Thursday, November 19, 2009

Can The Wild Cat Still Win a Wild Card?

At this stage of the season most games have serious playoff implications. It's no different in tonight's match up of the Panthers and Dolphins. Both of these teams rank 10th in their respective conferences and have the same record. The Dolphins hold second place in their division while the Panthers are third. Atop the AFC East and NFC South are the Patriots and Saints. That said, the teams playing tonight can kiss their division champ hopes good bye. In order to play into January both teams must aim for the Wild Card. Whose hopes are better?
     With a win tonight the Dolphins still face tough competition for a playoff berth. If they can't take the division away from Tom Brady and the Pats, then they are in competition with the Steelers, Ravens, Chargers, Jaguars and Texans for a Wild Card spot. The Dolphins will face 3 of those teams in the remainder of the season and with big wins against them they could certainly get into the playoffs. However, this is easier said than done and a loss tonight could further derail these hopes, pushing the Dolphins to a negative 4-6 record.
     The Panthers hopes don't look any better. They have the undefeated Saints atop their division and even more formidable teams standing in the way of a Wild Card berth. If Carolina is to have a chance at the playoffs they must perform better than The Eagles, Giants, Packers, Falcons, Bears, and 49ers. If the Panthers have any chance of besting the records of those teams they have to start playing their best football tonight. A loss could put the nail in the coffin.
     Given that there is so much at stake so early for these two organizations it is sure to be a physical and tense game. Another thing both of these teams share in common is their reliance on the run game. The Dolphins, of course, using the gimmicky Wild Cat while the Panthers have a two headed beast in DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart. The Panthers and Dolphins are 3rd and 4th in the league rushing respectively. The Dolphins, however, are out their star running back, Ronnie Brown, and I see that greatly diminishing their chances of winning this game or a playoff spot. Miami heavily relies on the Wild Cat and without its leader their season could be done. I don't see Pat White or Ricky Williams carrying this team past the Panthers tonight or the Steelers, Jags and Texans later on. How they handle the loss of Ronnie Brown tonight will be a great indicator of where their season is headed.

Final Prediction:
Carolina 28 Miami 17

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