By Abraham Gutierrez
Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina, will be the site for a Week 10 showdown between the Miami Dolphins and the Carolina Panthers. Opening kickoff for this interconference clash is scheduled for Monday night at 8:30 p.m. ET.
Historically, this will only be the sixth time the Dolphins and Panthers have met between the lines. Miami comes in with a commanding 4-1-0 lead over Carolina in the overall head-to-head series.
The last time these teams met dates back to the 2013 NFL season when the Panthers defeated the hosting Dolphins by a final score of 20-16. That victory put Carolina on the board for the first time in this series, snapping a four-game skid against Miami.
Panthers 2017 NFL record: 6-3
Led by head coach Ron Rivera, the Carolina Panthers are currently in second place in their division with a 6-3 record. Prior to the start of the 2017 NFL season, the NFC South was expected to be one of, if not the toughest division in the National Football League.
With nine NFL weeks in the books, however, it appears that the division crown will be a two-horse race between the Panthers and the surprising NFC South-leading New Orleans Saints (6-2-0).
Last week, Carolina was able to hold off the reigning NFC Champion Atlanta Falcons by a final score of 20-17. On Monday Night Football, the Panthers will be playing the second contest in a short, two-game home stand that will lead them into their bye week.
Panthers on Offense
On offense, this team is led by former quarterbacks coach, offensive coordinator Mike Shula. South Florida fans will immediately recognize the name, as Mike is the son of legendary former Miami Dolphins head coach Don Shula.
Entering Week 10, Shula’s offense has struggled to find consistency, as it ranks below average in seemingly every (major) statistical category. The Panthers come in ranked 15th in rushing yards per game (109.1), 24th in both points per game (18.7) and passing yards (204), and 21st in total yards per contest (313.1).
On the field, the one in charge of this unit is none other than former (2015) NFL Most Valuable Player Cam Newton. In his seventh campaign out of Auburn, the controversial signal-caller has had a rough first-half of the season, both on and off the field, but has made up for it by scrambling and creating plays with his legs.
Running back Jonathan Stewart (121 rushes, 350 yards, TD) spearheads the Panthers’ ground attack, while halfback Christian McCaffrey (54 receptions, 406 yards, 2 TDs) and wide-out Devin Funchess (38 receptions, 443 yards, 3 TDs) have been Newton’s go-to guys through the air.
Panthers on Defense
In contrast to the offensive unit, the Panthers feature one of the most feared defenses in all of professional football. Under the tutelage of assistant head coach and defensive coordinator Steve Wilks, Carolina’s “D” ranks first in the league in yards per game (274.1), second in the NFL in rushing yards allowed (78.4), fourth in points (17.7) and sixth in passing yards per contest (195.7).
The Panthers are also second in the NFL in sacks (29), trailing only the surprising Jacksonville Jaguars (35) in that category. Miami’s offensive line is sure to have its hands full in trying to keep the following trio away from Jay Cutler and out of the backfield: Julius Peppers (7.5 sacks), Mario Addison (6.5 sacks) and Kawann Short (4 sacks).
In terms of turnovers, strong safety Mike Adams (37 tackles) and middle linebacker Luke Kuechly (65 tackles, forced fumble) are the clubhouse leaders with a pair of interceptions apiece.
Panthers Player to Watch: Cam Newton, Julius Peppers
On the offensive side of the rock, the Panthers player to watch is quarterback Cam Newton (179-for-287, 1978 yards, 10 TDs, 11 INTs, 78.4 QBR). This dual-threat signal-caller is not only the triggerman in Carolina’s aerial attack, but can also make something out of nothing, leading the team with 4 rushing scores on 69 carries for 341 yards.
Defensively, the Miami offense must prepare for what veteran defensive end Julius Peppers brings to the table. In his 16th year in the league, the UNC product leads the team with 7.5 sacks to go along with 20 tackles and a pair of forced fumbles.
Following their three-point loss to the Oakland Raiders, the Fins find themselves as double-digit underdogs in Week 10. According to NFL Week 10 point spreads, the Dolphins (+10) are listed as 10-point dogs when they visit the Panthers (-10). The OVER/UNDER is set at a combined total of 40 points and alternate (straight-up) money-lines go as follows: Miami (+350) at Carolina (-440).