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Mark Gaughan's Matchup Watch: Bills at Panthers


Bills C Eric Wood vs. Panthers DTs, LBs

The Bills center had a terrific start to the season against the Jets' outstanding defensive front. It's a back-to-back heavy lift for Wood Sunday in Carolina. The Panthers will line up either Star Lotulelei or Kawann Short over the shoulder of Wood. Both are 315-pounders and both gave San Francisco center Daniel Kilgore fits last week. Short is one of the top 10 defensive tackles in the league and signed a $16 million a year contract in April. Lotulelei is a quality gap-stuffer. Plus, Wood will have to direct traffic if Carolina employs its preferred blitzes with linebackers through the A-gaps (to either side of the center).

Panthers TE Greg Olson vs. Bills DBs

Olsen ranked No. 2 in the NFL in receiving yards last season with 1,073 and fourth in catches with 80. He was a home-run acquisition when the Panthers traded to get him from Chicago in 2011. Now in his 11th season, Olsen has 7,383 receiving yards, eighth all time among NFL tight ends. He should move up to No. 5 by the end of this season. The Panthers attack  defenses with Olsen up the seams, and they use him on corner patterns as a Cover 2 beater. Bills safeties Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer will have their hands full keeping him from making a big play.

LeSean McCoy vs. Panthers nickel defense

Carolina boasts arguably the fastest linebacking corps in the NFL with the trio of Thomas Davis, Luke Kuechly and Shaq Thompson. Those three are so speedy that the Panthers stay in "regular" defensive personnel against three-receiver sets a bunch. Carolina stayed in its base 4-3 defense on 40 percent of snaps last year, fifth most in the league. If the Panthers stay regular on passing situations, can the Bills use McCoy's speed out of the backfield to exploit them? If the Panthers go to nickel personnel with third cornerback Captain Munnerlyn, can the Bills use McCoy to run on that grouping?

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