NFL odds opened in the Carolina Panthers' favor as they visit the Buffalo Bills for the first preseason game of the 2015 season for each team. Kickoff is7:00 ET at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
Carolina Panthers vs. Buffalo Bills (-3) 7:00 ET
While the Panthers have the continuity that comes from 4 years of coaching by Ron Rivera, the Bills will be taking the field for the first time under new HC Rex Ryan, the former NY Jets mentor.
When handicapping NFL matches, I often look at winning teams who did not make the playoffs to have success in the following preseason. Such is the case with the Bills, who use confidence-building, late season wins vs. perennial Super Bowl types, New England and Green Bay, to craft a 9-7 SU season. But, it was not enough to either make the playoffs or save the jobs of the coaching staff. To spice up the offense, the Bills recruited new skill position players in QB Cassel, RB McCoy, and WR Harvin. Per usual, none of these veterans figure to see much playing time in Week 1 of preseason football. Rather, expect a QB load to fall to EJ Manuel with a backup appearance by Tyrod Taylor. More importantly for our purposes is that new HC Ryan will be granted a “honeymoon phase” during this preseason. That would fit hand in glove with the fact that Ryan is 0-6 ATS in Game 1 in his 6 seasons as HC.
On the other bench is a hungry Carolina Panther team. One needs only to note the fire in the eyes of starting QB Newton, who after signing a multi-year, multi-million dollar contract, has taken a clear leadership role on this team. Look no further than his Monday fisticuffs against a defensive cornerback who had been aggravating Newton through training camp. Though no one condones the multi-million dollar QB starting a fight, Newton’s defense is that it would inspire his teammates and add to his leadership abilities. Though Newton may see limited playing time in this game – most snaps will be taken by Derek Anderson and Joe Webb, one cannot deny the hunger of this Carolina Panther team. This is a team that finished the regular season with 5 consecutive victories to capture a playoff spot. It was all part of a 2nd half that saw them dominate the opposition on the stat line in each of those games.
This game figures to be a matter of priority. While the Panthers look to build on their strong finish to 2014, fueled by the leadership of QB Newton, the Bills may well “walk through the motions” under 1st year HC Ryan, who has proven in the past that Game 1 of the preseason is little more than an afterthought.
NFL Picks: Take Carolina Panthers +3 -106 at Pinnacle