Miami Dolphins vs. Carolina Panthers Preview and Pick – Point Spread

Miami Dolphins (4-5 SU, 4-5 ATS) vs. Carolina Panthers (4-5 SU, 4-5 ATS), NFL Week 11, 8:20 p.m. EST, Thursday, November 19, 2009, Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, N.C. TV: NFL Network
by Ryno of

Point Spread: Dolphins +3.5/Panthers -3.5
Over/Under: 43.5

If you like passing, this is not the game for you. But if you like running, this certainly is the game for you. Two of the top five running teams in the league meet up on Thursday night, as the Carolina Panthers host the Miami Dolphins.

Both of these teams have two quality running backs. The Dolphins have Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams, and the Panthers have DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart. The Panthers run a conventional style, while the Dolphins often use the wildcat formation. But Brown and Williams are banged up with injuries. Williams played on Sunday and should be good to go on Thursday. Brown hurt his ankle on Sunday and is likely out on Thursday. Without Brown, the Dolphins will have to rely on Williams, and they may opt to let Chad Henne pass the ball more than usual.

Henne has 990 passing yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions with a 58.9 completion percentage. Brown has 648 rushing yards and eight rushing touchdowns. Williams has 558 rushing yards and six rushing touchdowns. The Dolphins running backs have accounted in some way for 16 of the team’s 21 offensive touchdowns this season.

The Dolphins are coming off a dramatic 25-23 win over the Buccaneers. The Dolphins held a 22-16 lead in the fourth quarter until the Bucs scored a touchdown with 1:14 remaining. But Henne led the Dolphins on a four-play, 68-yard drive that lasted a minute, including two passes to Davone Bess for 41 yards and a 27-yard run by Williams, to set up a game-winning field goal by Dan Carpenter with 10 seconds left in the game.

The Panthers are coming off a 28-19 win over the Atlanta Falcons. The Panthers have won four of their last six games after starting off 0-3. Against the Falcons, the Panthers unleashed a no-huddle offense that was quite successful for quarterback Jake Delhomme. He threw for 195 yards and two touchdowns. Any time Delhomme can throw decently and not turn the ball over, the Panthers have a great chance to win. DeAngelo Williams ran for 92 yards, and Stewart ran for 82 yards and two touchdowns. The Panthers gave up 111 yards on just nine carries to Falcons running back Michael Turner before he left with an injury. The Falcons had 176 total rushing yards. That’s not a good sign for the Panthers defense heading into a game against the Dolphins.

For the season, Williams has 860 rushing yards and seven touchdowns. Stewart has 466 rushing yards and six touchdowns.

This game will likely come down to which team does a better job stopping
the run. The Dolphins being without Brown will be a huge blow if he indeed
does not play. But Williams is capable of picking up the slack just fine,
however the Dolphins probably would then cut down a bit on the wildcat formation.
That would be an advantage for the Panthers. The Dolphins also have a fairly
weak pass defense, so Delhomme could exploit that if he can get Steve
involved. The Panthers have a pretty good pass defense, so
it could be a tough game for Henne, especially if the Dolphins aren’t able
to dominate on the ground.

The total has gone over in five of Miami’s last six games. These two teams last played in 2005, when the Dolphins won the game in Miami, 27-24.

Ryno’s Pick: These two teams are pretty evenly matched. With the Dolphins getting more than a field goal, normally they would be a solid value pick. But if Brown doesn’t play, it’s tough to predict how well the Dolphins will play without him. If the Dolphins aren’t as effective as usual with their running game without him, Henne probably won’t be able to carry the offense himself, especially against a solid pass defense. The Panthers played well against the Falcons and are playing very well the last few weeks. With a consistent running attack and Delhomme playing well against the Falcons in the new no-huddle offense, the Panthers should be able to mix it up well and put up some points on the Dolphins. The Panthers will continue to play well on both sides of the ball and win one at home. Take the Panthers -3.5.