NFL 2017 Week 2: Buffalo Bills vs. Carolina Panthers prediction and preview

Both teams started their seasons off with wins against downtrodden opponents a week ago; now they'll step up in class to try and go 2-0.

Week 1 recap

Buffalo dominated the yardage game en route to a 21-12 season-opening win over the Jets to get an early AFC East edge. The Bills balanced offense ground out 408 yards, while the defense shut New York down to just 214 total yards. Buffalo’s three touchdowns came at the end of long, time-consuming drives. Tyrod Taylor threw one-yard touchdown passes to Charles Clay and Andre Holmes. Mike Tolbert burrowed in for a one-yard score as well. LeSean McCoy was the workhorse in the backfield, running for 110 yards and 22 carries.

The Panthers pounded their way through a workmanlike effort in a 23-3 victory over San Francisco. Cam Newton showed some rust after missing most of the preseason, but the Carolina signal-caller threw touchdown passes to Russell Shepard and Jonathan Stewart, while Graham Gano nailed three field goals. The Panthers defense looked in midseason form in holding the Niners without a touchdown. Carolina’s ability to convert third downs (7-of-13) and stop them (San Fran converted just 2-of-11) helped them carve out a nearly nine-minute edge in time of possession.

Panthers on the run

It could have been just a matter of letting Cam Newton shake off the rust a bit after missing most of the preseason. But the Panthers Week 1 gameplan leaned heavily on the running attack of Jonathan Stewart and rookie Christian McCaffrey, which allowed Newton the chance to hurt the Niners defense when they started creeping up their secondary. Expect a similar approach this time around, but look for Buffalo to put up a bit more resistance on that front.

Getting Olsen involved

There is no connection in the NFL between quarterback and tight end quite as effective as the one that Newton has forged over the past few seasons with Greg Olsen. But Olsen was largely a non-factor in the Week 1 victory over San Fran, catching only two of four targeted passes for a quiet 18 yards. It can be argued that they didn’t really need him to win, but the Panther offense won’t be in top form until Olsen becomes a major factor.

Keep them off the field

The Bills put together three long drives in their victory over the Jets and pretty much controlled the clock with their play. They would love to do the same against the Panthers, especially on the road. Yet even in the easy win last week, the Panthers quietly allowed Carlos Hyde five yards per carry, this after a season in which they struggled somewhat against the run. Luke Kuechly and company can’t afford to let down with LeSean McCoy coming to town.

Panthers WR Kelvin Benjamin vs. Bills CB EJ Gaines/Leonard Johnson 

A shoulder injury has Gaines questionable for Week 2. The next man up at right cornerback for Buffalo is Johnson, a journeyman type who played for Bills coach Sean McDermott in Carolina a year ago. Whoever gets the nod has to deal with Benjamin, whose production can be erratic but who can dominate a game under the right set of circumstances. Questionable cornerback play would certainly qualify in that department.

Fantasy football tip – Bills TE Charles Clay

Clay seems to have taken a while to find his stride in Buffalo after he was so productive earlier in his career in Miami. Yet Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor trusts him around the goal line, which was evident in a one-yard receiving score a week ago. If you’re in need of a tight end streamer this week, he’s not a bad option.

Prediction: Buffalo Bills 12 – 29 Carolina Panthers

After easing him back a week ago, look for the Panthers to cut Newton loose a bit and work on a suspect Bills back line. Carolina moves to 2-0.

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