Ready to see the T.O. show on Sunday?
In the past, a game like this one that features two of the NFL’s best receivers — Carolina’s Steve Smith and Buffalo’s Terrell Owens — would have evoked excitement in me.
Not this year.
To say that both are struggling is an understatement: Smith has only 259 yards, and Owens is right behind him with a paltry 215. But the reasons for this struggles vary.
Smith is either double teamed or just can’t get a decent ball thrown his way, and he hasn’t been shy about expressing a few words about his involvement in the offense, or the lack thereof, to local reporters. Owens, according to some media reports, just doesn’t have it anymore.
With the receiving game potentially a wash on Sunday, there are other areas of the Panthers (2-3) – Bills (2-4) matchup that bear watching.
Running backs – Carolina’s two-headed monster of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart had season highs in rushing, individually and collectively, against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last week. And Panthers head coach John Fox will continue to ride that gravy train in Sunday’s game, especially since the Bills are dead last in the league in rushing defense.
Unfortunately for Buffalo, Fred Jackson, their leading man, is headed in the opposite direction. He hasn’t rushed for over 100 yards since week 2, and over the last three games he has totaled an unimpressive 124 yards on the ground and no touchdowns.
At quarterback, the Panthers’ and Bills’ passing games, as I mentioned before, are in shambles, which is part of the reason both teams have suffered the same results – loss after loss after loss.
Jake Delhomme is physically healthy but mentally a wreck. How else can you explain his affinity for throwing interceptions this season? (Just in case you didn’t know, he’s tied with N.Y. Jets rookie Mark Sanchez in this category with a league-leading 10 picks.)
Bills quarterback Trent Edwards has put up comparable passing numbers as Delhomme, minus four interceptions, but he probably has a better excuse, considering that he suffered his second concussion of the season last week, which may keep him on the sidelines for this game.
The bottom line: The Panthers have another great opportunity in front of them and are looking to win their third game of the season after starting the year with three straight losses. But Buffalo’s players, also seeking their third win, will come to Charlotte ready to fight.
So this game may come down to some X factors.
Expect the panthers defense to continue to play like gang-busters on Sunday and make some big plays. Offensively, they will run more and pass less, but I’m sure offensive coordinator Jeff Davidson will add a few wrinkles in the game plan to get the disgruntled Smith on track again – maybe run some no-huddle and a couple of reverse plays here and there.
Either way, Smith won’t be in such a foul mood after this game as Carolina wins 28 -10.
Damon Ford is a public relations professional who has worked in the public and private sectors in Charlotte. He is 3-2 this season predicting Panthers games.