Miami Dolphins Preview: Win or Call It a Season

And so we come to this. Sitting at 4-5, the Miami Dolphins face a must-win game tonight as take on the equally desperate (and some would say equally craptastic) 4-5 Carolina Panthers. The winner will experience the sweet taste of being a .500 team for the first time this season while embarking on an epic journey of chasing the Wildcard spot in its respective conference (tastes like victory). The loser will experience the not-so-sweet taste of having its season pretty much done (tastes like shit and onions). So lots is riding on tonight's game.

It seems as if pretty much everybody even remotely involved in the showdown is injured. Carolina lost perennial bad-ass linebacker Thomas Davis and All-Pro left tackle Jordan Gross for the year. DeAngelo Williams is listed as questionable with a bum knee. As for the Dolphins, the biggest news heading into tonight is the loss of Ronnie Brown and his amazing feats of awesomeness; he's out with a foot injury. This puts a huge dent in the Dolphins' plans of trying not to suck. And now the running game falls square on Ricky Williams's shoulders. How much will the Fins miss Brown's face-demolishing, ass-kicking ways? We'll find out tonight. The outlook is not great.

Much like the Dolphins, the Panthers have lacked what experts would

call "a good team." They began the season 0-3, All-World receiver

Steve Smith had been replaced by a blow-up doll, and Jake Delhomme has

played less like a Pro Bowler and more like Don Knotts.

Still, the Panthers boast one of the best running-back tandems in the

NFL with Williams and Jonathan Stewart, and have one of the most feared

pass rushers in Julius Peppers. They've also gotten themselves on a

nice roll lately, winning big games against the Cardinals and Falcons

in recent weeks.

As for the game itself, the burden will once again fall on the Fins

defense and its ability to completely shit all over themselves in the

fourth quarter. On the road, against a desperate team, Miami is going

to have to rely heavily on its pass rush. Joey Porter is expected to

play tonight, while Jason Taylor and Cameron Wake should be able to

exploit Gross's absence and drop-kick Delhomme in the throat three times

each. Rookie corner Vontae Davis must deal with Steve Smith and his

sudden recent epiphany that he is, in fact, Steve Smith (two TDs last

week). But it will ultimately come down to Miami stopping the Carolina

ground attack. The Fins have been stout against the run, and if they

can make Delhomme revert to his recent crappy ways and force the

Panther offense to be one-dimensional, they have an excellent shot at winning.

On offense, it's pretty simple. The Panthers rank 25th in the league

against the run, allowing 128.1 yards per game. That should mean only one thing: Ricky Williams needs to rock the pants off the Carolina

defense. And, as it turns out, Ricky is a pretty solid face-demolishing

ass-kicker in his own right. As for the receivers, the request is

simple: Catch the motherlovin' ball.

It's going to be a tough game, to be sure. It wasn't enough for the NFL

schedule makers to have the Dolphins playing back-to-back games at New

York and New England. So they decided to be real dicks and

gave the Fins a short week to travel to Carolina to play on a Thursday

night. Which means two things: (1) The better-prepared team wins this

game, and (2) Unless you have a DVR, you Community and 30 Rock fans are


Prediction: Dolphins 24 - Panthers 21