Here come those Observer “experts” again, and I’m using those quote marks on purpose.
Let’s just say our crew won’t be road-tripping to Las Vegas anytime soon and planning to triple our money. Over the past three weeks, none of us has a winning record picking the Panthers. Three of us are 1-2 in that unpredictable time span, and one of us — sports editor Matt Stephens — is a desultory 0-3. The Panthers’ upset win at Arizona and upset loss to Washington last week both took our panel down as a group.
So read on for our picks this week for entertainment; just don’t bet on them until we all find ourselves a hot streak. I’m “sure” one is just around the corner.
Jonathan Alexander, Panthers beat writer: It’s always a mystery which Panthers team will show up on Sunday. But the Panthers play better on the road than they do at home.
They need this game to stay in the playoff hunt. I think they respond with one of their better performances. Panthers 30, Dolphins 20.
Matt Stephens, McClatchy Southeast senior sports editor: An unpredictable Carolina team against an equally unpredictable team from Miami. If Cam Newton can play at least as well as he did last week and the defense returns to form, the Panthers should be able to win this and remain in the NFC wild-card hunt. Panthers 24, Dolphins 17.
Scott Fowler, sports columnist: Last week I used the “Opposite Day” approach, choosing against my gut and correctly forecasting Washington’s win. So I’m going back to that well this week. My gut says the Dolphins will win — they have won three in a row, after all, including a 12-point victory over Baltimore. So, because of that: Panthers 23, Dolphins 20.
Ellis Williams, Panthers beat writer: Miami has the 28th-ranked defense and is even worse on offense. However, the Dolphins have strung together three straight wins after losing seven of their first eight. Despite holding similar records, Carolina should handle Miami and cruise into a much-needed bye week. Panthers 31, Dolphins 17.