We’re in Week 2 of the NFL Preseason and there are three games on the board for Friday night:
BUFFALO BILLS AT CAROLINA PANTHERS
The Buffalo Bills head to the Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina to take on the hometown Carolina Panthers. The Bills went 6-10 but are poised to be one of the surprise teams of the 2019 season. The Panthers went 7-9 due to large part to injuries. The most significant was to quarterback Cam Newton. Newton only missed two games last year but due to an ongoing shoulder issue just wasn’t the same quarterback. The word is that his arm strength is back to 100%.
Sean McDermott is in his third season as head coach of the Bills and the team regressed slightly in his second season at the helm. Buffalo went 9-7 and reached the playoffs in 2017 but started the 2018 season 2-7. McDermott tinkered with the lineup and the team played better down the stretch. Most significantly, the defense showed some improvement in 2018 and if the offense comes around this year they’ll be a tough out. Before McDermott took the gig in Buffalo he was defensive coordinator for Carolina between 2011 and 2016 so he knows this team and their methodology well.
Buffalo defense showed up strong against Indianapolis last week and the expectation is that starting quarterback Josh Allen will play a decent amount tonight. After he goes out, his backup Matt Barkley is a very capable #2. Bills are an underrated team and we’ll gladly take them getting a full field goal.
MIAMI DOLPHINS AT TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
Even though this is a preseason game and just a four hour drive up I-75 North not interested in any part of the Miami Dolphins on the road this year after a 1-7 record away from home last season. Tampa Bay won’t be much better than the Dolphins in the regular season but they do have a very capable head coach in Bruce Arians who will make his home field debut tonight. Arians was brought in hoping he could do something with Jameis Winston. Winston might not be cut out for a starting NFL quarterback role but if anyone can raise his level it’s Arians.
Winston is far from being the Bucs’ only issue. The defense has been abysmal of late and it looked bad in the preseason opener at Pittsburgh. The good news, however, is that the Bucs’ offense did a nice job moving the football putting up 479 yards and 31 first downs. Winston was able to pass for a touchdown in limited action but the best showing came from third stringer Ryan Griffin who completed 26 of 43 passes for 330 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions. From a preseason standpoint, the Bucs’ quarterback rotation is pretty good. Miami’s top two quarterbacks are serviceable at best–Ryan Fitzpatrick and Josh Rosen. The bigger issue for the Dolphins QBs is a lack of skill position players around them. Betting a new head coach in his first home preseason game has been a longterm winning strategy.