Miami Dolphins Preview: Win or Call It a Season
It seems as if pretty much everybody even remotely involved in the showdown is injured. Carolina lost perennial bad-ass linebacker Thomas Davis and All-Pro left tackle Jordan Gross for the year. DeAngelo Williams is listed as questionable with a bum knee. As for the Dolphins, the biggest news heading into tonight is the loss of Ronnie Brown and his amazing feats of awesomeness; he's out with a foot injury. This puts a huge dent in the Dolphins' plans of trying not to suck. And now the running game falls square on Ricky Williams's shoulders. How much will the Fins miss Brown's face-demolishing, ass-kicking ways? We'll find out tonight. The outlook is not great.
Much like the Dolphins, the Panthers have lacked what experts would call "a good team." They began the season 0-3, All-World receiver Steve Smith had been replaced by a blow-up doll, and Jake Delhomme has played less like a Pro Bowler and more like Don Knotts.
Still, the Panthers boast one of the best running-back tandems in the NFL with Williams and Jonathan Stewart, and have one of the most feared pass rushers in Julius Peppers. They've also gotten themselves on a nice roll lately, winning big games against the Cardinals and Falcons in recent weeks.
As for the game itself, the burden will once again fall on the Fins defense and its ability to completely shit all over themselves in the fourth quarter. On the road, against a desperate team, Miami is going to have to rely heavily on its pass rush. Joey Porter is expected to play tonight, while Jason Taylor and Cameron Wake should be able to exploit Gross's absence and drop-kick Delhomme in the throat three times each. Rookie corner Vontae Davis must deal with Steve Smith and his sudden recent epiphany that he is, in fact, Steve Smith (two TDs last week). But it will ultimately come down to Miami stopping the Carolina ground attack. The Fins have been stout against the run, and if they can make Delhomme revert to his recent crappy ways and force the Panther offense to be one-dimensional, they have an excellent shot at winning.
On offense, it's pretty simple. The Panthers rank 25th in the league against the run, allowing 128.1 yards per game. That should mean only one thing: Ricky Williams needs to rock the pants off the Carolina defense. And, as it turns out, Ricky is a pretty solid face-demolishing ass-kicker in his own right. As for the receivers, the request is simple: Catch the motherlovin' ball.
It's going to be a tough game, to be sure. It wasn't enough for the NFL schedule makers to have the Dolphins playing back-to-back games at New York and New England. So they decided to be real dicks and gave the Fins a short week to travel to Carolina to play on a Thursday night. Which means two things: (1) The better-prepared team wins this game, and (2) Unless you have a DVR, you Community and 30 Rock fans are fucked.
Prediction: Dolphins 24 - Panthers 21