The Buffalo Bills will be playing their second game in five days this Friday. Buffalo lost in the Hall of Fame game, 17-13, to the New York Giants. This time they will be playing a team that they hope to emulate in the Carolina Panthers.
The Bills feel like they have a chance to be one of the surprise teams in the league, much like Carolina was last season. A lot of that success will depend upon second-year quarterback E.J. Manuel. He struggled in the first preseason game, which isn’t the end of the world, but it would be nice to see him move the ball better in this game. More so, it would be great to see him connect with the fourth pick in the draft, Sammy Watkins. Watkins was held without a catch in his NFL preseason debut.
Buffalo didn’t give their stars a lot of playing time in the first game, and that will likely be the case again on Friday. I would expect minimal work from C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson while they feature Bryce Brown in the backfield. Brown ran effectively on Sunday against the Giants, and the Bills are eager to see what they have in him. There have even been rumors that the Bills are willing to trade Spiller and go into the season with Jackson and Brown.
While the Bills have already hit the field this preseason, the Panthers can’t wait to get to actual football. Carolina hasn’t had an ideal offseason for a defending division champ. They lost one of the faces of their franchise in Steve Smith and have had to deal with the offseason issues of Greg Hardy.
As far as on the field goes, the Panthers will be looking to see who stands out at the wide receiver position. Cam Newton is going to be throwing to all new faces, and it will be critical for them to get some rhythm in the preseason. Unfortunately, Newton is still recovering from offseason ankle surgery and at most will get one series.
Another key position battle to watch for is who will protect Newton’s blindside. Byron Bell and Nate Chandler are the top two contenders for the job. Both players will have an opportunity to prove a lot to the coaching staff when they go against Buffalo’s talented pass rush.
Of course, you better get to the TV early if you want to see any of these players. Most starters won’t be around for the third series of the game. However, you will get to see everyone’s favorite third-string quarterback, Joe Webb.