Writer’s predictions for the Cowboys vs Panthers match
By the time the final whistles sounded over the Cowboys’ 41-21 win on Monday night, fans were riding about as high as they had ever been in Mike McCarthy’s time. Over the course of three straight weeks, they saw their Cowboys come close to beating Tom Brady and the defending Super Bowl champions, lock down Justin Herbert and the Chargers, and then completely destroy their bitter rival Eagles.
Now they can accommodate the undefeated Panthers. There is some debate to be had about the importance of Carolina’s 3-0 record; they played two rookie quarterbacks, each making their NFL debut, and Jameis Winston. Still, this Panthers team is a must-have, even without Christian McCaffrey and Jaycee Horn on the pitch. It’s hard to overstate how important a 3-1 start to the season would be for the Cowboys, so winning this game is imperative. Do our authors think this is possible?
Take off easy throws
Sam Darnold has had a very promising start to the season for the Panthers, but his numbers are a bit misleading. Offensive coordinator Joe Brady did a terrific job of getting Darnold into an early rhythm by executing plenty of quick passes to McCaffrey in the opening downs, knowing that McCaffrey has the ability to turn those dump passes into bigger wins. It keeps the Panthers on schedule and doesn’t ask Darnold to save the day, which is when he usually gets into trouble.
This week, there’s no McCaffrey, and Darnold faces the take-out league leader. Rookies Chuba Hubbard and Tommy Tremble will likely see many of those quick, early passes, but neither will McCaffrey. If the Dallas defense can knock out those easy shots, it’ll put the Panthers off the schedule and force Darnold to have to beat them in the field. Then we’ll see how much the fourth-year quarterback has really grown.
Copy and paste the Tampa Bay game plan
One of the reasons the Cowboys moved the ball so well against the solid defense of the Buccaneers in Week 1 is that offensive coordinator Kellen Moore chose not to repeatedly hit Ezekiel Elliott’s head and by Tony Pollard against Vita Vea and Ndamukong Suh. Instead, they used trails, tilts, and screens as an extension of the racing game and turned the force action away from Tampa Bay.
The Panthers’ defense works very similar to that of the Buccaneers. Derrick Brown and Morgan Fox are inside forces, while Brian Burns and Haason Reddick are versatile edge defenders. Defensive coordinator Phil Snow blitzes at the league’s third-highest rate and, as a result, his defense leads the NFL in sacks and pressure. They also lead the race stoppage success rate, presenting a challenge similar to that of Tampa Bay. If the Cowboys can effectively recreate the magic they had in Week 1, while also facing a lower secondary missing two starters, it could be a record breaking day for Dak Prescott.
Now let’s move on to the predictions of your BTB editors …
The Cowboys met and even exceeded expectations on Monday. We talk a lot about the Panthers and their 3-0 record. Dallas didn’t face a team like them, many say. Well, Carolina hasn’t faced a team like the Cowboys. Especially the offense under Kellen Moore, with his Skrull ability to change and attack. And Dan Quinn has the defense kitchen in its own right.
With McCaffrey and Horn for the Panthers, I’m looking for another solid win for Dallas, say 31-20.
The Dallas Cowboys, on paper, will face one of their toughest tests so far this season against the undefeated Carolina Panthers. They’re an undefeated team, but for the Panthers, the Cowboys will also be their toughest test. Without star running back Christian McCaffrey in the backfield and Jaycee Horn in the field, this team are considerably weaker, but that doesn’t mean they’re still not dangerous.
If the Cowboys take this team lightly they will fall, they have to respect the running game with Chuba Hubbard at the start and also respect the receivers who are fast and have a great playing ability. They will have to get another big game. their defense and build on their recent success. On offense, the Cowboys need to continue their balanced offense like they did against the Eagles last week. If they can do that, the Panthers’ defense won’t have the ability to slow them down.
Prediction: Cowboys 34, Panthers 20.
The predatory reign of the Panthers ends here. They have played stellar football on both sides as they set an unbeaten record, but they have yet to see a team like Dallas. Dan Quinn’s defense is in full swing, and his combination of disguise and pressure will prove too much for Sam Darnold. And don’t look now, but Dak Prescott could very well be on the cusp of becoming an MVP. Look for Zeke and Pollard to continue dividing the carries for success, and Dak to throw at least two TDs.
Dallas wins 31-21.
