The Miami Dolphins (5-5), who remain in the AFC playoff hunt, will host a crucial game Sunday against the Carolina Panthers (7-3).
Here are three things to watch from Miami’s perspective:
1. Stopping Cam: Miami’s defense will have to be at the top of its game in order to stop Panthers quarterback and MVP candidate Cam Newton. The Dolphins have not faced this kind of dual threat all year. Newton is beating teams with his legs and his arm, and Dolphins players and coaches say good tackling and discipline will be key. Miami’s defense has struggled this year with gap assignments and tackling against the run.
2. Get Wallace involved: The connection between Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill and receiver Mike Wallace has been hot and cold. Tannehill has missed Wallace on several deep balls that could have made a difference in games. The Dolphins need to get Wallace involved early and oftenoa. The Panthers have arguably the NFL’s best defense, and Wallace is the one player with Miami who can light up Carolina for big plays.
3. Grimes vs. Smith: This game could come down to individual matchups. And one of the best matchups in this game will be Dolphins No. 1 cornerback Brent Grimes against Carolina’s five-time Pro Bowl receiver Steve Smith. Both players are compact, strong and physical. Grimes is having a strong season and has 35 tackles and three interceptions, which includes a 94-yard interception return for a touchdown. Grimes also is familiar with Smith due to their battles in the NFC South when Grimes played for the Atlanta Falcons.