Miami are one of the most confusing teams in the NFL, capable of upsetting the odds both long and short, and they are massive underdogs at Carolina in the NFL's Monday night test, but Mike Carlson doesn't think Adam Gase's team are without a hope...
"The Panthers are -8.5 at home and I'd be concerned they don't score enough points to cover that. The over/under is only 38.5, yet I wonder if the best bet might be to take the Dolphins to score over 14 (at 10/11), and if you want to tandem it with the under (at 20/21) you need to hope the Miami D cooperate."
Which Miami will show up tonight?
I am probably not the first pundit to point out that you can't spell Miami without MIA, and at times the Dolphins have seemed Missing In Action this season.
Last week they threw away a home win over the Raiders, in a game which featured 21 penalties between the two teams: Miami with 11 costing them 107 yards. The previous week, on Thursday night they'd been hammered by the Ravens, 40-0, an offensive display attributable more to Miami's flatness than the Ravens' attack suddenly finding sharpness. Recall how flat both teams were in their London appearances.
Yet the Dolphins rallied to beat the Jest, yes Jest, and I know how to spell, the previous week and in week six beat the Falcons in Atlanta. So is the quitter reputation unjustified, or does the way head coach Adam Gase appears to throw his players under the bus (or load them on the bus to Philadelphia, as he did with London-born running back Jay Ajayi) simply amplify their distress. Or maybe it's the way Jay Cutler's body-language never seems to suggest engagement?
Panthers are 6-3 but not without their flaws
The Dolphins travel to Charlotte to meet the Panthers on Monday night. Carolina stand at 6-3 after scraping a narrow win over Arizona at home last week. When linebacker Luke Kuechley is healthy their defense is solid, especially in the front seven, but their offense is still in flux.
They did to Kelvin Benjamin what the Dolphins did to Ajayi, putting him on the bus to Buffalo; but the rookies they drafted to speed up their offense, Christian McCaffrey and Curtis Samuel have yet to be fully integrated in Mike Shula's offense, if you can call it either Shula's or an offense. Mostly it's Cam Newton running and Cam Newton throwing, and one of the big problems is he's not that great at throwing the shorter touch passes McCaffrey in particular would require, nor is Shula adept at getting Joseph into the Ted Ginn speedy-guy-downfield-who-stretches-defenses-even-when-he-doesn't-catch-the-ball role. The Panthers haven't replaced go-to tight end Greg Olsen, who was Cam's safety blanket, which often leaves Newton sucking his thumb before donning one of his Charlie And The Chocolate Factory costumes.
Best bets may lie in player markets
So this is a winnable game for the Dr Jekyll Dolphins, especially if their wide receivers can find some space against a young secondary that mainly plays zone. But the Miami O line is unlikely to provide Cutler much time to do that, nor provide much in the way of running lanes for Kenyan Drake, America's greatest Kenyan since Obama.
The Panthers are -8.5 at home and I'd be concerned they don't score enough points to cover that. The over/under is only 38.5, yet I wonder if the best bet might be to take the Dolphins to score over 14 (at 10/11), and if you want to tandem it with the under (at 20/21) you need to hope the Miami D cooperate.
My favourite bet on this game isMcCaffrey over 64.5 total yards (rushing and receving) at 5/6. Because I think Miami will be passing a lot, I like Kuechly under 9.5 total tackles (including assists) at 5/6 and I like Jay Cutler to throw a TD pass at 7/2 and Jarvis Landry to catch one at 16/5.
And, because Carolina can't run, I like Jonathan Stewart under 11.5 rush attempts at 5/6.