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NFL Preview - Carolina (0-1) at Buffalo (0-1)



By John McMullen, NFL Editor

(Sports Network) - A pair of teams hoping to rebound from devastating Kickoff Weekend losses meet in Western New York on Sunday when Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers visit E.J. Manuel and the Buffalo Bills.

Both clubs saw fourth quarter leads evaporate at home last Sunday as Carolina fell 12-7 to Seattle and the Bills dropped a last second 23-21 decision to rival New England.

The Panthers held the highly-regarded Seahawks to a single touchdown, but Jermaine Kearse's TD reception early in the fourth quarter proved to be the he difference.

Newton was 16-of-23 for a career-low 125 yards and a touchdown, adding 38 yards on five rushes for the Panthers, who are looking to improve upon a 7-9 mark in 2012.

"We have to be more aggressive and take the bull by the horns and go," Newton said. "We did some things that were very exciting today, but as an offense we have to finish drives. We have to get the first down."

Steve Smith ended with 51 yards on six receptions, while DeAngelo Williams recorded 76 yards on 16 attempts, but coughed up the ball on a key late possession, the Panthers' third fumble of the contest.

"We did plenty of good things on both sides of the ball, but have to eliminate mistakes," Carolina coach Ron Rivera said. "It was not one player guilty of repeatedly making errors, but it would be a guy here and then a guy there and in the end, we made too many."

The Bills, meanwhile, came up just short in Manuel's first NFL start as the Pats' Danny Amendola returned from a groin injury to play a key role in New England's come-from-behind win.

Trailing by a point, the Patriots defense forced a three-and-out against the aggressive play-calling of the Bills rookie coach Doug Marrone. Instead of relying on the running game to eat up more of the clock, Buffalo opted to pass and Manuel, the first quarterback chosen in April's draft at No. 16, picked up only four yards on 3rd-and-10.

"It wasn't a situation we felt we needed to milk the clock," Marrone said. "We felt that we still needed to score to win the game."

The Patriots got the ball back with 4:31 to play in the final frame, and quarterback Tom Brady twice hooked up with Amendola to convert third downs, the latter a 10-yard gain on 3rd-and-8 from the Buffalo 39.

Shane Vereen followed with a 15-yard run around left tackle on the next play, setting up Stephen Gostkowski's game-winning 35-yard field goal with five seconds left.

Manuel connected on 18-of-27 passes for 150 yards and two touchdowns, the second putting the Bills up 21-17 with 11:03 remaining in the third quarter.

"I thought he was pretty phenomenal," tight end Scott Chandler said. "Protected the ball, threw the ball well."

Wide receivers Stevie Johnson and Robert Woods -- a fellow rookie -- were the recipients of Manuel's first two NFL touchdown passes.

"Obviously with every play I was continuing to get more and more confidence in myself and continuing to relax, stay calm throughout the whole thing and stay poised as a quarterback," said Manuel.

Leading the way on the ground for Buffalo was Fred Jackson with 67 yards on 13 rushes while the defense was spearheaded by recently signed safety Jim Leonhard, rookie middle linebacker Kiko Alonso and strong safety Aaron Williams, who all had nine tackles on the day. Alonso also forced and recovered a fumble in his NFL debut.

Buffalo and Carolina will be meeting for just the sixth time in the regular season. The Bills hold a 4-1 advantage all-time but the Panthers earned their lone win in the series during their last visit to Buffalo back in 2005.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

Newton and Manuel, the first freshman to start at the game's most important position for the Bills since Joe Ferguson in 1973, are both the kind of dual- threat signal callers that are en vogue now in the NFL but the Panthers' QB obviously has the edge in experience.

The numbers are there for Newton. The former No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 draft reached 8,000 passing yards in his 33rd career game last week, tying for fifth fastest in NFL history to reach that milestone. The Auburn product is also the only player in NFL lore with 8,000-plus passing yards, 40-plus passing TDs, 1,000-or-more rushing yards and 20-plus rushing TDs over that same span. All that said, however, he's just 13-20 now as an NFL starting QB and it's time to turn some of that production into wins.

Part of the problem is that Newton doesn't have a lot of help outside the numbers where veteran Smith is the only proven threat. Brandon LaFell has some skill but is prone to drops while the backup situation features the oft- injured Domenik Hixon, ex-FCS QB Armanti Edwards and return specialist Ted Ginn.

The Bills, however, are hurting in the secondary and will be without star safety Jairus Byrd (foot) as well as cornerbacks Stephon Gilmore (wrist) and Ron Brooks (foot) so it's now or never for Carolina's receivers to show up.

Buffalo, meanwhile, will continue to manage things with the raw Manuel leaning on their impressive running back duo of C.J. Spiller and Jackson. Spiller, one of the most dynamic runners in the game, needs to bounce back from a poor Week 1 effort. Coming off a season in which he compiled 1,703 all-purpose yards, Spiller was held to 55 total yards by the Pats.

"I think C.J. made some good runs and caught the ball (well)," Marrone said. "Sometimes there were things that were out there that we left out there. Whether it was us not finishing up front or maybe not trusting the scheme that we're in. Seeing color in the hole and trying to pop it out. I think a lot of things go in to that. I believe that C.J. will be fine and he'll get better and better each week."

OVERALL ANALYSIS

This is the kind of game Newton has to find a way to win in the fourth quarter whether that's making a play with his arm or legs. Losing to a raw rookie at this stage of his development can't be tolerated, even on the road.

