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Panthers vs Cowboys: Offensive preview

It’s all about survival this week.

NFL: Carolina Panthers at Chicago Bears Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports

The Carolina Panthers had a chance to pull of a win against a week Bears side almost two weeks ago now, but they couldn’t pull it off. That loss weighs a little heavier knowing what’s up this week—a date with the Dallas Cowboys. It’s technically a home game, but we know what home games against the Cowboys look like.

The offense will have to try to muster up some production against one of the better units in the league. The Cowboys allow just 4.8 yards per play, which is fourth best in the league. They’re third in yards allowed per game and fourth in points allowed per game. They’re stronger against the pass than against the run, they’re not weak in any area by any means.

Perhaps the most concerning thing about this week’s matchup is what the Cowboys have done to other...not good teams. They shut out the Giants in the first half last week, which let their offense get out to a 28-0 lead. They didn’t let the Rams score a touchdown until virtually the last play of the first half two weeks prior, and that was when the Cowboys were already up 33-3. That brings us to our keys to a successful offensive day for the Panthers.

  • Don’t let the game get away from you early. The Cowboys are liable to run the Panthers out of the stadium if the offense struggles out of the gate. That’s especially likely if the Panthers turn the ball over. The Panthers have actually been good in that area this year, and they need to keep it that way. Setting the Cowboys up with short fields is a recipe for disaster. Along with that, if the Panthers fall behind and feel pressured to air it out, the Cowboys are going to tee off on Bryce Young and this less-than-stellar offensive line.
  • Give extra attention to Micah Parsons. Parsons is a full time edge rusher at this point, and for good reason. According to ESPN’s pass rush win rate stats, Parsons is the most effective edge rusher by a pretty wide margin. No other Cowboy is in the top 20 at their position. The Panthers need to do whatever they can to limit Parsons’ effectiveness and make other players make the plays. That’s easier said than done obviously, and according to that same stat, the Cowboys as a team are the best in the league at beating their blockers and getting to the quarterback. Bryce Young better watch out.
  • Lean on the run game as best they can. There’s a worry that the Panthers fall behind early and go to the pass game, but they need to try to get Chuba Hubbard and Miles Sanders going. For as good as the Cowboys are at getting to the passer, they’re not quite as good at limiting opposing ground attacks when teams go that route. The Panthers have averaged fewer than three yards per carry in two of their last three games, but they were decent against the Colts. They need another game like that without the pick-sixes to move the ball. It’d be nice to see Miles Sanders get involved a little more since Chuba Hubbard has been struggling. Sanders was the more effective runner the last time he was given a decent number of carries.

It’s an ominous meeting for the Panthers. The best they can hope for is that the Cowboys overlook them and simply don’t show up like they did against the Cardinals a few weeks ago. Otherwise, it might getting really really ugly really really fast.