Panthers’ Newton Tries to Exploit Banged-up Bills Secondary

The Buffalo Bills and the Carolina Panthers both suffered the heartbreak of disappointing losses to Super Bowl contenders last week. Now they meet up in a game that is slated for a 1 PM ET kickoff at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park, NY

In the NFL betting lines that have been laid out by Bovada, the Panthers are actually laying points:

Carolina Panthers -3
Buffalo Bills +3

Over 44 Points -105
Under 44 Points -115

One of the Encouraging signs that comes out of Bills camp in Week 1 is the fact that E.J. Manuel, the rookie quarterback who was more or less pressed into service as the starter when projected seat-warmer Kevin Kolb was disqualified with injury, had no interceptions against the New England Patriots. The Bills came to within five seconds of a victory in that one, but fell short with a New England field goal.

Carolina was involved in a rather drab defensive battle with the Seattle Seahawks, with each team scoring exactly one touchdown. Cam Newton put 25 passes out there, and threw for 125 yards. That’s not an effective start to the 2013 season. But really, when you think about it, that was a continuation of the problems Newton and this Carolina offense had been having. In the pre-season slate, the first team offense had 14 possessions, and they were able to score only one touchdown. Even if those were exhibition games, they still constitute a lack of execution.

When you’re defending against the Panthers, you still know that if you blanket Steve Smith you are going to put a lot of handcuffs on Newton, because there is no one who is going to scare you on the other side of the formation. And while Mike Shula (the offensive coordinator) has impressive coaching bloodlines, he doesn’t appear to have had much in the way of positive influence in making this attack more dangerous.

If you were to take one of the sides that should be feeling better about itself, it is probably Buffalo, which knows there is some upside with Manuel. Also, the Bills have installed more of a “hurry-up” approach that will keep teams off-balance. And although we certainly respect Newton’s ability to pull the ball down and run with it, we also know the Buffalo’s rushing tandem of Fred Jackson, C.J. Spiller and Manuel has an advantage over whatever Carolina puts out there (D’Angelo Williams had a critical fumble to destroy the last gasp last Sunday).

What the Bills have to demonstrate they know how to do is get the ball down the field. Manuel had only 5.6 yards an attempt against New England, and that isn’t going to stretch defenses all that much. What if Carolina puts everyone up front in an attempt to disrupt the running game?

If you are analyzing these NFL betting lines at Bovada, you may be thinking right away that a team with as little punch as the Panthers seem to have right now is not the ideal road favorite. You could be right. If they don’t (a) run the football with a lot of consistency, and (b) put a lot of pressure on Manuel, who was not sacked at all in the opener, they will have some difficulty going into enemy territory and snagging this straight-up win.

The Panthers are already dealing with offensive line problems, in that they are missing guard Garry Williams. This is not a finely-tuned machine. Newton’s 125 yards were a career low. But there may be an opportunity working against Buffalo’s secondary, which has been stripped by injuries. Stephon Gilmore and Jarius Byrd are both out of action. Ron Brooks broke his foot against the Patriots. So Newton perhaps gets to open things up a little more; he only threw three times beyond ten yards against Seattle.

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