Since the Panthers are playing their first-ever regular-season game on Thursday this week, I'm posting my prediction on Wednesday rather than on Friday as I normally do.
OK, here's the deal: I think Carolina is going to win this one by 11.
Why? I think Carolina is catching the Dolphins at a good time, first of all. Miami won't have RB Ronnie Brown in this one, and he's the most effective weapon the Dolphins have got. I'm sure crusty old former Panthers coordinator Dan Henning will have some "Wildcat" tricks up his sleeve in Miami, but I don't think the Panthers will allow Ricky Williams or Chad Henne to have too big of a day.
Also, Carolina's own running game has been very good for most of the past month. Even without Pro Bowl LT Jordan Gross, I think it will be that way again. I think Carolina will control the clock and that Jake Delhomme will make a few good things happen.
Let's face it, neither of these teams is exactly going to contend for a Super Bowl spot. With both of them 4-5, the best you can say about this one is the winner gets to .500. But I think Carolina ultimately has more talent and is rounding into form a little better, having won 4 of its past 6.
My prediction: Carolina 27, Miami 16.
The stats: I am 6-3 predicting Panther games so far this season and am on a mild two-game win streak, including my pick of Carolina's home upset victory over the Falcons Sunday.