NFL Nation: MNF


Posted by ESPN.com’s Pat Yasinskas


We already know the Carolina Panthers face a must-win game tonight against Dallas.

Panthers-Cowboys Coverage
Yasinskas: Must win for Panthers
Mosley: Garrett better get money's worth
Scouts Inc.: 10 observations
More: MNF HQ
So what happens if they don’t win? Well, just about everything in Carolina probably will tumble.

The process may already have started when Mark and Jon Richardson resigned as team presidents just before the season opened. New team president Danny Morrison will get his first in-person look at the Panthers tonight.

Morrison’s going to play a big part in the future of this franchise, but I’d be more interested in hearing what’s going through the mind of owner Jerry Richardson if the Panthers lose to the Cowboys. It would be the first time the Panthers have started 0-3 since 1998. That’s the year the Panthers lost their first seven games and finished 4-12.

That season cost coach Dom Capers his job, just two seasons after he took the Panthers to the NFC Championship Game. Current coach John Fox has done a lot for this franchise and there’s still time to turn it around.

But Fox never has had back-to-back winning seasons and Richardson is painfully aware of that. A loss tonight greatly diminishes the chances of the Panthers making the playoffs or having a winning season. That would increase the chances of Fox losing his job.

Does it end there?

Probably not. Fox and general manager Marty Hurney have been a package deal throughout their time together in Carolina. If Fox goes, Hurney probably goes, too. But that’s not quite as automatic as many might think. Hurney has a strong relationship with Richardson. Hurney survived the George Seifert regime and could survive this.

Richardson basically let Hurney hire Fox. He might let Hurney make the next hire.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

Oakland Raiders (2-7) at Miami Dolphins (5-4), 1 p.m. ET

One of the NFL's worst clubs -- and perhaps the most dysfunctional -- will make the arduous cross-country trip to play a team that has won three straight.

The Dolphins should make it four in a row and remain within a game of the first-place New York Jets. A victory also would tie the Dolphins with the 6-4 New England Patriots.

West Coast teams are 0-12 this year when playing in the Eastern time zone.

Miami hasn't won six of their first 10 games since 2003. Considering the Dolphins are coming off a 1-15 season, new coach Tony Sparano is a serious coach-of-the-year candidate, although the Atlanta Falcons' Mike Smith has to be the front-runner.

The Dolphins are tied for eighth in the league in total offense, and Chad Pennington has them seventh in passing offense at an efficient 244.4 yards a game.

The Raiders are 25th in total defense, but they're most forgiving against the run, ranking 29th with an incredibly generous 158.1-yard average per game against them.

Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown like that number.

Cleveland Browns (3-6) at Buffalo Bills (5-4), 8:30 p.m. ET Monday

If the desperate Bills can't beat the Browns at home, their season might as well be over.

The Bills have lost three straight in the AFC East, guaranteeing them no better than a .500 divisional record, and that sounds ambitious with the Jets, Patriots and Dolphins playing so well lately and evolving on offense.

The Bills, meanwhile, have been regressing on offense and getting injured on defense. A loss on Monday would give the Bills four in a row and five losses out of six games after their hot 4-0 start.

Cleveland is an attractive opponent for the occasion. The Browns have lost three of their past four games and have surrendered 71 points in their past two games -- both at home.

Bills offensive coordinator Turk Schonert should be able to figure out ways for quarterback Trent Edwards and running back Marshawn Lynch to thrive on Monday night. Edwards is playing poorly, and Lynch hasn't been getting carries befitting a workhorse.

Strong safety and captain Donte Whitner might return from his separated shoulder after missing just one week, and that could provide a spark. But the Bills were losing with Whitner in the lineup, too.

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