Must
Red zone defenseBuffalo has to hold Carolina's offense to field goal attempts in the red zone. That will be easier said than done with the size the Panthers can throw at a secondary (see below). But the Bills did a solid job defensively last week, holding the Jets to just a single red zone possession. They need to force field goals to keep the game close.
Tall targetsBuffalo's secondary is going to be facing a big test, quite literally. Wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin and Devin Funchess along with TE Greg Olsen are all 6-4 or taller. Cam Newton isn't afraid to toss jump balls up to his receiving targets and let them make plays. More often than not Benjamin and Olsen in particular, come down with the ball.
PickersCarolina's linebackers are an accomplished group. For as productive as they are in the tackling department, they're even better when it comes to taking the ball away. Since 2012, when Panthers MLB Luke Kuechly entered the league, no other linebacker has more interceptions than he does (13). Tied for second over that span is his LB teammate Thomas Davis with 10 interceptions. Add in the fact that S Kurt Coleman has 14 interceptions since 2014, good for second in the league and you recognize the danger that exists, especially over the middle.
Bringing the heatCarolina's front four on defense is imposing enough. New defensive coordinator Steve Wilks made a heck of a statement in his debut as the Panthers defensive play caller. Last week at San Francisco, Carolina blitzed almost 49 percent of the time in the game (48.7%). That figure led the league in blitz percentage. On the 49ers 11 third down opportunities they blitzed six times. San Francisco only converted twice in the game. Worth noting is that Carolina brought the blitz even more on second down, where they blitzed eight times in the game. The Panthers logged three sacks with their aggressive approach last week.
Cam had time to throwOn the other hand, Carolina's offense did experience much pass pressure from the 49ers. Cam Newton, in his first regular season game since offseason shoulder surgery, faced the lowest blitz percentage in the league last week. San Francisco blitzed on just three of 25 pass plays for a blitz rate of just 12 percent. Newton was 14-25 passing for 171 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.
New toy on offensePanthers top pick Christian McCaffrey had an immediate impact on Carolina's offense. He put up 85 total yards on 13 touches in their Week 1 victory. A shifty and quick back, McCaffrey is also an accomplished receiver out of the backfield. Buffalo will have to put a safety on the Stanford product to stay with him in coverage.
Quote of the week:"It's not about what everybody else is doing, it's about what we do. We know that Carolina is a good football team, obviously, but we also know what we can exploit and we know what we have to do to beat them. It's not about a big return home or this or that, it's about going out at 1:00 on Sunday and getting a win."
--FB Mike Tolbert
Stat of the week:
Cam Newton has the largest passer rating drop in the league when he's under pressure. It's only been one week, but without pressure Newton has a passer rating of 116.4. Under pressure it plummets to 3.1 for a difference of 113 points.
Milestones in reach
The Bills need a rushing touchdown for their 14th consecutive game with a rushing touchdown. The team's current streak of 13 is the longest active streak in the NFL. If they reach 14 it would set a team record.
Jordan Matthews needs one touchdown reception for the 20th of his career.
LeSean McCoy needs 21 receiving yards to reach 3,000 in his career. He'd be just the fourth active back in the NFL to reach 3,000 receiving yards (Matt Forte, Frank Gore, Darren Sproles).
Tyrod Taylor (25) needs one rushing touchdown for sole possession of second place in team annals.
Final Note:The Bills have a 5-1 all-time record against Carolina.