The hottest team in the NFL, The 7-3 Carolina Panthers, winners of 6 games in a row, including a huge 24-20 Monday Night win over the New England Patriots travel to South Beach to take on the 5-5 Miami Dolphins, a 20-16 winner over San Diego in Miami. This is a big game for both the Panthers and Miami.
The Panthers are now sqaurely in the middle of the hunt for the NFC South title, just one game behind the New Orleans Saints with 2 games still remaining with the Saints. The Dolphins are in a battle for the last Wildcard playoff spot with the Jets and several other team a game behind the 5-5 Jets & Dolphins.
Let's take a look at how these 2 teams matchup.
Offensively, the Dolphins come into this game31st in the NFL in total offense, generating 307.8 yards per game. Miami ranks 20th in pass offense at 219.1 yards per game while ranking 24th in rush offense generating 88.7 yards per game. The Dolphins have given up 41 sacks, which ranks last in the NFL and are scoring 21.3 points a game, which ranks 23rd. They face a very good Carolina Panther defense which ranks 3rd in total defense giving up 294.0 yards per game. They give up 209.5 yards per game in pass defense, which ranks 5th, while giving up 84.5 yards per game in rush offense, which ranks 3rd. They are the top scoring defense in the NFL, only giving up 13.5 points a game while ranking 9th in sacks with 31.0.
Needless to say, the Dolphins will have their hands full trying to get things going offensively against this unit from Carolina, but they do get a break as DE Charles Johnson is out with a knee injury suffered in the Patriots game. Since his hot start, QB Ryan Tannehill has been inconsistent in his play, but I do believe a lot of that has to do with the number of times he has been not only sacked, but the hits he has taken as well. A couple of keys for Ryan will be protecting the ball and hitting on big play opportunities when they present themselves. He under threw WR Mike Wallace on a deep pass that would have been a touchdown, and against a defense like the Panthers, you have to make those plays. Speaking of Wallace, he will be a key in this game along with TE Charles Clay. The Dolphins may not have much success in the run game today, but they have to be persistent with the run game and remain balanced, as the Dolphins cannot become one dimensional against the Panthers.
Defensively, the Dolphins come into the game with the 21st ranked unit in total defense, giving up 364.9 yards per game. Miami ranks 19th in pass defense giving up 242.3 yards per game while ranking 25th in rush defense, giving up 122.6 yards per game. The Dolphins rank 12th in points allowed giving up 22.5 points per game and have 30 sacks on the year, which ranks 12th. They face a Panthers offense that ranks 22nd in total offense generating 321.2 yards per game. Carolina ranks 28th in pass offense generating 195.9 yards per game while ranking 10th in rush offense at 125.3 yards per game. The Panthers are 15th in points scored at 23.8 points per game and have given up a surprising 28 sacks.
Let's cut right to the chase here, the Dolphins will have to stop the run game of the Carolina Panthers to have a chance to win this game. The Panthers will try to establish DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart and sledgehammer FB Mike Tolbert. QB Cam Newton is also a huge threat in the run game as well. The front seven for the Dolphins, and more specifically, the linebackers will have to have a good game. Carolina has weapons in the pass game in WR Steve Smith and TE Greg Olson, but the key for a Dolphin defense that has struggled against the run will be containing the run game. If they can, the Dolphins can have some success, but if they don't, it will be a long afternoon.
The Dolphins showed me a little something last week in the win over the Chargers. This Jonathan Martin-Richie Incognito drama has to have taken it toll on this team and it showed in the Tampa Bay game. I think they have finally somewhat gotten past that, even as they have been questioned all week about that situation by NFL investigators. Carolina has been on a roll and are playing very well, as 6 wins in a row will attest. That said, Miami seems to play to the level of the competition, and the Dolphins have more of a sense of urgency. I'm going out on a limb and taking Miami in an upset 20-17.
Let's Go Miami.