COMMENTARY | The Carolina Panthers visit the Buffalo Bills in an under-the-radar Week 2 matchup on Sunday. Both teams come in off of an opening game loss that showed promise but ended in disappointment. With the limited exception of Fred Jackson, players on both teams generally failed to stand out and left fantasy owners disappointed after Week 1.
Things are shaping up to change in Week 2, however. The matchup sets up to give the main offensive players for both teams a chance to break out for fantasy purposes. Although the Bills should be able to win the real game on the field, the fantasy winners will likely be owners of both of the teams' playmakers. Here are three players especially likely to have big fantasy weeks.
Carolina's offense could not get much going against the vaunted Seattle Seahawks defense in Week 1, mustering only 7 points in defeat. Newton's final numbers from the game reflect those struggles, as he went 16 for 23 for just 125 yards and added only 38 rushing yards. These numbers are especially disappointing in light of his position as one of the top fantasy quarterbacks taken in many drafts.
The blame for the pedestrian Week 1 performance, however, is not on Newton, but rather the Panthers' coaching staff. Head coach Ron Rivera acknowledged as much after the game, agreeing that the approach was far too conservative. Considering this, expect the Panthers to feature a much more aggressive gameplan against the Bills defense.
This should suit Newton's fantasy numbers well, especially in light of how thin the Bills' secondary has become. With injuries to Stephon Gilmore and Jairus Byrd, the Bills will again be forced to rely on quarterback pressure in order to succeed defensively. While this approach was mostly effective against Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, Newton provides a different challenge with his elite running ability. Newton should be a lock to put up big numbers, and may even make a run at the title for number one scoring fantasy quarterback in Week 2.
Just because Newton is likely to have a big fantasy day does not mean that the Bills are going to be blown out on the field. Rather, the game has the makings of a shootout, which will also lead to big numbers for many members of the Bills offense. The main beneficiary may be Stevie Johnson, Buffalo's undisputed number one wide receiver. He showed good chemistry with rookie quarterback E.J. Manuel in Week 1, en route to a touchdown against the New England Patriots.
Expect Johnson to put up even stronger numbers against the Panthers in Week 2. Last week, the Carolina secondary gave up 320 yards to Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson, with receiver Doug Baldwin leading the way with 91 yards. Similar to Baldwin, Johnson relies on superior route running to get open, and he should be able to make things difficult for the Panthers secondary with his consistent intermediate routes. Doing so, expect Johnson to approach 10 catches and 100 yards receiving and score at least one touchdown in Week 2.
Where the Bills and Panthers really differ in their expected fantasy results is at the running back position. With Jonathan Stewart still injured, Carolina is forced to rely on the rather uninspiring duo of DeAngelo Wiliams and Mike Tolbert. The Bills, on the other hand, have the most imposing two-headed monster in the NFL in C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson. Although Jackson had the much better Week 1 performance, expect Spiller to break out in Week 2 and justify the top-five fantasy pick he was likely taken with.
The Panthers did a good job of bottling up former Bills running back Marshawn Lynch in Week 1, holding him to just 43 yards on 17 carries. Unfortunately for fantasy owners squaring off against Spiller this week, C.J. provides a much different challenge than what the Panthers overcame in Lynch.
Lynch is known for his physicality and power. Spiller, on the other hand, is one of the fastest running backs in the league and excels in making quick cuts and getting to the edge. While the Panthers were effective in stopping the latter approach of Lynch, they struggled against the Seahawks speed back Robert Turbin, who gained 17 yards on just three carries. Turbin is effectively a poor man's Spiller, so one can expect even better results in comparison to what Turbin accomplished. Accordingly, with Spiller's workload, expect a huge day both rushing and receiving that should approach 150 total yards and at least one touchdown.
Although the Bills-Panthers game is not getting the most attention on the Week 2 schedule, fantasy owners should consider it a dream matchup. Both offenses have a lot to prove and match up well against the respective defenses. Considering this, you would do well to load your Week 2 fantasy lineups with as many of the key players from this game as possible.
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Del Pearson is a lifelong Upstate New York resident and follower of the Buffalo Bills. He has been attending games since childhood and more recently writing about the team as a Yahoo Contributor. Follow him on Twitter @DelPearson44.
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