Week 1 of the NFL Preseason arrives on Thursday night, which does nothing more than getting the adrenaline pumping for the start of the regular season. Some of these games can get pretty ugly after about the 1st quarter, as coaching staffs call set plays to get a good look at individual players. Winning games is secondary, to most coaches at least. For rookies, the preseason is their first in-game action of their career. It’s of course most important for guys who are looking to make a roster.
In this edition of Week 1 preseason football, we take a look at the Carolina Panthers and Buffalo Bills. The centerpiece of this matchup is rookie quarterback Josh Allen. The Bills spent the 7th overall pick in the draft on Allen, so there are lofty expectations on him. However, Bills’ fans should be patient with him. Despite having all the tools to be a successful NFL quarterback, he’s entering a steep learning curve coming from Wyoming. Not every quarterback taken from a smaller college program is a Carson Wentz.
The Bills acquired AJ McCarron in an attempt to find a replacement for Tyrod Taylor who went to Cleveland. McCarron has long been waiting for an opportunity to start for an NFL team. He finally has his chance with the Bills after sitting behind Andy Dalton in Cincinnati. McCarron has some starting experience after taking over for an injured Dalton.
He led the Bengals to the playoffs in 2015 with 6 touchdowns and 2 interceptions in the regular season. Since then there’s always been talks of him becoming a starting quarterback. With Dalton’s contract, even though some people were calling for it, the Bengals weren’t going to in that direction. McCarron will face pressure from Allen for the starting job, though. And if McCarron doesn’t show that he can grasp the offense, the only guy with previous experience with the Bills is Nathan Peterman. Peterman is famous for throwing 5 interceptions in the first-half against the Chargers. This is the preseason, though, so don’t expect him to look that brutal.
The Panthers have a clear number 1 in Cam Newton. Everything is much clearer in that respect in Carolina. However, it gets dicey behind him. There are three quarterbacks currently listed on the depth chart. Garrett Gilbert is currently listed as the backup on the roster. If Newton goes down, it’s going to signal the end of the Panthers’ season. There isn’t much out there that’s available to sign, so they better hope for the best. Newton is slated to get about ten snaps in this game, so look for a series or two from him. Get our free Panthers vs. Bills pick below in Week 1 of the preseason.
Carolina Panthers vs. Buffalo Bills NFL Preseason Betting Odds:
vs. Bills -3(-110)
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Panthers vs. Bills Pick:
Unless it was absolutely necessary, the Bills are not going to rush Allen. That much has been clear through training camp. Allen has primarily gotten work with the third team offense, leaving McCarron and Peterman to handle the 1st and 2nd. McCarron and Peterman are currently in the midst of a QB battle for the starting job, but I think it’s going to take a lot from Peterman and McCarron flopping for Peterman to get the job.
The Bills recently traded for wide receiver Corey Coleman after his stay in Cleveland didn’t live up to expectations. It would have been a much better opportunity for Coleman if he went to a team with a sure handed quarterback. McCarron may very well develop into something, but he hasn’t proven much thus far.
Expect McCarron and Peterman to see an equal amount of snaps. It hasn’t been made public yet who is going to start, but they should see about the same action in this one. When the regular season rolls around, it may not matter who is starting. The Bills’ offensive line should face some problems in 2018. They lost three of their top offensive linemen from a year ago.
Pro Football Focus have them 29th going into the season. Defenses keep things so simple that offensive line issues aren’t so noticeable in the preseason, though. I expect the starters to get some extra work in the preseason for Buffalo. The new unit has to get some experience working together, as well as giving McCarron and Peterman equal looks with the first teamers.
For the Panthers, they are likely going to have depth issues at quarterback in the preseason. 27-year-old Gilbert Garrett is projected to be Newton’s backup. After a college career at Texas and SMU, Garrett has been a practice squad lifer since the Rams drafted him in the 6th round of the 2014 draft. He does have a Super Bowl ring to his credit, which he won with the Patriots while on their practice squad in 2014. He’s been with the Lions, Raiders, and now the Panthers.
Following Garrett in the rotation will be Taylor Heinicke, another practice squad member since getting signed as an undrafted rookie by the Vikings in 2015. He’s also been with the Patriots and Texans. Playing mop-up duty will be rookie Kyle Allen. If you follow college football, he might ring a bell from his time at Texas A&M. He ultimately transferred to Houston where he was benched in 2017. The former number 1 QB prospect finished with 4 touchdowns and 4 interceptions in his final year of college ball. Instead of going back for his senior year, he declared for the NFL and here he is now with the Panthers. At best, Allen would be happy to see a practice squad.
With all of that said, the Panthers have zero depth at the quarterback position after Newton. If none of them are adequate in the preseason, the Panthers may need to look elsewhere to get a backup. They’re facing a Bills team that has a quarterback battle ongoing. All three of their QB’s, McCarron, Peterman, and Allen are looking to impress. I find it difficult to back Gilbert and Heinicke here on the road in the preseason opener. The Bills are likely looking at a 23-14 win or so in this one.