The undefeated Carolina Panthers (3-0 SU, 3-0 ATS) have a stiff test ahead of them in Week 4. They’re back in Texas to face the Dallas Cowboys (2-1 ATS, 3-0 SU), who are hot heading into the matchup.
Wins have come relatively easy for the Panthers. The New York Jets and Houston Texans are two of the worst teams in the league. And the New Orleans Saints were without a number of coaches in Week 2 due to COVID protocols.
Credit goes to Carolina for defeating the teams across from them. However, they will certainly need to avoid the mistakes that have been forgiven thus far.
Online sportsbooks opened the Panthers as road dogs with a total of 50.
If the Panthers want to remain unbeaten, they’ll need to do so without a pair of key players.
Offensively, Christian McCaffrey (hamstring) will be absent and will probably miss multiple weeks. Nothing needs to be said about the impact McCaffrey has on a game. In his stead, the Panthers will turn to a combination of rookie Chuba Hubbard and vet Royce Freeman. Hubbard handled 14 touches (11 carries, three receptions) to close out last week’s victory.
If last year is any indication, the Panthers won’t necessarily resort to a backfield-by-committee. Mike Davis filled in admirably as the lead back for several weeks in 2020 before cooling off down the stretch.
The loss of rookie cornerback Jaycee Horn to a broken foot is a stinging blow as well. So much so that the Panthers acquired cornerback C.J. Henderson, the No. 9 overall pick in 2020, from the Jacksonville Jaguars in exchange for tight end Dan Arnold. Henderson is a talented, high-pedigree, young player, but he and the Panthers secondary will have their hands full covering Cowboys receivers CeeDee Lamb and Amari Cooper.
Faster Out Of The Starting Blocks
If the Panthers are going to cover — or even win outright — they’ll need to get off to a better start than they did in previous games. Carolina continues to show signs of a dynamic offense, but are too often stalled due to poor protection, execution or decision-making.
The Panthers beat the Texans last week without much suspense, but their slim 7-6 margin at halftime underscored the offensive inconsistencies they’ve struggled with at times.
They can’t afford to leave points on the field Sunday, whether that means executing for six or converting kicks — both field goals and extra points.
Don’t Be So Defensive
Dallas’ hiring of Dan Quinn was expected to have a positive impact on the Cowboys defense. But most weren’t expecting them to be this good this soon. Rookie Micah Parsons has been as advertised and will be a nightmare when the team starts moving him around. Second-year cornerback Trevon Diggs has taken a leap forward as well. He’s a big reason why the Cowboys are averaging 2.7 takeaways through three games.
The Panthers, meanwhile, lead the league with 14 sacks and 48 pressures. Additionally, they’ve held opponents to 10 points per game, second best in the league. This is a quality defense, but it can’t be overstated that Dallas will present a different caliber of opponent.
Betting Thoughts And Analysis: Cowboys Letdown Spot?
Most shops are dealing the Panthers as 5-point underdogs. Cowboys backers can get more value at FanDuel SportsBook and DraftKings Sportsbook though, where the line is DAL -4.5.
Starting games sharp is always something coaches preach. Doing so here can be particularly beneficial for the Panthers if the Cowboys are sluggish out of the gate.
One can imagine the emotional high the Cowboys experienced leading into and coming out of their Week 3 over the Philadelphia Eagles. Not only was it their home opener — with fans — but it was against a bitter rival in a primetime slot. It’s also worth noting that the Panthers will head into the game with four full days of additional rest.
It only takes one or two players being a step slow to create opportunities for opponents. Bettors who anticipate a couple of early blips may want to consider taking the Panthers (+3) or the UNDER (26) in the first half. Those figures can be found at Caesars Sportsbook and FanDuel, but it’s worth shopping around for the best options.