Forget Tony Romo. If Dallas is to have any chance to beat the Carolina Panthers on Thanksgiving day, there are five guys who are more valuable to the Cowboys’ cause – their offensive line.
Panther quarterback Cam Newton is quite good. He keeps the Carolina offense humming along. What’s scary – their defense is better.
The Carolina defense leads the league in interceptions, ranks tied for third in sacks, and are top-five in yards and points allowed. It all starts up front, which is why the Cowboys’ offensive line must have its best game of the season to give Romo and company the best chance to score points, chew up some clock, and make it a game.
“(The Panthers’ defense) does a little bit of everything,” said Romo. “They pressure; sometimes they just do it with their front four and sometimes they really come after you with multiple corner blitzes. They are coached well, they play hard and they are physically talented. That’s a rare combination, so it will be a great test for us.”
Carolina is 10-0 while the Cowboys are 3-7. Yet Vegas opened the week with Dallas as a one-point favorite. Say what?
Well, it’s actually not that big of a surprise. First of all, Dallas is at home, and that’s usually worth about three points on a Vegas line. In some ways, this is actually a match-up of undefeated teams, with the Cowboys being 3-0 this season when Tony Romo is the starter (I know, that’s a stretch, but it’s also how a lot of fans think).
The key for the Cowboys’ offense will be its ability to run the ball on first down. If they can create second down situations with five or six yards to go, rather than nine or ten, the Panther defense won’t be able to pin their ears back and go after Romo, knowing that a pass is coming.
On defense, Dallas needs to concentrate on containing Cam Newton, who averages 4.4 yards-per-carry. Get off to a good start in the first quarter and it might be a wining day for the Cowboys.
- Carolina has never played on Thanksgiving before, entering this season as one of only two teams in the league to have never played on Turkey Day. The only team remaining is now Jacksonville.
- Dallas is 29-17-1, all-time, on Thanksgiving day.
- The Panthers rank fifth in the league in rushing with 139.9 yards-per-game, yet just 28th in passing yards. Carolina ranks third is points-per-game.
- Carolina is only the third NFC team since 1992 to go 10-0, joining the 2009 Saints and the 2011 Packers.
- The Panthers are NFC East killers this year so far, beating Washington last Sunday, 44-16 (including five TD passes from Newton and five turnovers caused by the defense) and Philadelphia, 27-16 in week seven.