Just like last week, I think it’s a game where the Cowboys come out and make it clear that they’re the better team. Without Christian McCaffrey, the Panthers will have to rely heavily on Sam Darnold to throw the soccer ball. I think that fits perfectly with what the Cowboys want to do in defense, and it continues to take football away from them. I think Dallas comes out and picks Sam Darnold twice over D, and Dak Prescott carries the offense with three touchdown passes. I think this game will remain close until the third quarter when the Cowboys start to pull away.
Give me the Cowboys, 30-20.
The Panthers are 3-0, yes, but they were largely untested by their initial schedule, beating the Jets, Saints and Texans. The Cowboys, meanwhile, faced a much stronger schedule and are a last-second basket down 3-0.
The Dallas offense has been dynamic along the way. In week 1 he threw the ball with extraordinary frequency and efficiency, only to move on to a more balanced attack fueled by his stable running back. The Panthers’ defensive line impressed early on, but Dallas showed great improvement in their run blocking starting in 2020. If Carolina limits running play like the Bucs did in Week 1, Dallas will be ready to broadcast it once more. The biggest difference is the absence of Christian McCaffrey for the Panthers offense. Without their greatest weapon, it’s hard to see Carolina keeping up with the Cowboys offense.
Dallas wins this one comfortably enough, 31-17.
This is a ‘prove it’ game for both teams. The Panthers seek to prove that they are a legitimate contender despite weaker opponents, while the Cowboys want to prove that they are a team that commands respect in the NFC. For Dak and the offense, the game plan will be similar to Week 1. Carolina’s defensive line is not only dominant against the run, but it is also capable of reaching the quarterback quickly. Prescott could throw 50 or more times in this one, and Dallas has to hope he can shoulder the burden again.
In defense of the Cowboys, they need to be able to stop the race early. The Panthers rely on a heavy rush attack, paired with passes near the line of scrimmage to avoid mistakes. If Dallas is able to stop Carolina from establishing the race, they will force Sam Darnold into long-distance conversion situations. While Darnold has looked like an above average quarterback for three weeks, his career has proven to be prone to mistakes. Considering Dak has proven himself a capable quarterback to carry a team, coupled with McCaffrey’s injury making it easier for the Cowboys to stop the race, the Cowboys should be able to pull this one out.
Cowboys 28, Caroline, 23
Another week in the season and another test for this Cowboys football team. The Cowboys are looking to do business against an undefeated Panthers team who, if we’re being honest, we’re still trying to determine if they’re suitors or suitors. There’s no question the Panthers have some talent, and their defense is actually ranked the best in the league so far in this young season.
But the fact remains that the Panthers will play without their undisputed best player, Christian McCaffrey, and their defense has yet to face an offense of Dallas’ caliber. Dallas should be able to find ways to move the ball even though their defense must be respected. The gaps in their defense are in the secondary, and I would look to Dak and Kellen Moore to exploit that. At the end of the day, I think this game will be competitive as most Cowboys games usually are, but the best team finds a way to win in the end, and that team is the Dallas Cowboys.
Cowboys 24 Panthers 16
The Carolina Panthers are 3-0, but their undefeated record is a bit misleading. They haven’t faced nearly the same level of competition as the Dallas Cowboys, so any numbers people throw in trying to convince you that they have a chance this week should be taken with a grain of salt. Carolina’s defense might be as good as advertised, but the teams they’ve played against this season (Jets, Saints, Texans) aren’t as dangerous as the Cowboys. Add in the fact that the Dallas defense is playing surprisingly well right now and I’ll go ahead and predict another easy win for American team.
Score prediction: 38-20, Cowboys
Every year, teams emerge from nowhere to be surprise contenders. The Panthers could be one of those teams this season. They have a talented defense that is quick on the ball and that could create challenges for Dak and his company. On the other side of the ball, I don’t find their offense very threatening and I expect the Cowboys defense to show up again. This one can be frustrating at times, but I take the good guys into a defensive battle.
Cowboys 23, Panthers 17.
I might be in the minority here, but I just don’t see this one coming particularly close. The Panthers are the biggest frauds in the NFL right now, in my opinion. They beat two rookie quarterbacks, each making their first start, and beat a Saints team that was missing nearly half of its coaching staff due to COVID-19.
More than that, Sam Darnold is still Sam Darnold and he won’t have McCaffrey to count on this week. The defense has a good pass rush, but the secondary left things open behind that front; they were just lucky enough not to face a quarterback who could handle the pressure. That changes this week. I think Dak Prescott will do an easy job of this defense, and Darnold won’t be able to call at all.
Cowboys 38, Panthers 19