Miami and Carolina have only tangled six times as the Panthers are still a young franchise. Their first meeting came in 1998, which Miami won 13-9. This would be the first of four consecutive victories for the Dolphins as the Panthers would win the final two meetings. Miami holds the series edge at 4-2.
Three of their last four games have been decided by a touchdown or less. However, their last meeting in 2017 was the series' biggest blowout. Carolina destroyed Miami 45-21. The Panthers' offence gained 548 total yards. Newton posted a QB rating of 120.4 with four passing touchdowns.
Miami was a dynasty in their early seasons but since legendary coach Don Shula retired in 1996, they have been less than stellar. Meanwhile, the Panthers quickly became prominent. They would seemingly alternate great seasons with disappointing ones.
But as of the 2000s, the Panthers have been the much better franchise. Miami may have won the early meetings in the millennium but expect the series to swing towards Carolina especially within the next few seasons. Unless the Dolphins find a way to build a new dynasty, it's Carolina's game.
Miami Dolphins Recent History
How this once-proud franchise has fallen. The Dolphins were the class of the NFL in its early years. Under Shula's guidance, the 'Phins made four Super Bowls, winning two in back-to-back seasons. From 1970, their first year as part of the NFL, to 2005, Miami never had consecutive losing seasons.
Miami only had two losing seasons and save for a four-year period in the mid-80s, the Dolphins have consistently been a contender. But since 2002, they have only made the playoffs twice and have no playoff victories. They have gone through more head coaches (nine) than they've had winning seasons (four).
There are many factors to blame: the lack of an elite quarterback, an inconsistent defence, and ill-advised roster moves. The losing will continue, at least for the short-term, as Miami is starting a major rebuild. But if they exercise patience and see it through, they may one day build a long-term contender.
Carolina Panthers Recent History
The Panthers debuted in the NFL 1995. In their short time with the league, they have already made two Super Bowl appearances and have posted seven seasons with 11 wins or more. In 2015, they became just the seventh team since the league expanded to 16 games to go 15-1 or better.
But the franchise has been mired with inconsistency. Carolina has yet to string together two winning seasons consecutively although they have made the playoffs in four of their last five seasons and won the division three straight times from 2013 to 2015.
Drafting Newton in 2011 and hiring Ron Rivera as coach has proven to be a winning formula although their time may be running short. The Panthers will look to return to the Super Bowl or make another deep playoff run in 2018 because anything less could mean some major changes.
Miami Dolphins Outlook
The Dolphins will stink for the foreseeable future. There's no easy way to say it. Their max exodus during the 2017 offseason is just the beginning. General manager Chris Grier has his work cut out for him as the Dolphins need help in almost every area: linebackers, receivers, and quarterback.
Tannehill is a solid quarterback but the Dolphins won't get far with him under centre. If and when a solid quarterback prospect shows up, expect Miami to make a power move to acquire him. Then they can hopefully acquire more picks to bolster their run defence and passing offence.
If Grier is sly and manages to patch the team's holes while their assets stay, the Dolphins should be up-and-running within two seasons. Worst case scenario, the Dolphins will be a perennial basement dweller like the Browns but at least the weather is nice in Miami.
Carolina Panthers Outlook
Carolina has flown under the radar since their inception but ignoring them would be a major mistake. Even if they constantly play against Super Bowl contenders, the Panthers are good bets to not just win the division but win it all. They have a superstar quarterback, a fearsome defence, and a coach who the players love.
The Panthers aren't without their flaws. Their secondary has been a liability since they lost All-Pro corner Josh Norman. They added talented rookies in Donte Jackson and Rashaan Gaulden to help stop the bleeding and also invested in a pass rusher in Marquis Haynes.
Most importantly, Carolina also added to their offence signing veterans C.J. Anderson (RB) and Torrey Smith (WR). But their offensive line still needs help. They aren't perfect, but they don't have to be to make it to the top.
At first glance, this looks like a total mismatch, especially on defence. The Panthers' front-seven led by the likes Dontari Poe (DT) and Luke Kuechly (LB) will stuff whatever the Dolphins try to do up-front. The running game is Miami's best part of the offence but that gets negated quickly.
On the flip side, Carolina can unleash their two-headed running attack with Anderson and Christian McCaffrey where they will abuse the Dolphins' porous linebackers. Miami's defensive line should be more than a match for Carolina's so it won't be totally lopsided.
Then Newton, even if he plays for just a period or a half, should finally get to test out his new weapons. Smith gives him an explosive deep threat while draftees D.J. Moore (WR) and Ian Thomas (TE) should make it easier for him.
Since it's the preseason, the starters and new additions are likely to take it easy to learn the playbook and get warmed up. So a Dolphins' victory isn't crazy but with a much deeper team, Carolina should win.