Bills vs. Panthers Betting Guide: Can Carolina’s Defense Dominate in Week 2?

Bills vs. Panthers Betting Guide: Can Carolina’s Defense Dominate in Week 2? article feature image
Credit:

Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Carolina Panthers cornerback Donte Jackson (26) gathers with his teammates during warmups.

Buffalo Bills at Carolina Panthers Betting Odds

  • Spread: Panthers -3
  • Over/Under: 40.5
  • Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET

The Panthers host the Bills in one of three NFL Preseason Week 2 matchups on Friday night. Let’s take a look at key storylines for both teams, complete with a betting pick.

Buffalo Bills

There isn’t anywhere for Josh Allen’s passing efficiency to go but up after last season’s performance.

Josh Allen’s 2018 Stats

  • Yards per attempt: 6.48 (28th among 29 quarterbacks with at least 10 starts)
  • QB rating: 67.9 (28th)
  • Touchdown rate: 3.1% (27th)
  • Interception rate: 3.75% (29th)
  • Completion rate: 52.8% (29th)

One of the biggest X-factors in a potential Year 2 leap for Allen is the Bills’ offseason additions at wide receiver.

Allen demonstrated a penchant for taking shots downfield as a rookie, leading all quarterbacks with a 19.7% deep-ball rate (per Pro Football Focus). This bodes well for John Brown’s chances at cashing in on some of his offseason hype.

And then there’s Cole Beasley, who gives Allen a reliable underneath option that he simply didn’t have a season ago. Beasley (70.9% catch rate) joins Michael Thomas (77%), Adam Humphries (70.4%), Adam Thielen (70.1%) and Tyler Lockett (70.3%) as the only receivers with to catch at least 70% of their targets since 2012 (minimum 100 targets).

The Panthers ran the seventh-most zone coverage in the league last season, so Allen and the other quarterbacks won’t have the luxury of defensive backs consistently turning their backs to the football. Friday night presents a great first test to see just how improved this passing game will be in 2019.

Carolina Panthers

The Panthers will look to defend home field Friday night with help from their vastly improved front seven. They lost longtime franchise stalwarts Julius Peppers (39) and Thomas Davis (36) to retirement and the Chargers, respectively, but the Panthers managed to add some much needed talent with their additional offseason moves.

  • Bruce Irvin has played for the Seahawks, Raiders and Falcons over the years and provides pass-rushing depth off of either edge.
  • Gerald McCoy ripped off six consecutive Pro Bowl appearances from 2012 to 2017, although he wasn’t the same level of difference-maker last season.
  • Brian Burns was the Panthers’ 2019 first-round pick and possesses a ridiculous blend of size (6-foot-5 and 249 pounds), speed (4.53-second 40-yard dash) as well as explosiveness (36-inch vertical).

The Panthers ranked 20th in Football Outsiders’ adjusted sack rate last season. Their five sacks against the Bears in the first week of the preseason was certainly a step in the right direction, and an improved overall pass rush will only mean good things for talented cornerbacks James Bradberry and Donte Jackson.

Head coach Ron Rivera said he expects starters to get reps on Friday, which would seem to include studs Cam Newton and Luke Kuechly.

I’m riding with the hometown squad in this one.

PICK: Panthers -3