Dolphins Swimming Upstream Against Panthers
Panthers Letting Cam Be Cam
The 6-2 Carolina Panthers are riding a two-game winning streak as they play host to the reeling 4-4 Miami Dolphins on Monday Night Football, and the reason for their success seems obvious.
The Panthers have finally figured out that the path to victory is to simply put the offense in the hands of their quarterback and let Cam Newton be Cam Newton. Will it be enough to extend their winning streak? Let's analyze Monday's match-up, based on odds provided by Bovada.
Monday's game figures to be an evening at the improv when the ball is in Carolina's hands. Even though the Panthers finally appear ready to roll with rookie Christian McCaffrey as their go-to running back, the odds of him gaining significant yardage against Miami's seventh-ranked rushing defense, which allows 94 yards per game, are slim.
To emphasize how much it's become Cam's team, Newton has actually been Carolina's leading rusher in each of the last four games, something he didn't even accomplish during his 2015 MVP campaign. It's all part of the all-Cam, all the time approach the Panthers are adopting. Newton is their secret weapon, their X-factor, and they must deploy him as such in order to keep the Miami defense off balance and at bay.
Expect running plays featuring Newton, and plenty of quick, short play-action passing utilizing Newton as a decoy and with everyone getting in on the act on the other end of the ball, including McCaffrey, who is capable of breaking a big play off a pass out of the backfield.
While Miami's recent record head to head record against the Panthers is glimmering, there are other variables attached to this contest involving the Dolphins that give off much less of a sheen. They are 3-13-1 against the spread in their last 17 prime time appearances, and they've gone 1-10 in their last 11 road games when they've faced an opponent with a winning record.
For Dolphins, they've preferred to operate more like crabs, opting to dig themselves a hole right from the opening kickoff. They were down 17 points in their game against the Atlanta Falcons and trailed the New York Jets by as much as 14 points. In the long run, that sort of strategy is the opposite of winning football, because playing from behind limits the scope of a team's playbook and playing from behind on the road almost always leads to a fatal outcome.
Miami's rushing offense is already 30th in the NFL (77.6 yards per game), so add in the factor of surrendering an early lead and the chances of moving the ball on the ground become miniscule. It forces QB Jay Cutler to the air early and often. He attempted 42 passes in last week's loss to the Oakland Raiders, and while he garnered 311 yards and three TDs in passing offense, it was mainly because the Dolphins were playing catch-up all day.
That's an even worse formula against a Carolina defense that has sacked the quarterback 29 times, second most in the NFL, and you can bet the likes of Luke Kuechly and Julius Peppers will be salivating at the thought that they'll be able to tee off and go full-steam ahead after the fragile Cutler, who only recently returned under center from broken ribs.
It all adds up to another long day for the Dolphins. The Panthers will win outright but they won't cover the nine-point spread. Take Carolina straight up, go with the Dolphns to beat the spread, and play the over.Carolina (-420), over (38.5, -110) Play
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