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We were so close to having a 2–0, first-place-in-the-AFC-East Buffalo Bills after week two. The Carolina Panthers and the Bills matched defensive intensity and offensive inefficiency in a battle of field goals that Carolina eventually held on to win.
It's hard to say how good either of these two defenses really are because besides playing each other, they faced the Jets and the 49ers. The Jets and the 49ers, and the Panthers and Bills… four of the worst offenses in the NFL after two weeks. How much is on the quality of defense and how much is just bad offense?
It's going to take a few more weeks before we truly find out about these teams. However, I think it's obvious the Buffalo Bills are a more buttoned up in 2017. They’re a team you don't want to play but are very beatable in 2017… and will be more of a threat in 2018+. Carolina strikes me as a good enough team that's going to be battling down to the final week for a playoff spot. They're not as good as the Atlanta Falcons in their division, but they'll give them a run for their money.
Fantasy player notes…
-- The numbers didn't fully bare it out, but you know who had a wonderful performance here: The Golden Calf, Christian McCaffrey (8-10-0, 4-34-0/5). They might as well just move him to wide receiver. He's a so-so, competent runner of the ball but a little undersized to ever strike fear in the hearts of defenses. Where he's making his money is as a receiver. That guy can catch anything thrown his way. Credit to Cam Newton — Cam is throwing a lot of action his way.
You're going to see a lot of the same stat lines from McCaffrey for Fantasy; a combined 50–80 yards, 5+ catches, and a handful of TDs on the season. He's just not a touchdown guy. He's more Danny Woodhead than anyone wants to admit.
It's funny, I saw some chatter after this game… the media is hitting Ron Rivera for not getting CMC the ball enough. I'm telling you the media is driving the bus towards McCaffrey as an RB1 in PPR… they will not rest until McCaffrey gets 58 targets a game. Meanwhile, 58% of the media is unaware Tarik Cohen is an NFL player, and 158% of them would tell you McCaffrey is the exponentially better NFL player.
I'm dead serious… dynasty rookie drafting today, I take Tarik Cohen over Christian McCaffrey.
-- Curtis Samuel (2-7-0/3) saw his first couple NFL touches in this game. You can see a little magic waiting to happen. Carolina has either not unleashed their radical plans for him on offense, or Ron Rivera is a stubborn old-school head coach working with a legacy coach's son offensive coordinator who just doesn't get it.
The charm of Curtis Samuel is using him as both a receiver and as a runner on jet sweeps, et cetera, even lining him up as a tailback 2-5 times a game. We've seen glimpses of the jet sweep plans in the Carolina playbook in the preseason. In his NFL debut, we saw nothing radical. The team that struggled to move the ball this entire game... a little radical running work from your wide receiver may have done something, no? Just more throws to Devin Funchess? OK…
Samuel was a true split WR/RB in college. He worked both roles really well. He could be a different version of what Christian McCaffrey does, and it could really confuse defenses working both of them as these random acts of running and receiving. I think Carolina could transform itself into an NFC South winner if they went all-in on McCaffrey and Samuel as this duo that you never know which one is at WR or RB on each snap. So far, Carolina has played it pretty straight up/traditional. It's disappointing to watch when you see how innovative/open John Fox has been with Tarik Cohen and what Andy Reid has done with Tyreek Hill (he just doesn't get on the ball enough). Those guys are trying some fresh things with unorthodox weapons in the NFL. Carolina has two of the greatest RB/WR prospects to get radical with and they've chosen to play it pretty traditionally so far.
The first evidence I see the Carolina is getting radical with Samuel, I'm going to be all over it. I'm waiting for it to happen. So far... nothing.
-- I have to say… Jordan Matthews (3-30-0/3) looks so good as a wide receiver for the Buffalo Bills. It's just that Tyrod Taylor is such a low-level passer as a quarterback, so we can’t get more FF-excited. Matthews is waiting to be a Pro Bowl caliber wide receiver if he can ever link up with a decent quarterback for any stretch of time. The guy has gone from Michael Vick to Nick Foles to Mark Sanchez to Carson Wentz to Tyrod Taylor. Matthews started to pop with Nick Foles and was mostly solid with everyone else but he needs a high-functioning quarterback to take him from good to great. He doesn't have that in Buffalo right now. Stone Cold Sean McDermott traded Sammy Watkins for him for a reason.
Someday, but not yet for JMatt…
Tyrod Taylor seems to have more affinity for getting the ball to Zay Jones (2-18-0/6), but Jones looks over his head half the time so far. It took JMatt a few weeks, as a rookie, to get his feet under him too… and then he started popping as a useful fantasy option. It was Jones who made an incredible move to get open on the 4 & 11 play from 30+ yards out on the Bills’ final effort to win the game. Jones popped open streaking to the goal line but Taylor threw the ball to the wrong shoulder, and Jones tried to adjust to it but it didn't work. Jones got his fingertips on it but that's it.
Taylor does not seem to be on the same page with Jones or Matthews… which is kind of impossible since both of them have made a college career, and some in the pros, of being master technicians at what they do. I have to blame this on Taylor for not unlocking the potential here. I think McDermott knows full well Tyrod is the issue and there will be a change in 2018. There will probably be a change in 2017 as he pushes Nathan Peterman... but that's not the answer either.
-- Basically, every rookie that was a true college talent and not an overhyped Alabama or Clemson player has waltzed right into the NFL and taken on starting roles and done just fine when given a good opportunity. Tre'Davious White (5 tackles, 2 TFLs, 1 PD) is another example: He looks terrific as a rookie starting right away for the Buffalo Bills. No three-year adjustment period for modern-day rookies, just instant impact — The NFL in some instances is a step backward for them in scheme.
-- Greg Olsen will be out for several weeks with a broken foot, and I think I saw an article or people make the case that Ed Dickson would be very similar. You've got to be kidding me.
People are also climbing back on the Devin Funchess (4-68-0/6) train. Don’t count on it. That guy is a backup WR masquerading as a starter for several years now and Cam has mostly ignored him. He's not suddenly going to discover Funchess. If anything, Curtis Samuel might be a winner here.
-- I don't know what got into Ramon Humber (11 tackles,1 TFL), but Sean McDermott saw it and is putting it to use. Humber looks really good at linebacker for Buffalo and he is putting up the numbers: second in the league in tackles to start the season. I don’t see a reason to distrust the early activity.
Snap Counts of Interest...
57 = Funchess
44 = Benjamin
34 = Shepard
13 = Samuel
44 = McCaffrey
26 = JStew
50 = Jordan Matthews
49 = Zay Jones
34 = Andre Holmes
44 = Lorenzo Alexander
43 = Shaq Lawson
23 = Eddie Yarbrough