The Carolina Panthers aim to extend their win streak to seven when they head to Miami to face the 5-5 Dolphins. It's a curious matchup between two teams that are similarly constructed, but unequally executed.
18 months have passed since the Dolphins won a coin toss allowing them to select Ryan Tannehill while Carolina took Luke Kuechly. Revisit the draft and it's hard to see either team regretting their decision. Both players are cornerstones of their respective organizations, and the performance of both players will decide the outcome on Sunday.
Cast your mind back to a time before the win streak. Games where Cam Newton was routinely driven into the ground, there was no protection and the Panthers weren't able to generate a downfield passing attack. Do you remember that? Boom, now you're in Miami.
Tannehill is one of my favorite young quarterbacks, but goodness the man needs some help. He has been pressured a total of 133 times this season, 32-percent of his total snaps -- while running an offense that cannot help him find his receivers downfield. Mike Wallace is on pace for one of his worst seasons, Brian Hartline won't match his breakout 1,000 yard season from a year ago and the Dolphins lack a high-level tight end to serve as an outlet.
Looking at Carolina you'll see a lot of offensive similarities. Steve Smith and Wallace are common players, Mike Tolbert and Charles Clay both serve the roll of fullback Swiss army knives, while an argument can be made for Brandon LaFell and Hartline being comparable players. Likenesses end here. The Dolphins' ongoing bullying investigation leaves the offensive line weak, with Greg Olsen and Ted Ginn sitting miles ahead of the competition. More importantly, Mike Shula adjusted this season in ways Mike Sherman hasn't -- and it's clear from recent results.
Statistically the Dolphins are ahead in the passing game, but take into account defense and pass rushing and it's hard to see Miami winning this matchup.
This is where both sides spin wildly away from each other. The Dolphins were once a run-first team, but disregarded the position in recent years while Carolina hung desperately onto the vestiges of team's past -- resigning DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart.
Lamar Miller has flashes, but he's inconsistent -- again, largely contributable to offensive line weaknesses. Match him up against Williams, Stewart, Tolbert and Newton, there's no comparison. Factor in Carolina's defensive front and Luke Kuechly? It's over.
Sunday should be a fairly pedestrian win for the Panthers. Miami has a signature win over Andy Dalton and the Bengals, but it took three interceptions to turn the tide. Carolina has slayed San Francisco and New England, almost besting Seattle in week one -- they are the better overall team, and even with a short rest should leave South Florida with another win.
Carolina Panthers 27 - Miami Dolphins 16