Panthers vs. Bills 2013 game preview: Battle for first win

Rick Stewart

Carolina and Buffalo square off in an attempt by each to gain its first victory of 2013.

The Carolina Panthers are traveling up to New York this Sunday, taking on the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

Both teams come in after very similar game last week. The Panthers had a chance to pull off a major upset by beating the Seattle Seahawks, only to lose in the fourth quarter on a Russell Wilson 43-yard touchdown pass with only 10:13 remaining. Carolina rallied offensively, but DeAngelo Williams put the ball on the ground in the red zone ending all hope in the 12-7 defeat.

Buffalo also saw a chance to beat a favorite slip away against the New England Patriots. The Bills did plenty of good things in the contest, harassing quarterback Tom Brady and punishing receivers when they caught the ball. E.J. Manuel also looked very solid, throwing a pair of touchdowns and completing 18-of-27 passes for 150 yards without an interception. However, Stephen Gostkowski would hit a game-winning field goal as time expired, handing the Bills a 23-21 loss.

Meet the Panthers

The good news for Carolina coming out of last week is every other team in the NFC South loss other than the New Orleans Saints. Carolina also knows it can hang tough against the best football has to offer, but that doesn't change the fact it really needs a win on the road to avoid the dreaded 0-2 start. The Panthers need more than 5.4 yards per attempt out of Cam Newton as well, who frankly played very mediocre in Week 1.

Two trends Carolina would like to see continued are converting 45 percent of its third downs and gaining 5.2 yards per carry. Williams, outside of his massive fumble, played well by picking through the Seattle defense for 86 yards on 17 carries. If Newton can throw for more than 125 yards, it should be a recipe for moving the ball efficiently throughout the day against Buffalo.

Meet the Bills

Buffalo needs to pick up its game in a variety of ways, starting with discipline. The Bills took 10 penalties against New England. If you want to beat anybody in this league, that number needs to be cut in half. Buffalo also was dominated in time of possession despite the Patriots quick-moving offense, only holding onto the football for slightly over 22 minutes.

C.J. Spiller is primed for a breakout performance after gaining 41 yards in the season opener. He will have his hands full against a very talented front seven led by Luke Kuechly and first-round pick Star Lotulelei, but Spiller has the elusiveness to challenge any defense in the league. Manuel certainly will have plays available to him with Carolina's porous secondary waiting in the wings.

Local takes: Panthers

James Dator over at Cat Scratch Reader doesn't feel Newton played to his potential against Seattle:

Cam Newton wasn't as stellar as first and second watching suggests. The Panthers' quarterback finished with an excellent completion percentage and made some smart decisions, but this idea that he was "taking what the defense was giving him" is absolutely untrue.

Local takes: Bills

At Buffalo Rumblings, Brian Galliford talks about why Spiller was held down against the Patriots:

To my eye, a large combination of factors went into Spiller's day. He did not look as sharp as usual cutting, and missed some opportunities with his eyes as he appeared to be pressing the issue from time to time. Mostly, however, it looked like the Bills simply weren't blocking particularly well for No. 28 up front.

Follow the Fun

Be sure to check out SB Nation's team blogs, Cat Scratch Reader and Buffalo Rumblings, for more analysis and highlights from the game.

Add these fine follows to your Twitter timeline:

@CatScratchReadr

@BuffRumblings

@JosephPerson - Panthers beat writer

@Bills_News - Bills updates

Prediction

This is a really tough game to figure. Carolina is a better team on paper with stars like Kuechly and Steve Smith, along with a better front seven on defense and a more experienced quarterback in Newton. On the flip side, it's a home game for Buffalo in front of desperate fans not wanting to see their team drop to 0-2 before hitting the road in four of the next six weeks. Ultimately in these types of toss-up games you take the best signal-caller, and until Manuel proves himself, that man plays for Carolina.

Pick: Carolina 23, Buffalo 21

Odds

The Panthers are favored by 2.5 points on the road, according to Oddsshark.com.

Next week

The Bills will travel to take on the New York Jets while Carolina hosts the New York Giants.

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