The Panthers very quietly put up the 2nd most rushing yards in franchise history last Sunday against the Bucs, matched only by the 299 yard performance against the same team one year ago. They will have a strong chance to match such numbers against the , who rank dead last in defending the rush. The Bills defense will also be without starting defensive tackle Kyle Williams, whom ranks second on the team in tackles and run stopping safety . Both of these players were a couple of bright spots on an otherwise abysmal run defense.
Expect a heavy dose of the running attack from the opening snap, long enduring drives that take a lot of time off the clock and keep the Buffalo defense on the field for a long period of time. Also expect the Panthers to try to get the ball to Steve Smith, whom is highly disgruntled after his lack of targets for this year. If the rushing game is dominant, they may try to take a few shots into the endzone later on in the game.
On defense, the most curious player to keep on eye on would be our new acquisition in . The Panthers got a very good DT for a 5th round pick, a player that the didn't need due to their switch to a 3-4 defense. Expect him to be worked into the rotation and start the majority of the snaps on the Panthers defensive line.
He will be a definite help to a Panthers defense that has ranked 29th in the league in defending the rush. The Panthers will need bring the blitz early and often in order to stop a couple of capable runners in Lynch and Jackson. The Bills will be without starting QB Trent Edwards, so they expect to sell out against the run until can prove that he can beat them through the air.
And now for the top offensive matchups for the week.
Steve Smith vs
With Whitner out, Jairus will be called on to try to keep Steve Smith contained in double coverages. He's coming off a great game where he picked off Sanchez twice on road to a 16-13 route of the . He will have to be on Steve Smith all the time, as he's proven time and time again that he cannot be handled by any single guy. Will we see the guy that the Jets learned to fear, or will we see a rookie? Only time, and the arm of Jake Delhomme, will tell. Steve Smith wants the ball, and I say we give it to him!
Jake Delhomme vs 4th ranked pass defense
Jake Delhomme will probably not be called on to do much during this game, but when he is he needs to get back to doing what he does. Don't hone in on Steve Smith, and spread the ball around to all of his receivers. He needs to go through his reads, and not try to force a pass that isn't there. With a running game like this, the Panthers need a game manager. Jake Delhomme needs to show that he can be that manager, because this will be his last chance before he faces teams like the , who sport one of the best defenses in the league. His running backs will need help through the air to win those types of games, so Jake needs to show he can be that guy. What he doesn't need to show is that he's the sole reason that other teams can stay in the game.
/ vs Bills D-Line
How good are these guys? Chances are we'll probably see on Sunday. You couldn't ask for a better script. A QB who can't throw the football, a defense that can't defend the run, and a pair of running backs whom are coming off one of the best rushing performances in Panthers history. All of these things point towards an excellent day for the Panthers run game, and we may finally cross over 300 yards rushing for good this game. Wouldn't that be fun?
Panthers O-Line vs Buffalo Blitzes
As spoken before, Buffalo will follow the formula of selling out against the run and trying to force the Panthers to beat them in the air. Whether they can do that or not is another story. Asides from a couple of questionable performances from certain players, the Panthers have one of the best offensive lines in the league. With Jake Delhomme's play though, he's going to need all of the time that we can get for him. If the Panthers offensive line can dominate the Buffalo blitzes and one of our running backs can break off a huge run, it will do wonders to keep us dominating this game.
If the Panthers can stick to the run and stop the run, they have this game in the bag. DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart should look to dominate and keep Lynch and Jackson off the field. However, Jake Delhomme needs to have a good day for us to be confident going into next week. Feed the ball to Steve Smith and spread the ball around when he isn't open. Steve Smith should be your first and 3rd read, but not your only read. He doesn't need to be a hero this game, he simply needs to deliver the ball to the open receiver.
As long as Jake doesn't blow the game, and we can stop the run and create pressure, the Panthers are in it to win it.