The Panthers were recently dealt some devastating news, but they have to keep moving along regardless. They'll host Miami this week, and we're here to try to exploit the NFL odds.
As usual, there's little in the NFL odds considering it's preseason. Some times have the line at a pick 'em, while others have the visiting Dolphins favored by a point. It all depends on which sportsbook you check out.
We see a reasonably higher total of 39.5 points on the board, with Carolina looking to move to 2-0 in the preseason and please the home fans in the process.
We're just going to warn you ahead of time that most of this Carolina blurb is going to revolve around the recent injury to Kelvin Benjamin. The Panthers' number one wideout tore his ACL this week and will miss the entire season, and that's very clearly a huge blow to the team's chances here in 2015-16.
Benjamin took the league by storm as a rookie and was widely expected to be an even more dominant presence on the field this season. The chemistry shown between he and starting QB Cam Newton was clear to see, and the big target totally transformed Carolina's offense, in just his first year in the league. It's going to be tough for the Carolina Panthers to fill the gaps, but rookie Devin Funchess looks like he'll get a crack at a lot of more touches, while Jerrico Cotchery, Philly Brown and Jarrett Boykin should be more involved too. Tight end Greg Olsen meanwhile figures to lead the team in targets and receptions, but Newton is going to have even more pressure on his shoulders now.
As for Carolina's preseason preparations, they were able to outlast Buffalo in a 25-24 win in their first taste of action. Newton looked pretty sharp, completing 5-of-10 passes for 83 yards and a touchdown to none other than Benjamin. Funchess caught two passes for 53 yards, while Cameron Artis-Payne saw most of the touches out of the backfield (eight carries for 24 yards). He'll begin the season behind Jonathan Stewart on the depth chart.
The Miami Dolphins opened their preseason with a 27-10 loss to Chicago at home, which obviously wasn't the way they wanted to start things off.
The good news, however, is that the starting offensive unit did their thing, as Ryan Tannehill was 6-of-7 for 56 yards and a touchdown, caught by Jarvis Landry. After the backups took over, though, Miami was completely outplayed, with the Bears outscoring them 24-0 in the second half alone.
We're not too concerned with a loss in the preseason, however, and we're actually very high on Miami's chances this season overall. Tannehill has made remarkable strides as the starter, and the offense is pretty stacked with Lamar Miller, Landry, Kenny Stills, Greg Jennings and DeVante Parker all hoping to make an impact. The defense has been boosted too, particularly with the addition of Ndamukong Suh. All in all, we wouldn't sleep on this Dolphins team at all here in the 2015/16 season.
You'd think we'll be seeing the starters play a little more here in the second game of the preseason, thus making it a little easier to decipher who to put faith in.
And, while the Dolphins flunked as a team overall in their opener, we're expecting better things this weekend. Tannehill looked very good and was one of the few highlights versus the Bears, and he should see even more reps in this one alongside some of the other starters.
On the other side, it's hard not to take a step back and take a cautious approach with Carolina after such a devastating injury. The Panthers just don't have all that much talent to make up for the loss of Benjamin at the wideout spot, and we weren't that impressed with Carolina's defensive display in their preseason opener either. You've got to be at least somewhat worried about the mood around the Panthers' headquarters.
NFL Pick: Miami Dolphins PK (-120) at 5Dimes