The Buffalo Bills (7-6) started the season with Super Bowl aspirations, and while those dreams are still a possibility, the reality of the situation is the Bills need to start stacking wins to remain in the hunt for a playoff berth.
Buffalo finds itself in this precarious position after dropping back-to-back decisions vs. the New England Patriots and Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Weeks 14 and 15. Yes, the Bills are still in possession of the final Wild Card spot in the AFC, but Buffalo is one of five teams with a 7-6 record with four regular-season games remaining.
Buffalo’s quest begins with Sunday’s 1 p.m. EST home game vs. the Carolina Panthers (5-8), a team the Bills and head coach Sean McDermott know very well as McDermott spent six years as Carolina’s defensive coordinator before becoming Buffalo’s head coach prior to the 2017 season.
Buffalo’s clash with the Panthers will be FOX’s featured early broadcast for fans in the Buffalo and Carolina markets, along with pockets of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Wyoming (where Josh Allen played collegiately).
FOX is sending Kenny Albert (play-by-play) and former New York Jets linebacker Jonathan Vilma (analyst) and Lindsay Czarniak (sideline reporter) to Western New York for Sunday’s game.
The areas that can see the game are highlighted in green (map courtesy of 506sports):
Besides Buffalo hosting Carolina, the rest of the FOX early slate of games features the Dallas Cowboys at the New York Giants (in red), the Washington Football Team at the Philadelphia Eagles (blue), and the Arizona Cardinals at the Detroit Lions (yellow).
Sunday’s matchup is the eighth all-time between these teams, with Buffalo holding a 5-2 edge in the all-time series.
The last time Buffalo and Carolina squared off, neither team scored a touchdown in the game. The Bills—who were limited to 176 net yards of offense—sacked Cam Newton six times, led by two sacks from Jerry Hughes, but Buffalo suffered a 9-3 setback on Sept. 17, 2017.
The last time Carolina came to Orchard Park, EJ Manuel found Stevie Johnson for a two-yard touchdown pass to lift the Bills to a 24-23 win on Sept. 15, 2013. Johnson hauled in eight passes for 111 yards, C.J. Spiller rushed for 103 yards on just 16 carries, and Mario Williams sacked Newton 4.5 times to set a single-game franchise record for sacks in a game.