Last Updated: 2017-11-07
The Miami Dolphins can be seen in primetime for the third straight week. For some, that means a chance to catch up on sleep. For others, it means a heavy sigh and a wager on the big underdog. For others, it means another chance to fade Jay Cutler. The Dolphins will square off with the Carolina Panthers on Monday Night Football to wrap up Week 10. Carolina is a nine-point favorite at DSI Sportsbook, but some sites have already made the move to double digits.
The Dolphins are 4-4 straight up and 3-3-2 against the spread, depending on the closing numbers with which you grade a team’s ATS record. It certainly feels like Miami is much worse than a .500 team given what has transpired this year and with how bad the offense has been, but the Dolphins have found ways to win games. The Panthers have found ways to win more games with their mediocre offense. They are 6-3 straight up and 5-3-1 or thereabouts against the spread. Carolina has won and covered two straight, both against NFC South competition.
It had to be remarkably frustrating for Adam Gase to lose that game on Sunday Night Football against the Raiders. For the first time this season, the Dolphins offense looked really good. Miami racked up 6.5 yards per play and Jay Cutler threw for over 300 yards. The Dolphins, even with the Jay Ajayi trade, ran for 4.8 yards per carry on their 18 attempts. But, the Dolphins lost, even while being on the plus side in the turnover department. It was a game that featured 21 penalties combined for 212 yards. That means that Gase still had plenty to rant and rave about. Even with 6.5 yards per play in that game, Miami is still tied with Baltimore for the worst yards per play output this season with just 4.4. Even with Cutler’s huge game, the Dolphins rank 28th in adjusted net yards per pass attempt, though some of that belongs to Matt Moore. We’ll see if that was a one-off performance for Miami or a sign of things to come. Both Damien Williams and Kenyan Drake were effective out of the backfield catching passes and Cutler finally developed a rapport with tight end Julius Thomas.
But, the defense faltered. All year long, the defense has been the saving grace for the Dolphins. That wasn’t the case in this one, as Miami allowed 6.5 yards per play. Jared Cook carved up the Dolphins linebackers, which isn’t as much of a worry this week as it would be if Greg Olsen was playing, but Ed Dickson has had some big plays. The Dolphins finally got burned for giving up a 69.9 percent completion percentage throughout the season. With that performance, Miami is now in the bottom half of the league with 5.4 yards per play allowed. It’s amazing how fast things can change in the NFL. Now we’ll have to see if the offense can carry the defense if the defense cannot rebound.
So, Cam Newton has thrown more interceptions than touchdowns. The Panthers only have 4.8 yards per play. Greg Olsen is injured. Kelvin Benjamin was traded. Christian McCaffrey has 2.9 yards per carry. And, yet, the Panthers have a chance to hit the bye week at 7-3. The resurgence of this Carolina defense has been impressive and has been enough to carry the offense. Newton has shown flashes, but just hasn’t been the same player all season long. The Panthers have less than 200 passing yards in six of their nine games this season. McCaffrey has 16 more catches than any other player on the roster and he only has 7.5 yards per catch. The Panthers are only averaging 3.7 yards per carry because Cam Newton has 4.9 yards per pop on his 69 attempts. Both running backs have just 2.9 yards per carry. It is hard to figure out what we’re going to get from this Panthers offense on a regular basis, especially with a decrease in skill position talent at the wide receiver and tight end positions. Oh, yeah, and Carolina is -8 in turnover margin because of the offense.
Well, and because of the defense. Carolina’s defense has held the opposition below five yards per play this season and opponents have only scored on 28.9 percent of their drives, which is the third-best mark in the league, but the Panthers haven’t generated many takeaways. Carolina’s defense only has four interceptions this season. The base defense, however, has been terrific, especially when both Thomas Davis and Luke Kuechly can play. Even though Carolina doesn’t have the takeaways, only the “Sacksonville” Jaguars have more sacks than the 29 that the Panthers have. Carolina has allowed just 3.7 yards per carry. This defense is carrying this offense and the irony is that this sort of feels like how the Broncos played when the Panthers lost to them in Super Bowl 50. No, that isn’t a bold call that Carolina will make the Super Bowl, but it has that similar type of framework.
Free NFL Pick: Miami Dolphins +10
If you can find a 10, grab it on the Dolphins. The Panthers have played exceptional defense this season, but up until last week, Miami had been a pretty good defense in its own right. Perhaps the offense has gotten it going for Miami. Of course, Oakland is awful defensively, so that could be the outlier, but the Dolphins have enough weapons and a good enough defense to stay within this number.