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Buffalo Bills vs. Carolina Panthers Week 15 game preview

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This is starting not to make any sense. Many are feeling deflated after losing in overtime to the defending Super Bowl champs, but the resolve shown by Josh Allen continues to give the Buffalo Bills a chance. 

 

While losing three of your last four games is never ideal, especially late in the season, but we’re in Week 15. The Bills have shown who they are throughout the year, where they still rank sixth in the NFL in points scored per game. Defensively, even better, ranking third, allowing just 17.6 points per game.

 

With both units ranking in the top ten, there’s no way this team should miss the playoffs. They are one of just four teams who rank in the top ten, offensively and defensively. The Indianapolis Colts, New England Patriots, and Arizona Cardinals are the others. With Buffalo losing to the Patriots, Bucs, and Colts, these past three losses don’t feel so bad, especially when two were one-score games. 

 

Moving on to Carolina, a team who has lost four of their past five games as they have scrambled to make up for the loss of Sam Darnold, who went down with a shoulder injury in Week 9. Cam Newton hasn’t even won a game since becoming the starter, and he was benched not once but twice during last week’s contest against the Atlanta Falcons.

 

Add this to the fact that they recently fired their offensive coordinator Joe Brady, as they hope to establish a ground game. While your Rumbling Herd may be stumbling more than rumbling as of late, the Panthers have lost their claws, and their roar is more like a whimper at this point in the season.

Buffalo Bills Week 15 game details, where to watch

  • Sunday, December 19, 2021
  • Start time: 1:00 PM ET
  • TV channel - FOX
  • Location - Highmark Stadium in Orchard Park, New York

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© Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

Matchups to watch

  • Sean McDermott vs. Matt Rhule

While the Carolina Panthers’ fanbase may have a fond memory of coach Sean McDermott who spent 2011-16 as their defensive coordinator, their franchise doesn’t have many pieces left from his tenure. However, they may wish they had hired McDermott back in 2017 instead of letting him go to become the head coach for our beloved Bills.

Matt Rhule was supposed to be the next college coaching phenom who entered the NFL and changed the game. After a year and a half, Rhule’s teams are 10-19. Meanwhile, McDermott’s Bills have gone 45-32.

 

One could argue, Rhule hasn’t had an effective quarterback, but neither did McDermott in his first two seasons, and he still managed to go 15-17. Still, Rhule signed a seven-year, $60 million contract and has yet to have anything to show for it, other than maybe a better-looking bank account. It is believed that Rhule is in the top-three of head coaching earnings, whereas McDermott may not even be in the top ten.

 

Expect to see McDermott outcoach Rhule on Sunday. I used to believe Rhule also had a chance to be among the best, but we just haven’t seen it yet. 

 

  • Bills defense vs. Cam Newton

Here’s another favorable matchup. Remember the days of Nathan Peterman? That’s almost where Cam Newton is at this stage in his carer. Since undergoing shoulder surgery, the 2015 NFL MVP hasn’t looked like himself. Last week may have been his best showing this season, and we could continue seeing his play trend upward.

 

For the most part, Newton battles inconsistency issues. His 58.7% completion rate reflects his woes. Except, he also hasn’t been able to utilize what once was a rocket arm by going downfield. “SuperCam” averages just 6.2 yards per pass attempt in 2021. 

 

After facing the likes of Brady, then a dominant rushing attack in the blistering winds, and Jonathan Taylor the past four weeks, giving the defense a week off against Newton will be a nice change of scenery.

 

There’s some concern for D.J. Moore or Robby Anderson to break loose, but Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde can handle this offense’s only two weapons.

 

  • Josh Allen, Stefon Diggs, Gabe Davis vs. Panthers D

The Panthers are a similar but worse tale of what’s happening to the Bills the past few weeks. Typically a stout defense, Carolina has allowed 89 points their last three games, an average of 29.6 per game, much higher than their season average that places them eighth in the NFL.