Another poor start by the Panthers will have many surmising the late-season improvement in 2012 was nothing more than fool's gold.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Panthers 21, Bills 20

09/12 09:36:11 ET

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Standings

 2013 American Football Conference Standings 
East Division W L T Pct. PF PA Home Away Div Conf
y-New England 12 4 0 .750 444 338 8-0 4-4 4-2 9-3
NY Jets 8 8 0 .500 290 387 6-2 2-6 3-3 5-7
Miami 8 8 0 .500 317 335 4-4 4-4 2-4 7-5
Buffalo 6 10 0 .375 339 388 4-4 2-6 3-3 5-7
 
North Division W L T Pct. PF PA Home Away Div Conf
y-Cincinnati 11 5 0 .688 430 305 8-0 3-5 3-3 8-4
Pittsburgh 8 8 0 .500 379 370 5-3 3-5 4-2 6-6
Baltimore 8 8 0 .500 320 352 6-2 2-6 3-3 6-6
Cleveland 4 12 0 .250 308 406 3-5 1-7 2-4 3-9
 
South Division W L T Pct. PF PA Home Away Div Conf
y-Indianapolis 11 5 0 .688 391 336 6-2 5-3 6-0 9-3
Tennessee 7 9 0 .438 362 381 3-5 4-4 2-4 6-6
Jacksonville 4 12 0 .250 247 449 1-7 3-5 3-3 4-8
Houston 2 14 0 .125 276 428 1-7 1-7 1-5 2-10
 
West Division W L T Pct. PF PA Home Away Div Conf
y-Denver 13 3 0 .813 606 399 7-1 6-2 5-1 9-3
x-Kansas City 11 5 0 .688 430 305 5-3 6-2 2-4 7-5
x-San Diego 9 7 0 .563 396 348 5-3 4-4 4-2 6-6
Oakland 4 12 0 .250 322 453 3-5 1-7 1-5 4-8
 
x= clinched playoff berth
y= clinched division title
 2013 National Football Conference Standings 
East Division W L T Pct. PF PA Home Away Div Conf
y-Philadelphia 10 6 0 .625 442 382 4-4 6-2 4-2 9-3
Dallas 8 8 0 .500 439 432 5-3 3-5 5-1 7-5
NY Giants 7 9 0 .438 294 383 4-4 3-5 3-3 6-6
Washington 3 13 0 .188 334 478 2-6 1-7 0-6 1-11
 
North Division W L T Pct. PF PA Home Away Div Conf
y-Green Bay 8 7 1 .531 417 428 4-3-1 4-4 3-2-1 6-5-1
Chicago 8 8 0 .500 445 478 5-3 3-5 2-4 4-8
Detroit 7 9 0 .438 395 376 4-4 3-5 4-2 6-6
Minnesota 5 10 1 .344 391 480 5-3 0-7-1 2-3-1 4-7-1
 
South Division W L T Pct. PF PA Home Away Div Conf
y-Carolina 12 4 0 .750 366 241 7-1 5-3 5-1 9-3
x-New Orleans 11 5 0 .688 414 304 8-0 3-5 5-1 9-3
Atlanta 4 12 0 .250 353 443 3-5 1-7 1-5 3-9
Tampa Bay 4 12 0 .250 288 389 3-5 1-7 1-5 2-10
 
West Division W L T Pct. PF PA Home Away Div Conf
y-Seattle 13 3 0 .813 417 231 7-1 6-2 4-2 10-2
x-San Francisco 12 4 0 .750 406 272 6-2 6-2 5-1 9-3
Arizona 10 6 0 .625 379 324 6-2 4-4 2-4 6-6
St. Louis 7 9 0 .438 348 364 5-3 2-6 1-5 4-8
 
x= clinched playoff berth
y= clinched division title
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Scoreboard
Local
Final
NOR 6
DUR 3
 
Final
MIA 99
CHA 88
12:05pm Today
NOR
DUR
 
Final
CLE 6
TOR 4
Final
DET 2
ANA 1
Final
NYM 4
ATL 3
Final
MIA 3
SEA 2
Final
PIT 2
MIL 3
Final
WAS 3
STL 2
Final
TAM 1
NYY 5
Final
KAN 3
MIN 8
Final
CHC 2
CIN 8
Final
TEX 2
CWS 16
Final
OAK 4
HOU 1
Final
LOS 4
ARI 1
Final
COL 9
PHI 10
Final
SDP 3
SFG 4
Final
BOS 6
BAL 5
11:05am Today
BOS
BAL
 
7:05pm Tonight
PIT
CIN
 
7:05pm Tonight
CLE
KAN
 
7:05pm Tonight
WAS
ANA
 
7:08pm Tonight
DET
CWS
 
7:10pm Tonight
ATL
MIA
 
7:10pm Tonight
NYM
STL
 
8:05pm Tonight
CHC
ARI
 
8:10pm Tonight
MIL
SDP
 
8:40pm Tonight
COL
SFG
 
10:05pm Tonight
OAK
TEX
 
10:10pm Tonight
SEA
HOU
 
10:10pm Tonight
LOS
PHI
 
Final
SAN 90
DAL 85
Final
MIA 99
CHA 88
Final
CHI 93
WAS 102
Final
HOU 120
POR 122
8:00pm Tonight
OKC
MEM
10:30pm Tonight
LAC
GSW
Final
NYR 2
PHI 4
Final
BOS 4
DET 1
Final
MON 3
TAM 2
Final
SJS 7
LOS 2
7:00pm Tonight
MIN
COL
7:00pm Tonight
CLB
PIT
8:30pm Tonight
CHI
STL
9:30pm Tonight
DAL
ANA
Final
NOR 6
DUR 3
 
12:05pm Today
NOR
DUR