Overcoming the loss of Johnson
The Panthers’ defensive letdown in the second half against New England coincided with defensive end Charles Johnson’s departure with a knee injury. The Patriots began gashing the Panthers with running back LeGarrette Blount after Johnson left with a sprained MCL. Carolina will use a situational platoon at end, with undrafted rookie Wes Horton likely to play on running downs and Frank Alexander and Mario Addison coming in as pass-rushers. Addison, a speed rusher, is fourth on the team with 10 pressures.
The Dolphins gave former Steelers wide receiver Mike Wallace $60 million to be their deep threat. But Wallace has been more of a possession receiver, with three catches in 17 targets of 20 yards or longer. Wallace has one touchdown and is averaging 12.1 yards per catch, 5 yards fewer than his average with the Steelers. The Panthers play their corners off the line and don’t give up many long passes. But expect Ryan Tannehill to go after rookie Melvin White, who had three penalties during a rough night vs. the Patriots.
Steve Smith vs. Brent Grimes
Smith engaged in an entertaining 1-on-1 battle last week with the Patriots’ Aqib Talib, the former Tampa Bay corner. Smith will face another former NFC South rival in Grimes, who signed with the Dolphins last offseason after six years in Atlanta. Smith called Grimes a good player – and quiet, so don’t expect too much after-the-whistle action – who is quick out of his breaks. Grimes, who has three interceptions and is ranked the No. 3 cornerback in the league by Pro Football Focus, leads a secondary that has allowed one touchdown by a wide receiver all season – by the Pats’ Aaron Dobson last month.