If you think you have it bad as a Carolina Panthers fan, you may want to take some “misery loves company” solace in what has happened to Buffalo.
The Bills haven’t made the playoffs since after the 1999 season — easily the longest playoff drought in the NFL. To put that in perspective, Cam Newton was 10 years old at the time.
Long gone are the glory days of the early 1990s, when the Bills and quarterback Jim Kelly made it to four straight Super Bowls (but lost them all). The Bills haven’t even had a winning season since 2004. At least the Panthers last made the playoffs in 2008; that’s a whole lot better than 1999.
With all that said, these two franchises do have a lot of things in common this season entering this game. Here are three of them:
1. Both teams led at home in Week 1 entering the fourth quarter, only to lose and begin the season 0-1 in a fashion their fans found all too familiar.
2. Both quarterbacks (Newton and E.J. Manuel) threw for 150 yards or less without an interception in the opener and didn’t have a pass play of longer than 30 yards, prompting all sorts of questions this week in both Buffalo and Charlotte about “stretching the field.”
3. Both teams ran the ball last week for almost exactly the same number of yards (134 for Carolina, 136 for Buffalo) but didn’t have a rushing touchdown.
• C.J. Spiller, the Buffalo running back who once starred at Clemson, had a bad season opener against New England. He lost a fumble on his offense’s second play and only gained 41 yards in 17 carries. Spiller’s speed will really test Carolina linebacker Luke Kuechly on Sunday.
• The Panthers lost to a rookie quarterback last season in Russell Wilson, but I don’t think Manuel is as good as Wilson and won’t play as mistake-free if Carolina can put pressure on him. I think the Panthers will win this game by virtue of a dominating defensive performance.
• If Newton doesn’t throw the ball 40 yards down the field at least twice this week, I’ll be stunned. With everyone and his mother wanting the Panthers to at least take some shots at going deep — including coach Ron Rivera — offensive coordinator Mike Shula simply has to do this even if it doesn’t work.
• My prediction: Carolina 24, Buffalo 14.