If Jon Gruden does get back into coaching next season, one of the reasons could be the continuous shitty slate of games scheduled for Monday Night Football. This one might have looked OK back in August, but no one really wants to watch the Miami Dolphins (4-4) stroll into Bank of America Stadium and take on the Carolina Panthers (6-3).
Still, it’s going to happen whether Gruden and Sean McDonough like it or not at 8:30 p.m. EST on ESPN.
The Game: Miami Dolphins at Carolina Panthers (-9)
The Panthers and Dolphins have played just five times since 1998 with Miami holding a 4-1 advantage in the all time series.
They last met up on November 24, 2013 with Carolina winning 20-16 at Sun Life Stadium. Cam Newton finished 19 of 38 for 174 yards, one touchdown and one interception while rushing seven times for 51 yards and a score.
MIAMI DOLPHINS (4-4)
Here’s the thing about the Dolphins from my observances this season. Nothing they do week to week makes any sense. Games they should lose, they win. Games they should win, they lose. They’ve been shut out twice. They lost a shootout with the Oakland Raiders and won one in the final minutes against the Atlanta Falcons.
In the preseason I picked the Dolphins to go 10-6 and get into the playoffs as a wild card. They could still do that. Or they could win every game and win the division or lose every game and get a Top Five draft pick come April. Frankly, it’s all on the table.
Jay Cutler started last week after missing a game with a rib injury. He was actually good, finishing 34 of 42 for 311 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions. His favorite target was tight end Julius Thomas who caught six passes for 84 yards and a touchdown. Jarvis Landry and Damien Williams caught the other two touchdowns.
As I suspected, Kenyan Drake got the bulk of the carries against the Oakland Raiders in the 27-24 loss. Drake had nine for 69 yards, with most coming on a 42 yard scamper.
Defensively, Miami sacked Derek Carr once but actually lost defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh on the play. He practiced Friday and should play, but was held out most of the week. The Dolphins got five stops in the backfield and forced two turnovers.
CAROLINA PANTHERS (6-3)
In spite of trading away one of their best offensive weapons in Kelvin Benjamin at the NFL’s trade deadline, the Panthers’ offense got the job done last week in a 20-17 victory over the Atlanta Falcons. They did all the damage on the ground, rushing for 201 yards.
Cam Newton did enough in the passing game to keep the running lanes open. He was 13 of 24 for 137 yards and rushed nine times to lead the team with 86 yards and a touchdown. The Dolphins won’t be quite so porous on run defense as the Falcons were. Newton’s going to have to attack at the numbers in the passing game.
Even without Benjamin, Newton still has guys that can catch the ball. Devin Funchess hauled in five for 86 yards against Atlanta. Christian McCaffrey added five catches for 28 yards to go with his 15 carries for 66 yards and a touchdown. If the idea in trading Benjamin was to get rookie Curtis Samuel more involved in the passing game, it didn’t show up on the field. Samuel caught just three passes for 23 yards. With the run game working, the Panthers held the ball for 32:52.
Carolina hasn’t released its final injury report yet, but it looks like center Ryan Kalil is the only player not expected to suit up. Everyone else practiced this week.
The Dolphins are stout against the run, so I think this one will be closer than the spread. That doesn’t mean I think Miami has a realistic chance of winning. Carolina is pushing for a wild card spot at least and can’t afford to take any more stumbles against teams they should beat. Panthers 20, Dolphins 13
Straight up: 1-0
Against the spread: 1-0
Straight up: 9-4
Against the spread: 11-2
Straight up: 78-54
Against the spread: 69-62
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