One of the more intriguing games on the NFL Week 1 schedule is a showdown between the Carolina Panthers and Dallas Cowboys. Carolina enters the game as a 3-point favorite at home with an over/under set at 42 points.
The Cowboys are coming off a rather pitiful preseason in which they went 0-4. In their defense, they held out their key starters for most of the preseason, most notably Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott. Nevertheless, a few poor performances in exhibition games has created some concern about the Cowboys heading into the regular season.
Meanwhile, hope is high in Carolina heading into the 2018 season. Despite losing in the wild-card round of the playoffs last season, the Panthers were 11-5 in 2017, so with a little good fortune this year, they believe they will be legitimate Super Bowl contenders.
Can You Throw It?
The Cowboys have been one of the best rushing teams in the NFL the past couple of seasons, but Prescott will have to answer questions about whether he can be an effective passer. He no longer has Dez Bryant and Jason Witten to be his safety net or take away the focus of the defense. He’ll have to develop chemistry with newcomers like Allen Hurns and rookie Michael Gallup despite rarely playing in the preseason. Terrance Williams and Cole Beasley will also have to take a larger role in the Dallas offense this season.
However, an even bigger concern for the Cowboys would be their offensive line. Center Travis Frederick is out with an illness and several other starters are fighting through minor injuries. The Panthers are typically strong in the front-7, so if the Dallas offensive line isn’t at full strength, Carolina’s defense could get a beat on the running game and put even more pressure on Prescott to carry the team with his arm.
More Toys for Cam
The Panthers added to their offensive arsenal this offseason with the likes of Torrey Smith and rookie D.J. Moore. Those two will help to replace Kelvin Benjamin while helping take some of the focus off of Greg Olsen and Devin Funchess. With more weapons around Cam Newton, the Dallas defense could be stretched a little thin as long as Newton can find the open man.
Of course, Carolina’s most dangerous weapon is Christian McCaffrey. He had over 100 carries and 80 catches last season and is poised for an even bigger role this season. The Cowboys need to pay close attention to him because he can be dangerous. However, they also can’t lose sight of Carolina’s receivers or the fact that Newton can a threat with his legs on any given play.
Big L for Big D
To be frank, there’s a chance that this game becomes a little lopsided. Without their offensive line intact and at full strength, the Cowboys could really struggle offensively. The Panthers are talented enough on defense to shut down on a mediocre Dallas offense, not to mention all the weapons Carolina has on offense. Bet on the Panthers -3 to win and cover against the Cowboys in Week 1.