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Carolina Panthers v Detroit Lions

by Sharon Thorsland

It’s week six in the NFL season and the Panthers are still looking for their first win. But getting that elusive “W” this week in Miami won’t be easy. The Dolphins boast the NFL’s most prolific offense, averaging over 513 yards and 37 points per game. They’re 4-1 on the season following a drubbing of the Giants last week.

Leading this offensive juggernaut is Tua Tagovailoa. The former Alabama standout has thrown for a league-leading 1,614 passing yards and 11 touchdowns, and he’s only been sacked six times. His top target is star receiver Tyreek Hill, aka “the Cheetah.” Hill leads the NFL with 651 receiving yards and has five touchdowns. And there’s also Tua’s former ‘Bama teammate Jaylen Waddle, not to mention the NFL’s top running back tandem of Raheem Mostert and rookie De’Von Achane. The pair leads a rushing attack that averages over 185 yards per game. That’s bad news for a Panther defense that has struggled to stop the run this season, allowing over 140 rushing yards a contest. The good news is Achane is out this week with a knee injury. But Mostert is tied for the NFL lead with eight touchdowns and is one of the fastest backs in the league. That speed across the offense is what sets the Dolphins apart. “They’re definitely the fastest team in the league, “said Panther linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill. “You see it on tape, they operate fast. We’ve got to have our track shoes on this week and just be ready to run.”

Making things even more difficult for the Panthers is the absence of starting safety Vonn Bell, who has been ruled out with a quad injury. His replacement for the game? Practice squad player Matthais Farley, with rookie Jammie Robinson also getting some reps. The Panther’s other starting safety, Xavier Woods, remains out with a hamstring injury, so special teams ace Sam Franklin will start with Farley.

The Dolphins defense takes a back seat to the offense, they’re giving up a lot of yards and points per game. They run a 3-4 scheme that gets after the quarterback , they lead the NFL in QB hits and are tied for 3rd with 17 sacks. The front seven has plenty of talent, including former Clemson standout Christian Wilkins and edge rusher Andrew van Ginkle, who leads the team with four sacks. Star cornerback Jalen Ramsey is still out following meniscus surgery., but the Dolphins still have All-Pro Xavien Howard, he’s got one interception. And third year safety Jevon Holland has been outstanding, he leads the team in tackles and has three forced fumbles. “Some dogs, I can say that,” said Panther receiver Laviska Shenault. “That interior is crazy, they do a good job at what they do. They’ve got some very good secondary players as well. We’ve got to just come with it.”

That’s easier said than done for this Panthers team. But they’re ready to finally break through and get their first win of the season, and to do it headed into the bye would be even better. “We respect this team a lot, but this is really about us,” said coach Frank Reich. “We’re just focused in and dialed in on how do we get better and go play our best game.”