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Miami Dolphins vs Carolina Panthers -- Game Preview
by Matt Fargo - 11/18/2009
Carolina opened as a 3.5-point favorite and it has dropped to a field goal but with extra juice added on, as high as -130 in some places. Action was equal in the beginning of the week but Carolina has seen right around two-thirds of the action come in on its side.
The Total opened at 43.5 in most places and has come down a point where it currently sits at 42.5.
For Miami, running back Ronnie Brown is out and tight end Anthony Fasano is doubtful. Linebacker Joey Porter has been upgraded to probable. For the Panthers, running backs DeAngelo Williams is questionable and Jonathan Stewart is doubtful while wide receiver Steve Smith is probable. All-Pro left tackle Jordan Gross is out for the season.
The weather should be perfect with no wind or rain in the forecast and a low of 59 degrees in Charlotte.
When September came to a close, both Miami and Carolina sat winless at 0-3 and it looked as though the division titles that each garnered last season were labeled as one-hit wonders. Since then, both have gone 4-2 and while winning the division is unlikely for either team, the playoffs are still within reach.
The Dolphins are two games behind Pittsburgh and San Diego, both 6-3 and currently the Wild Card participants, so it needs to keep winning to keep pace. In addition to that, they trail three teams that are 5-4 so Miami not only need to finish strong but also get some help along the way. Winning the division could be the only hope and it trails New England by two games and already has lost once to the Patriots.
For Carolina, the picture is a little brighter. The Panthers trail New Orleans by five games in the NFC South so a division repeat is out. They trail Philadelphia, New York, Green Bay and Atlanta by just a game in the Wild Card race so there is still a shot at jumping back into the postseason.
The loser of this game will have an uphill battle the rest of the way. As a side note, no team has made the playoffs after a 0-3 start since the 1998 Lions.
Carolina and Miami are ranked third and fourth respectively in rushing offense in the league but there are issues on both sides that could hurt the effectiveness on each side.
Ronnie Brown has been ruled out for the Dolphins and the running back’s absence will definitely hurt the ‘Wildcat’ offense. Brown is 11th in the NFL in rushing but he has able to run the alternate offense very well considering he was a quarterback at one time.
He will be replaced by Ricky Williams who will be making his first start in over a year. Williams went over 100 yards last week for the first time this season and his 5.3 ypc average is 5th in the NFL. However, he may tire without Brown splitting carries.
As for the Panthers, running back DeAngelo Williams is listed as questionable with a knee problem while running back Jonathan Stewart is doubtful with an achilles injury. It does not end there however as All-Pro left tackle Jordan Gross is gone for the season after breaking his ankle last week. In seven years, he has only missed one start and his loss should affect the entire offense.
Delhomme to the Rescue
I didn’t think I would be typing this but Jake Delhomme is once again leading his team like a quarterback should. He nearly lost his job a few weeks ago and he probably should have but head coach John Fox decided to stick with the veteran and it looks like the wise move.
After starting the season with four touchdowns and 13 interceptions through the first six games, Delhomme has tossed three touchdowns and no picks over his last three games and those are the first three games all year that he has not thrown an interception.
He posted a 115.8 passer rating against the Falcons last week, easily his best of the season. Part of the reason can be attributed to the running of the no huddle offense against Atlanta and while players love it, it likely won’t last.
Delhomme said that the Panthers want to control time of possession more against the Dolphins, which might lead them to try to slow down the offense. That certainly takes the no huddle approach out of the equation but that might be ok. Delhomme is 50-7 when he throws 30 or fewer passes. He's 9-31 when he throws more than 30.
The Dolphins have played the league’s fourth ranked schedule to date so the 4-5 does make sense. They have played seven teams that are ranked within the top half of the league, going 2-5 in those games. As a matter of fact, Miami is 0-4 against teams ranked in the top 10 and 4-1 against the rest of the NFL.
Things do not necessarily get easier wither as the Dolphins still have to face the Patriots again as well as the Steelers who are both in the top 10 as well as playoff contenders Jacksonville and Houston.
Carolina has faced the 15th ranked schedule in the NFL as it has only faced five teams ranked in the top half of the league. However, the Panthers have gone 2-2 against the league’s top ten (Atlanta and Arizona) but at the same time, they are 2-2 against the bottom half.
The remaining slate is treacherous as the end as the final four games are against the Patriots, Vikings, Giants and Saints with the possibility of all four of those teams being division winners.
Under head coach Tony Sparano, the Dolphins are 0-7 ATS against teams from the NFC but he is 6-0 ATS in road games coming off one or more consecutive wins.
Miami is 3-14 ATS in its last 17 games against teams that average 150 or more ypg on the ground while Carolina is 6-7 ATS against teams with the same parameter so that edge goes to the Panthers.
As for the total, Miami is 12-3 to the ‘Under’ in its last 15 road games off a no-cover where it won as a favorite while the Panthers are 19-5 ATS in their last 24 home games after two more wins against the spread.