The Buffalo Bills head to Carolina in Week 2 for a meeting with the Panthers, in the first of four games against the NFC South this season. Being a homecoming of sorts for Sean McDermott and general manager Brandon Beane, who spent a combined 25 years with the Panthers organizaiton before coming to Buffalo this offseason, creates a little more buzz than usual for an inter-conference matchup. But there are plenty of other noteworthy storylines and statistical tidbits that exist between these two teams heading, into their showdown on Sunday.
Here’s 5 Bills, Panthers matchup notes:
1) Fourth quarter drama
Overall, the Bills hold a 5-1 series lead over the Panthers dating back to Carolina’s first year in the league, 1995. But they haven’t always dominated the Panthers out on the field. Each of the last four meetings between these two teams has featured some fourth quarter drama. Bills fans undoubtedly remember the most recent one. It also came in Week 2, four years ago in 2013, when then rookie E.J. Manuel led Buffalo on a 10-play, 80-yard game-winning touchdown drive, capped off by a two-yard touchdown pass to Stevie Johnson with just two seconds left. Fans left that game thinking the Bills had finally found an answer at quarterback. Good times. Anyway, that’s not the only time these two teams needed some fourth quarter magic to determine a winner. In 2009, Buffalo used a 13-point fourth quarter to overcome a 9-7 deficit and beat the Carolina 20-9. Back in 2005, the Panthers won their only game in the series 13-9 with a late fourth quarter drive. Additionally, the Bills overcame a 24-13 halftime deficit in 2001, as Travis Henry scored the go-ahead touchdown with 7:51 remaining in the fourth, to beat Carolina 25-24.
2) Aging Rosters
According to data released by the NFL, the Bills and Panthers have two of the oldest rosters in 2017. In Week 1, the average age of Buffalo’s roster was 26.81, which ranked behind Arizona as the second oldest roster in the league. Carolina was third, with an average roster age of 26.77. The league average hovered around 26.05. Heading into Week 2, the Panthers possess 13 players who are 30 or older, with DT Julius Peppers (37) being the oldest. There are eight rookies currently on their roster. For Buffalo, 10 players are currently over the age of 30, as three players – DT Kyle Williams, G Richie Incognito and LB Lorenzo Alexander – are tied as the oldest on the roster at 34. Rookies WR Zay Jones, CB Tre’Davious White and LB Tanner Vallejo are each the youngest players and are three of the seven rookies on the Bills roster.
3) Early season feats
Sunday is the Panthers home opener and since opening Bank of America Stadium at the start of the 1996 season, Carolina is 9-12 in home openers, winning their last three entering Sunday. Meanwhile, Buffalo is looking to get off to a 2-0 start to their young season, something they last accomplished in 2014 under then head coach Doug Marrone. The Bills went on to finish 9-7 that season – the last time they finished above .500. Since the merger in 1970, Buffalo has started the season 2-0, 14 times and made the playoffs in seven of those seasons. Over that same span they’ve started the season 1-1, 19 times and only made the playoffs on five of those occasions. The last time that happened, go figure, was 1999.
4) Dual Threat QBs
No two quarterbacks have rushed for more yards or touchdowns over the last two seasons than Cam Newton and Tyrod Taylor. During Newton’s MVP campaign in 2015, he led the league in both categories, compiling 636 yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground. Taylor ranked immediately behind him with 568 yards and four touchdowns. Last season Taylor surpassed Newton and led the league in both areas, rushing for 580 yards and six touchdowns. Newton’s numbers dipped to 359 yards and five touchdowns, as he relied on his legs significantly less than the season before. Combined that’s a league-best 1,148 yards for Taylor and 995 for Newton over the last two season. Additionally, Taylor has been a more efficient runner in that span averaging 5.8 yards per carry when he decides to take off, in comparison to 4.4 yards per carry from Newton.
5) Week 1 similarities
Both the Panthers and Bills kicked off their seasons by playing teams projected to be in the basement of the league. Carolina hung 23 points on the 49ers in a 23-3 win, while Buffalo thuroughly dominated the Jets, but managed just 21 points in a 21-12 win. Each team’s respective rushing attack was pivotol in Week 1 as both finished in the top 10 in rushing. Buffalo had a league best 190 rushing yards, while Carolina’s 116 yards ranked 10th. The two units also finished in the top 10 in third down efficiency, with the Panthers converting on 53.8 percent of their attempts (fourth) and the Bills converting 47.1 percent (ninth). It’s the defensive numbers that are even more comparable. Buffalo and Carolina ranked second and third respectively in total yards allowed in Week 1 (214 for the Bills, 217 for Carolina). They were also each in the top 10 for total points allowed. Both defenses were lights out against the run as well. The Bills surrendered just 38 rushing yards – the third least – in Week 1, while Carolina ranked fifth, allowing just 51 rushing yards.
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