Ready or not, the wildcat will be on display at Bank of America Stadium tonight.

That’s right; the Miami Dolphins (4-5) are coming to town with one of the most talked-about, unconventional offensive schemes in the NFL. You either like it or hate it, but one thing’s for sure: You can’t help but watch it.

I wouldn’t call it a gimmick, but it is something different that has given pro football a little extra pizzazz over the last couple of years. From the moment the running back lines up in the shotgun formation behind the center you know what’s coming. You can stop it some of the time, but you can’t stop it all of the time.

The Dolphins, who started wildcat mania in 2008 when they were AFC East Division champs, can testify of its merits – running backs Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams are the third-best rushing duo in the NFL (1,206 combined yards) this season.

For the Panthers (4-5) defense, though, it should be a little easier to handle since Brown is out with an ankle sprain he suffered in the Dolphins win against Tampa Bay on Sunday. While Ricky Williams will start and carry the load for Miami on the ground, their third running back, Lousaka Polite, and rookie quarterback Pat White will probably get a few more snaps in the Wildcat to offset the loss of Brown.

Carolina, which has the league’s best rushing combo in DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart (1,326 combined yards), will face a stiff defensive front from the Dolphins, who allow less than 100 yards per game on the ground (7th in the NFL). But on the other side of the coin Miami is susceptible to the pass, which means the Panthers should have an opportunity to pick apart the Dolphins secondary.

And the winner is…

Both teams were division champs last season. And both have struggled mightily this year for various reasons. They have great running games and mediocre play at quarterback.

Both have suffered key injuries – Carolina recently lost outside linebacker Thomas Davis and offensive lineman Jordan Gross, who is out for the season; and we already know the story about Miami’s Ronnie Brown.

With so many similarities between the two teams, it’s the Panther defense that will make a difference by continuing to make plays at key moments in the game. Not to mention they’ve got an offense that looks to be in much better shape than Miami’s.

Watch the Panther’s pull out a 27–21 win.

Damon Ford is a public relations professional who has worked in the public and private sectors in Charlotte. He is 4-5 in predicting Panthers games.

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