Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 9/12/13
The one great thing that came out of the Carolina Panthers' preseason was that Cam Newton was named a team captain.While it seems a little odd that would be a real positive for this franchise, the fact 52 other men stood in a locker room and told their starting quarterback that they believed in was paramount to the success of this franchise this season.So much is riding on the play of the quarterback in this offense and the Panthers need Newton to be the player he was two seasons ago, not the one he was last year.The Panthers are maturing as a team and moving in the right direction.The Buffalo Bills, in contrast, are a team trying to get its feet wet again in the NFL. Rookie quarterback EJ Manuel played well in his first regular season start of his career and almost pulled off an upset of the Patriots.Now, after the excitement and “see me” moments have worn off, it is important to see Manuel this week, for this will be the real test of how he will be as an NFL quarterback in his first season.The weapons he has to work with are not as “sexy” as the ones in Carolina, but C.J. Spiller is still there and the receivers can move chains. The defense must take a further stand and stop the run. But this franchise, under new head coach Doug Marrone, is a work in progress.Here are three bold predictions for two teams looking for their first win of the season…More ball control by CarolinaIt might not be the boldest statement made, but hey it starts with holding onto the ball. Carolina suffered two fumbles last week. They cannot do that and expect to win. The will also need to run more effectively between the tackles and allow Newton to not only throw down field, but use his feet and strength when he needs to.If the Panthers control the line of scrimmage and give Newton time in the backfield, there will plenty of opportunities to score. I think Newton throws for four touchdowns this week.Spiller sets the toneI am waiting for C.J. Spiller to just run all over the place. So is my fantasy team.If Spiller starts fast, it will be a long day for the Carolina defense. Sorry, Ron Rivera.So much was made in the offseason that Spiller was going to be the back in the AFC to breakout. Let’s see it happen. I would love to see him challenge Luke Kuechley one on one in the middle of the field.Spiller should be able to run for about 115 yards and two scores.Buffalo wins at homeI like the Bills for the addition of Manuel and the running of Spiller. The fact they are playing at home helps them.Also Buffalo, even with a depleted secondary, created turnovers against New England. Hopefully that is the same kind of results they get this week as well. Look for Mario Williams to have a huge day on defense and the offensive line keep Manuel upright for most of the contest.Buffalo get the “W” and wins 27-23.
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