With their playoff hopes taking a damaging hit last week, the pressure has been turned up a notch for the Carolina Panthers. So, perhaps it’s fitting that the heat will be on down in Miami this Sunday.
Here are the top storylines for their high-stakes matchup with the Dolphins in Week 12.
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Cam Newton and Christian Wilkins have some history and it’s not that friendly.
The two butted heads last year, at the conclusion of Miami’s Week 1 matchup with the New England Patriots. After the final kneel to seal the win for the Pats, Newton got into a little brouhaha with Dolphins linebacker Elandon Roberts. Wilkins would then get in on the action, with Raekwon Davis following suit in trying his best Aqib Talib impression.
Newton, following the game, then had some interesting words about Wilkins and his, um, distinct flexibility.
Whether this small spat is behind them, both men are certainly headed towards a collision course on Sunday. Wilkins and the Miami front will be looking to limit Newton’s rushing prowess—a skill he used to hit up the Dolphins for 113 yards and two touchdowns in their pair of meetings in 2020.
Perhaps Cam will continue to . . . split the defense.
Downfield Down South?
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Another must-watch tale of this Week 12 showdown also puts Newton in the spotlight. (Shocking, right?)
His deep ball, as its been for a few years now, will be of particular interest moving forward. One of the reasons why, obviously, is the uncertainty surrounding the health of his throwing arm following multiple procedures on his shoulder dating back to 2017.
But, while his adjusted mechanics have been a clear indication of the somewhat compromised strength as compared to his younger days, Newton is still showing he can sling it. On throws of 10 yards or more in last week’s loss to the Washington Football Team, he went six-of-seven for 94 yards and two touchdowns.
This week, head coach Matt Rhule and offensive coordinator Joe Brady stated that Newton will begin to work some deeper attempts into his arsenal as his knowledge of the playbook progresses. That could start now, against a talented Dolphins secondary headed by cornerbacks Xavien Howard and Byron Jones.
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The playoff push (which should’ve begun against Washington) begins Sunday for Panthers. And at 5-6, they don’t have much—if any—room to slip up.
They’re currently chasing the six-seeded Minnesota Vikings (5-5), the seventh-seeded San Francisco 49ers (5-5) and the eighth-seeded Philadelphia Eagles (5-6). They’re also, technically, an extra game behind Minnesota and Philadelphia on tiebreakers given their back-to-back losses to those squads earlier this season.
So, with all due respect to Miami, Carolina really can’t afford to fall flat against a lesser team, even if said team is coming in winners of three straight.