Monday Night NFL Betting – Dolphins Still Need to Shake Offense Loose vs. Panthers

By Charles Jay

Well, the Miami Dolphins have come up empty in prime time in the last two weeks, but at least they made things interesting for the NBC audience last week against the Oakland Raiders. Now they will try again, this time on the road and on ESPN’s Monday Night Football, as they take on the Carolina Panthers in a game that will begin at 8:30 PM ET at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte.

After dropping a dismal 40-0 decision to the Baltimore Ravens – the second time the Dolphins have been shut out this season – changes were made, including a trade of running back Jay Ajayi to the Philadelphia Eagles. Jay Cutler also came back from his rib injury and had his best game yet in a aqua and orange, hitting his first 16 passes and going 34-42 on the evening, with 311 yards and three touchdowns. They also got a big run from Damien Williams, one of the running backs (along with Kenyan Drake) who is being counted on to pick up the slack for Ajayi’s absence (Williams has been listed as questionable for this game with an illness). But it was still a 27-24 loss to the Raiders. The Dolphins are currently 4-4 straight-up (3-3-2 ATS) and they are the third-place team in the AFC East, 2.5 games behind the New England Patriots.

In Carolina’s last outing, they came back from a 10-point deficit defeat the Atlanta Falcons 20-17. They got 201 rushing yards, but as a rule, head coach Ron Rivera doesn’t necessarily want to get those yards from quarterback Cam Newton, who had 86 on the day. Rookie Christian McCaffrey added 66 yards on the ground, but he’s been mostly effective as a pass-catcher (54 receptions, 406 yards). The Panthers have already matched their win total from 2016; they are 6-3 straight-up and 5-4 against the points. They are one game behind the New Orleans Saints in the NFC South.

In the Monday night football betting odds that have been posted on this game, Carolina is solidly favored:

Carolina Panthers -8
Miami Dolphins +8

Over 38 points -110
Under 38 points -110

Since Newton came into the NFL, only Marshawn Lynch has more touchdowns on the ground, but remember that he had shoulder surgery in the off-season and Carolina’s chances are more or less tied to him. There is a conundrum there; this team has had to move forward without tight end Greg Olson, and they have also traded wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin to the Buffalo Bills. That reduces options. With Jonathan Stewart averaging only 2.9 yards per carry, McCaffrey may have to continue with double-duty.

Tyler Larsen will once again play the center position in place of Ryan Kalil, who has been declared out with an injury. What the Panthers have to do is avoid giving the ball away; they have more turnovers per drive than all but two teams in the NFL. And Newton has thrown eleven interceptions. However, the Panthers have managed to post the top average time of possession in the league, at 33 1/2 minutes. They will play at a slow pace, thus shortening the game a little, and there is no question that their defense has been instrumental in putting them back into playoff position. The Panthers have allowed the fewest yards per game in the NFL, at least coming into this past week, and they have forced opponents into three-and-outs 29% of the time, which is second-best.

In a sense, Miami doesn’t mesh well with all of that, because they have punted more often than any other team (51.7% of all drives, in fact). One thing they definitely have to try to do is get Jarvis Landry loose, but he is is a strange situation; he is projected to set a team record for receptions in one season, but he’s averaging only 7.7 yards per catch, which is about five yards below the league average. Head coach Adam Gase has explained it by saying that his offense will “take what the defense gives us,” but the Panthers might not give them much. Carolina has allowed only a single field-goal in three of its six wins.

Yes, Dolphin fans can be somewhat encouraged by Cutler’s effort last week, but we still can’t help thinking that we are going to see a couple of teams out there slogging. We’ll go “under” in this inter-conference matchup for Monday night NFL betting.

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