CHARLOTTE - After starting the season 5-2, the Buffalo Bills have lost four out of their last six games to sit at 7-6 and right on the edge of the AFC playoff picture.
That skid started with a clunker to Jacksonville and came to a head with a comeback that fell short in overtime on Sunday at Tampa Bay.
Buffalo's statement win over the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 5 seems so long ago now, as the Bills have struggled with preseason expectations of a return to the AFC Championship or more.
However, this game still has plenty of storylines, so let's dive right in.
After former Panthers defensive coordinator Sean McDermott became Buffalo's head coach and former Panthers assistant GM Brandon Beane went north for the Bills general manager position, there have been plenty of trades and signings involving former Panthers and Bills.
The Bills currently have six former Panthers on the active roster in Mario Addison, Vernon Butler, Star Lotulelei, Efe Obada, Andre Smith and Daryl Williams. Bryan Cox, Jr. is on IR and A.J. Klein is currently on the COVID-19 list.
The Panthers have a former Bill themselves in assistant GM Dan Morgan, who spent three seasons in the Bills front office before returning to Carolina this summer.
Linebacker Jermaine Carter Jr. already spoke this week about his excitement in seeing Smith, a member of his 2018 Panthers draft class.
Bills quarterback Josh Allen has struggled a bit over this recent stretch, throwing eight interceptions in the past six games compared to just three picks in the first seven games.
Allen still ranks fourth in the NFL with 28 passing touchdowns and seventh with 3,524 passing yards. His 531 rushing yards rank third among quarterbacks.
McDermott said Monday that Allen suffered a foot sprain in the game at Tampa Bay and is day-to-day. Former North Carolina quarterback Mitch Trubisky is Allen's backup, so that news will be worth monitoring this week.
The Buffalo defense is not only stingy, but opportunistic. Buffalo leads the NFL with +122.54 defensive expected points added.
That aggregate stat comes from Buffalo's 26 takeaways (3rd), 65 tackles for loss (5th) and 81 points off turnovers (5th).
Buffalo has allowed just 288.9 net yards per game and 17.2 first downs per game, leading the NFL in both categories. Teams are scoring touchdowns on just 50.0 percent of red zone drives, and averaging just 5.6 yards per net pass attempt.
Carolina is 2-6 all-time against Buffalo dating back to 1995.