Week 12 sees two teams face off against each other with different aspirations. With a last gasp victory against the New England Patriots, albeit controversially, the sky seems the limit for Cam Newton and co. On the other hand, the Miami Dolphins find themselves under the spotlight not for their performances on the pitch, but rather their performances off the pitch.
How times have changed. Remember Week 3? It felt like the Dolphins were finally on the path to success after many years of disappointment and decline. Maybe, just maybe, the team had picked this franchise from its knees to give this fanbase something to cheer about. A week later the Dolphins lost their first game to the New Orleans Saints, and we were all brought down to earth.
In the meantime, the Carolina Panthers had problems of their own with a record of 1-3. Rumours were gaining momentum that the team were already doing their homework in finding a replacement for Ron Rivera. Soon after, the team to then go an amazing 6 game winning streak in their search for a run at the playoffs.
Can Miami be that team to end that winning streak? Can Miami finally go on a run themselves?
If Miami's offensive line was a patchwork line before, I don't even know what to call it now. Jonathan Martin, Richie Incognito and Mike Pouncey have all been missing in action. Sam Brenner, who was promoted from the practice squad last Saturday, performed admirably on Sunday. But can he sustain that level of play? And will Nate Garner continue to play with consistency if Pouncey is still on the sidelines?
In all honesty, it doesn't look good for the Dolphins. The Panthers can run the ball, they can pass the ball and they can do it in a flash. All it takes is one big play, and Carolina will be in the endzone. At running back, they have DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart, while Mike Tolbert operates as that short-yardage specialist. Even quarterback Cam Newton can run the football. But Cam Newton is also much more than that. As he showed the world against the New England Patriots, Newton can carry a team on his shoulders in order to win a game in the dying seconds of a game against a team as good as the New England Patriots.
On defense, the Panthers are dominant. They rank third against the run and fifth against the pass. They're also tied third in interceptions and ninth for sacks. The good news for the Dolphins is the possible loss of pass rusher Charles Johnson to injury. Without him, the defense will sorely miss a player who has 8.5 sacks on the season and seems to make the whole team play better. Afterall it may be no coincidence that the Patriots put 400 yards on the board in a game where Johnson missed most of the second half.
This is where Miami must take solace. The Dolphins will not win the game being conservative. They will not win the game running the football. The Miami Dolphins must take risks this week. Let Tannehill throw the ball deep to Mike Wallace. Get the football to one of the most in-form playmakers on offense in Charles Clay. At only 24 years old Clay is starting to emerge as one of the better tight ends in the entire country. Let's embrace that by getting him the ball more often. This is the only way the team can win the game. Take risks and throw that football.
Like Ryan Tannehill, Cam Newton has an offensive line that fails to protect him as well as they should do. Unlike Ryan Tannehill, Newton combats that by evading the pocket to make plays. If Miami are to keep winning games, Tannehill will need to take a leaf out of Newton's book and evade the pocket. This is something he did so successfully at Texas A&M where Tannehill showed he was at his best throwing the football while on the run. If Tannehill can do just that, we have a chance. It's a shot, but a very long shot.
Carolina Panthers 27 - 17 Miami Dolphins
Can Miami record their second successive win? Lets hear your views!