Skip to main content

Inside the Numbers: Panthers at Dolphins Game Preview

Breaking down this week's matchup in Miami.

The Carolina Panthers look to once again get back to .500 on Sunday with a win over the Miami Dolphins on the road. This could be considered a must-win game for Carolina in order to keep their playoff hopes alive.

What can we expect to go down this Sunday? Let's get to it.

When the Panthers have the ball

Panthers offenseStatsDolphins defense

318.7 (26th)

Total Yards Per Game/Allowed

382.8 (29th)

115.5 (15th)

Rushing Yards Per Game/Allowed

108.6 (13th)

4.03 (22nd)

Rushing Yards Per Attempt/Allowed

4.33 (17th)

203.2 (7th)

Passing Yards Per Game/Allowed

274.2 (29th)

26 (T-20th)

Sacks/Sacks Allowed

23 (T-15th)

35.4 (27th)

Third Down Efficiency

45.8 (29th)

20.6 (22nd)

Points Per Game/Allowed

24,4 (23rd)

Cam Newton may not have had the biggest numbers last week in his first start, but it was arguably one of the most impressive performances by a quarterback this season. The Washington Football Team knew he would be getting the start but they also prepared for P.J. Walker knowing that Newton only had three to four days to really know the whole offense.

Head coach Matt Rhule said the plan coming in was to play both quarterbacks but Newton had control of the offense early on and didn't want to make any changes. Newton played the entire game and completed 21 of 27 pass attempts for 189 yards, two touchdowns, and no interceptions. He also rushed for 46 yards and a score on 10 carries.

Now that Cam has had another full week to learn the offense and gain chemistry with his receivers and backs, we should see a much smoother operation this week in Miami. One area, in particular, Carolina must improve is on 3rd down. Last week against Washington, the Panthers were just 2/9 on third downs. Throw that in with a 1/3 conversion rate on fourth downs, and it's hard to sustain drives. 

Fortunately for Newton, Miami's secondary has had issues defending the ball in the air. Xavien Howard is having a down year and his counterpart, Byron Jones, is having a year to forget about as well. Rookie safety Jevon Holland has been the bright spot for the Dolphins defense but at times, will overplay some things in the back end. This will be a great opportunity to get Newton really going in the passing game as long as the offensive line can hold up front. 

Matt Rhule mentioned earlier in the week that Miami is not going to be shy. They will blitz on nearly every play and try to force Newton into rushing his progressions. 

"They played Baltimore on a Thursday night, one of the best teams in the National Football League and they brought zero blitz like 31 times," Rhule said. "They just burned the boats and said hey we're here to win. They took away the football. Then they backed up with another win, so they're a hot team. They've won three in a row, They'll play man, they'll overload the box, they'll bring pressure pretty much every play and try to outnumber us and hit our quarterback. On offense, they're run, RPO. They're like fifth in the league in completion percentage over 20 yards, they'll throw the ball deep. They're a team that has found themselves and is playing really good football right now. They'll be a schematic challenge for us because they're going to be blitzing us the minute we get off the bus."

Read More

When the Dolphins have the ball

Dolphins offenseStatsPanthers defense

310.5 (28th)

Total Yards Per Game/Allowed

288.7 (2nd)

77.4 (31st)

Rushing Yards Per Game/Allowed

114.5 (19th)

3.45 (30th)

Rushing Yards Per Attempt/Allowed

4.30 (16th)

233.1 (17th)

Passing Yards Per Game/Allowed

174.2 (1st)

27 (T-23rd)

Sacks Allowed/Sacks

30 (3rd)

42.0 (12th)

Third Down Efficiency

34.3 (5th)

18.3 (26th)

Points Per Game/Allowed

20.0 (6th)

Since about mid-October, Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa has been playing some really good football putting the Deshaun Watson talk aside for the time being. Over the last five games, Tagovailoa has thrown for 1,256 yards, eight touchdowns, and five interceptions while completing 70% of his passes. 

With DeVante Parker on injured reserve since early November, rookie receiver and first-round pick Jaylen Waddle has come along nicely, becoming the team's leading receiver with 622 yards on 68 receptions. Donte Jackson, who had an awful game last week in coverage against Terry McLaurin, will likely be matched up on Waddle with Stephon Gilmore shadowing him in 3rd down packages. The No. 2 target for Tagovailoa in the air is tight end Mike Gesicki who is on pace to shatter season-highs in receptions, receiving yards, and targets. Jeremy Chinn and A.J. Bouye, two of Carolina's most physical secondary players, should be heavily involved in trying to limit Gesicki. 

In the loss to Washington, the Panthers had issues staying in their gaps up front on the defensive line which led to several chunk plays on the ground. Washington continued to run the ball right at Carolina and Phil Snow had no answer for it. On Friday, he called the performance surprising because no one really played well on his side of the ball. That shouldn't be much of a problem this week. Miami is near the very bottom of the league with a rushing averaging of just 77.1 yards per game. That's a matchup that doesn't seem to bode well for the Dolphins against a defense who will be playing mad. Miami will use a trio of backs (Myles Gaskin, Salvon Ahmed, & Malcolm Brown) but none of those three average over 3.5 yards per carry. 

When the Panthers allow over 100 yards on the ground, they are 0-6. When they limit opponents to under the century mark, they're 5-0. 

The Panthers and Dolphins are scheduled to kick off at 1 p.m. EST on FOX.

You can follow us for future coverage by liking us on Facebook & following us Twitter:

Facebook - @PanthersOnSI

Twitter - @SI_Panthers and Schuyler Callihan at @Callihan_.