 

The major difference, the teams Carolina has faced, are far from offensive juggernauts. Washington, Miami, and Atlanta all rank between 23rd-26th in points scored, and that’s after their offensive explosions against the Panthers.

 

They’re a sneaky unit that has playmakers all over the field. The addition of former Bill, Stephon Gilmore, came at the perfect time, with first-round rookie corner Jaycee Horn suffering a season-ending injury before the trade deadline. Imagine if the Bills would have acquired Gilmore now? Obviously, the Patriots wouldn’t want to send him to an inner-division foe, and he wanted to go back home in Carolina, but one can dream. Gilmore is a free agent at the end of the 2021 season, for what it’s worth.

 

Despite their recent defensive struggles, the Panthers are still great at one thing: Defending the pass. Allowing just 177.69 passing yards per contest, the Panthers rank No. 1 in the NFL.

 

They rank in the top ten of sacks per game, which could ultimately tear the Bills apart on Sunday, especially if the line continues to fold like a Bills Mafia table.

 

Carolina has a pair of speed edge rushers in Brian Burns and Haason Reddick, who have a combined 18.5 sacks this season. 2020 seventh overall pick, Derrick Brown can also push the pile from the interior. 

 

In the secondary, safety Jeremy Chinn is the Swiss-Army knife that plays fast and hits hard, causing turnovers, yet he also leads their team in tackles with 91. Two Pro Bowl cornerbacks surround Chinn in A.J. Bouye and Gilmore. As I said, this defense has plenty of talent throughout. It’s their offense that sets them back, putting the D in challenging situations.

 

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Buffalo Bills Week 15 game prediction

  • Last season’s record: Buffalo Bills 13-3, reached AFC Conference Championship
  • Carolina Panthers 5-11, third place in NFC South

 

It’s likely to become quite obvious. I’m more of the optimistic type who holds hope until it’s all gone. That’s more of what you’re going to see from the prediction this week. 

 

The Bills need to go 3-1 or better to make the playoffs in their final four games. That’s not a fact, but anything worse would likely be a death knell. Facing the Panthers, Pats, Falcons, and Jets? They can still get there.

 

First, they need to take care of business at home this week. The Bills can’t run the ball, which is an awful realization once we’re into the portion of the season where teams need to run to win when the weather is unpredictable. Nothing can solve their inefficiencies on this front, but they can at least gain confidence and better feel what works and what doesn’t when facing inferior squads.

 

Matt Breida hasn’t gotten enough chances, and even when he has, he’s fumbled. Flukes aside, Breida offers the most game-breaking ability out of Buffalo’s backfield due to his straight-line speed. Otherwise, just keep pilfering running backs off other team’s practice squads. Something has to work.

 

Maybe they need to re-align the offensive lines again. Getting back Jon Feliciano this week could help. Offensive lines seem to work much better when they gain chemistry and experience. Feliciano’s injuries this season haven’t helped. Maybe getting the big fella back in the lineup can create some effective cohesiveness up front.

 

Look for the Bills to do everything in their power to try to get back to running the football this week against the top-ranked pass defense. With Josh Allen nursing a turf toe injury, he may not be able to be as peppy these next few weeks, which only stresses the importance of establishing their rushing attack even more.

 

The Bills will be playing pissed-off football at home this week. Expect them to leave their slow starts behind and punch the Panthers in the mouth from the start, never looking back. 

 

Vegas has the Bills set as heavy favorites, which is always scary to think about in the NFL. Buffalo is seen as anywhere from 9.5 to 11-point favorites by betting oddsmakers. I’m not typically the one to take the over when a team is favored so highly, and with how the Bills have played lately, being an 11-point favorite seems nuts. 

 

But it’s about time the Rumbling Herd earns a convincing victory. If not for themselves, do it for the loyal Bills Fans who show up, whether the wind is blowing 60 miles per hour or whether the temperatures drop into the negatives. 

 

Game prediction: 37-19 Bills victory

 

Go Bills!!

 

 

 

BillsFans.com - Andrew Buller-Russ 

 

 

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