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Matchups: Dolphins at Panthers

by Evan Silva
Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:04 pm ET

Monday Night Football

Miami @ Carolina
Team Totals: Panthers 24.5, Dolphins 15.5

Monday night’s game is a smash spot for Cam Newton, who has logged top-ten fantasy results in four of his last six starts and now faces a pathetic Dolphins pass defense that ranks 30th in DVOA while yielding the NFL’s second-highest completion rate (69.9%) and third-highest passer rating (102.6). The plus passing-game draw buoys Cam’s floor, and his persistent scrambling significantly raises his ceiling with at least nine rushing attempts in four straight games. Newton leads all NFL quarterbacks with a very-nice 69 scrambles on the season; next closest is Tyrod Taylor at 50. Cam is my favorite odds-relative bet to finish as this week’s fantasy QB1. … Christian McCaffrey took over as Carolina’s feature back in last week’s win over Atlanta, logging season highs in snap rate (82%), carries (15), touches (20), and rushing yards (66) in a breakthrough game, while Jonathan Stewart lost two fumbles. McCaffrey’s performance was promising ahead of a Week 10 date with Miami, which has surrendered a combined 95/447/4.71/3 rushing line to enemy running backs in its last four games, including Alex Collins and Marshawn Lynch’s season-best efforts in Weeks 8-9. If McCaffrey’s usage holds, he will be an every-week RB1 the rest of the way. Stewart will stay involved, but he is never more than a low-floor, touchdown-or-bust option. 

Cam’s target distribution sans Kelvin BenjaminDevin Funchess 7; McCaffrey 6; Curtis Samuel 5; Russell Shepard 2; Ed Dickson and Kaelin Clay 1. … Funchess indeed took over as Carolina’s No. 1 wideout in last week’s first post-Benjamin game, leading the Panthers in targets on 74% of the snaps. At least until Greg Olsen (foot) returns – expected in Week 12 – Funchess should be approached as a volume-driven, every-week WR2. Nothing about the Dolphins’ cornerback unit is imposing. … Samuel is a work in progress as a 21-year-old hybrid player, but his Week 9 snap rate (75%) was easily a season high, and Samuel is clearly being shoehorned into the Panthers’ No. 2 wideout role. With 4.31 speed, Samuel will inevitably pop up for a big play in the near future. Your guess is as good as mine as to when it will occur. As for his Week 10 outlook, it is concerning Samuel missed practice time with an ankle injury. … Early-season tease Dickson was held catch-less in last week’s win over the Falcons and has topped five targets just once all year. He remains scoreless through nine games. With that said, Dickson’s matchup makes him at least worthy of discussion. The Dolphins have been helpless against tight ends, permitting the NFL’s second-most receptions (53) to the position. They got ravaged by Jared Cook (8/126/0) last Sunday night. 

Albeit in a far-softer matchup than the Dolphins draw on Monday night, early returns on last week’s post-Jay Ajayi performance against the Raiders were that it loosened up Miami’s offense and created easier completions for Jay Cutler, removing Ajayi’s passing-game drain and allowing plus receiving backs Kenyan Drake and Damien Williams to work in tandem. Cutler looked far more comfortable in a quicker-hitting, pass-first offense en route to season highs across the board. I’m not yet ready to trust Cutler as a streamer or DFS play, but he is a locked-in two-quarterback-league starter whose progress we need to monitor. Week 10 opponent Carolina has continued to show pass-funnel tendencies by yielding top-14 results to five of its last seven quarterbacks faced, exceptions being Bears rookie game manager Mitchell Trubisky in Week 7 and injured Jameis Winston in a wind-impacted Week 8 game. … Coach Adam Gase did not hold Drake’s Week 9 lost fumble against him. Drake reentered shortly thereafter and wound up leading Miami’s backfield in touches (15), snaps (55%), routes run (22), and total yards (104) over Williams (13, 45%, 17, 61). Both saw six targets. After teeing off on Oakland, however, Dolphins backs encounter a much-tougher Monday night draw against the Panthers, who hold enemy backs to 3.58 yards per carry and rank third in run-defense DVOA. Carolina has yielded the NFL’s seventh-most catches (50) to running backs, giving Drake some hope as a low-end RB2 and Williams as a flex option. 

Cutler’s post-Ajayi target distribution: DeVante Parker and Julius Thomas 8; Jarvis Landry 7; Williams and Drake 6; Kenny Stills 4; Anthony Fasano 2. … Back from his high ankle sprain in last Sunday’s loss to the Raiders, Parker hobbled around for much of the second half. He has a concerning Week 10 draw against James Bradberry, the top cornerback in a zone-based Panthers defense that has allowed the NFL’s 11th-fewest completions of 20-plus yards (23) despite not having had their bye. Downfield plays are Parker’s bread and butter. I would start Parker as a WR3 in season-long leagues, but I think there is some reason for caution. … Miami’s best pass-catcher matchup goes to Landry against a Panthers secondary that has struggled in the slot, where nickel back Captain Munnerlyn has PFF’s No. 89 coverage grade among 115 qualifiers. Historically not a touchdown scorer, Landry is finding the paint regularly this year by leading the Dolphins in red-zone targets (7) and targets inside the ten (5). … Thomas was the main beneficiary of Miami’s revised offense in last week’s loss with season bests across the board (6/84/1). Whereas the Raiders are regularly gashed by tight ends, however, the Panthers have allowed the NFL’s eighth-fewest catches (32) and seventh-fewest yards (364) to the position. Thomas is a high-risk, fringe streamer play. 

Score Prediction: Panthers 28, Dolphins 17

Evan Silva
Evan Silva is a senior football editor for Rotoworld.com. He can be found on Twitter .