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Panthers vs Dolphins offensive preview: Will Cam’s magic continue?

Carolina is riding high on Newton’s return while Miami is eyeing its fourth win in a row

Washington Football Team v Carolina Panthers Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

The Carolina Panthers (5-6) head to Miami on Sunday to take on the Dolphins (4-7). The game is yet another prime opportunity for Panthers to earn a win. In fact, just five of Carolina’s 17 games this season have been or will be against teams with a winning record at the moment.

Last week I told you guys that I wasn’t sure what to expect from an unpredictable Panthers team heading into the Washington game, and I predicted that Washington would win. Most of you guys calmly disagreed, while a few got really mad.

Folks, I’m a realist. I’m not going to feed you comfortable lies. I grew up a fan of a team that found comically, unimaginably painful ways to lose games. We’ve never even sniffed a Super Bowl in my life and it taught me to hold a critical eye when it comes to predicting a given teams’ success.

So if you want me to write about how I think Cam Newton is going to role back into town and lead the Panthers to victory every week, sorry, I won’t do that.

What I will do is use the data to try to give reasonable predictions, which admittedly has been pretty tough this year. I’ll be first to admit that I thought Sam Darnold would have an “average to above-average” season this year.

Overall the Panthers simply haven’t showed us enough consistency for me to confidently pick them in most weeks. Last week you had a confident Washington team coming off a big win over arguably one of the best teams in the league in Tampa Bay. They managed to do that in a game in which they lost their franchise defensive star. Washington may have a poor defense but Taylor Heinicke and their 10th-ranked rush attack keeps them in games.

Moral of the story: your team is not guaranteed to beat a 3-6 team on any given Sunday and I suspect 95% of you are well aware of that.

Now it’s time to take my L.

Many of you guys were right about how Cam Newton would perform as a passer and I’ll rightfully take my L on this one. I was expecting the “8 touchdowns, 10 interceptions” passer from New England in 2020, when he finished 30th among all NFL quarterbacks with a 47.0 QBR. That said, he was on a poor offense with minimal help, as someone correctly pointed out in the comments.

Cam looked better than I expected on Sunday and I’m happy for him.

However, I’m not hopping on the bandwagon. I need to see more of a sample size in 2021 before becoming a believer. But, bottom line, there is genuine room for optimism if he plays like that every week. I was also surprised how well he did in just his second game in Joe Brady’s system, but that didn’t appear to be a setback at all.

I’m glad we had that chat. Now let’s dive into how the Panthers offense could potentially fare against the Dolphins defense.

Panthers offense

Washington Football Team v Carolina Panthers Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

Yards per game: 318.7 (26th)
Pass yards per game: 203.2 (27th)
Rush yards per game: 115.5 (15th)
Points per game: 20.5 (22nd)

As requested, I’m going to try to be a little bit more upbeat this week. The numbers still tell us that the Panthers have a very poor passing offense with a middle-of-the-pack run offense. But everything seemed to change on Sunday when Cam lit a spark under a stalling Panthers offense.

Hopefully Cam dishes out out more of the same from last week. I’m not sure if he’ll sustain that type of play indefinitely but we’re about to find out. As well, it has immediately made the Panthers offense more entertaining to watch.

I should also mention the play of Christian McCaffrey over his first three games back from injury. He’s averaging 129 combined yards per game and has clearly lended a much-needed spark to the offense.

Dolphins defense

NFL: Miami Dolphins at New York Jets Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Yards per game: 382.8 (29th)
Pass yards per game: 274.2 (29th)
Rush yards per game: 108.6 (13th)
Points per game: 24.5 (23rd)
Turnovers: 16 (9th)

Like Washington last week, the Dolphins are very poor at stopping the pass and average at stopping the run. But the Dolphins are worse than Washington in both categories, statistically.

Miami ranks third-worst in the league in yards allowed, but they have tightened up considerably in the last three weeks, allowing only 12 points per game during their three-game winning streak. They also average almost two turnovers per game.

Is this a sign of better days ahead for the Dolphins? It does appear that Miami’s defense is trending in good direction and this shouldn’t be taken lightly.

Overall match-up

Can Carolina head into Hard Rock Stadium on Sunday and put an end to Miami’s recent resurgence? I think they can and this game is also going to tell us a lot about what we have with Cam. If he turns in a bad game there won’t be as much optimism in the air.

If he can play like last week then there’s real reason to be excited. So there you have it. I picked the Panthers! ;)