By Abraham Gutierrez
After a gutsy 20-16 victory over the San Diego Chargers, the Miami Dolphins have no time to celebrate, as the red-hot Carolina Panthers head to town for a Week 12 battle in The Sunshine State.READ MORE: Miami-Dade Police Department Honors Fallen Law Enforcement Officers
Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida will be the site for this interconference showdown with huge AFC and NFC playoff implications on the line. Opening kickoff is slated for Sunday at 1:00 p.m. EST on CBS4 (Miami).
If the NFL regular season ended today, the (6-3) Panthers would clinch the fifth spot in the NFC, while the (5-5) Dolphins would miss the playoffs.
And although the Fins are currently tied with the (5-5) New York Jets in the AFC East standings, Gang Green is 2-2 versus intradivisional opponents and Miami is 0-2 thus far.
With that in mind, here are the current playoff standings for both conferences, starting with the American Football Conference.
AFC Standings (Week 12)
- (9-1) Denver Broncos
- (7-2) New England Patriots
- (7-3) Indianapolis Colts
- (7-4) Cincinnati Bengals
- (9-1) Kansas City Chiefs
- (5-5) New York Jets
Still in the hunt: (5-5) Miami Dolphins, Oakland Raiders, Tennessee Titans, Pittsburgh Steelers, Baltimore Ravens, Cleveland Browns, San Diego Chargers.
National Football Conference Standings
- (10-1) Seattle Seahawks
- (8-2) New Orleans Saints
- (6-4) Detroit Lions
- (6-5) Philadelphia Eagles
- (6-3) Carolina Panthers [Pending result of MNF Game]
- (6-4) San Francisco 49ers
Still in the hunt: Arizona Cardinals, Chicago Bears, Dallas Cowboys and Green Bay Packers.
Panthers on Offense
First-year offensive coordinator, Mike Shula is no stranger to the South Florida community.
In case his last name didn’t give it away, he’s the son of Hall of Famer, Don Shula, the NFL’s all-time winningest coach and a former longtime member of the Miami Dolphins family.
In his first season as Panthers OC, the former QB coach has been accused of being too conservative at times. Nevertheless, his approach has been exactly what third-year signal-caller Cam Newton needed to take his game to the next level.
“The thing with Shula that has been different is probably holding everybody to a standard,” said the 2011 NFL Rookie of the Year.READ MORE: Norwegian Cruise Line CEO Warns Company Could Take Ships Out Of Florida Over Vaccine Proof Ban
Although the felines’ offensive attack has struggled as of late, Carolina comes in ranked 10th in the league in rushing yards (127.8), 15th in points (23.8), 22nd in total yards (323.6) and 28th in passing yards (195.8) per game.
Panthers Key Offensive Players
(QB) Cam Newton: 170/271, 1970 yards, 13 TDs, 8 INTs, 88.3 QBR, 63 carries, 266 yards, 4 TDs.
(RB) DeAngelo Williams: 135 carries, 565 yards, 2 TDs.
(FB) Mike Tolbert: 59 carries, 213 yards, 4 TDs.
(WR) Steve Smith: 42 catches, 450 yards, 3 TDs.
(WR) Greg Olsen: 35 catches, 440 yards, 3 TDs.
(WR) Brandon LaFell: 31 catches, 400 yards, 3 TDs.
Panthers on Defense
Third-year defensive coordinator, Sean McDermott has earned the respect of his players and coaches alike this season.
While some players have dubbed him the “defensive guru,” head coach Ron Rivera describes his blitz-heavy style simply as being “intelligently aggressive.”
The NFL’s best defense comes in ranked first in points per game (12.8) and total yards per contest (283.3), as well as third at defending the rush (82), and fourth against opponent’s passing games (201.3).
“My philosophy is our philosophy,” McDermott said earlier this season. “The team comes first. Not one person is more important than the other.”
Panthers Key Defensive Players
(DE) Charles Johnson: 22 tackles (19 solo) , 8.5 sacks, 1 forced fumble.
(DE) Greg Hardy: 35 tackles (22 solo), 5.0 sacks, 1 forced fumble.
(LB) Thomas Davis: 66 tackles (44 solo), 3.0 sacks, 1 forced fumble.
(FS) Mike Mitchell: 37 tackles (31 solo), 2.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles.
(CB) Captain Munnerlyn: 37 tackles (26 solo), 1 forced fumble.
(SS) Quintin Mikell: 24 tackles (21 solo), 1.0 sacks, 1 forced fumble.
Panthers vs. Dolphins Head-to-Head
The Dolphins come in with a 4-0 record in their overall series against the Panthers. The last time they met was during the 2009-10 NFL season, when Miami prevailed by a final score of 24-17 at Carolina.
For more Dolphins news and updates, visit Dolphins Central.MORE NEWS: Federal Appeals Court Orders New Trial For Former US Rep. Corrine Brown
Abe Gutierrez is a criminal justice admin whose love for sports led him to become a writer and editor. His expertise makes him a valued addition to Examiner.com and its partners. His work can be found on Examiner.com. .