Carolina Panthers (3-0) at Dallas Cowboys (2-1)
The Cowboys have proven they have among the best offenses in the league. A year ago, they finished 13th in first down rate despite missing their starting quarterback and their top-3 offensive linemen for most of the season, including a 4th place rank through 4th games before the injury to Dak Prescott, and this season they have picked up right where they left off, leading the league in first down rate through 3 games this season. Their defense isn’t good, but they are less bad than the offense is good, they are better than a year ago, and offense is the more predictive side of the ball, so the Cowboys are in pretty good shape going forward. Overall, I have them ranked 10th, about 3.5 points above average.
The Panthers are 3-0, but I am not sold on them, as two of their wins have come against possibly the two worst teams in the league and not in overly convincing fashion, while their win over the Saints could easily be a fluke as a result of the Saints being flat off of a huge win the week before. Their defense could be for real, but I am not sold on Sam Darnold or this offensive line against tougher competition, especially without Christian McCaffrey. The Cowboys aren’t tougher competition on the defensive side, but it’ll be tough for this Panthers offense to match points with the Cowboys’ offense if the Cowboys offense can predictably have the edge over the Panthers’ largely untested defense.
I still have the Panthers about 2.5 points below average, giving us a calculated line of Dallas -8.5 at home, which means we’re getting good line value with the Cowboys as 4.5 point favorites. The Cowboys are also in a good spot because teams tend to carry over the momentum from a big Monday Night Football win, covering at about a 60% rate the week following a win by 20 or more points, which the Cowboys had over the Eagles last week. Without another great option this week, the Cowboys are my Pick of the Week.
Dallas Cowboys 31 Carolina Panthers 20
Pick against the spread: Dallas -4.5
Confidence: Pick of the Week