Dallas Cowboys at Carolina Panthers [Keys to Victory]

A look at the Dallas Cowboys and what it will take for the Carolina Panthers to open the 2018 season with a victory.

The Carolina Panthers host the Dallas Cowboys at 4:25 eastern to start the 2018 season. All eyes may be upon America’s team but we’re looking at how Carolina matches up and what they can do to defeat the Cowboys to open the season with a win. So we asked you, what does Carolina need to do to win. Here’s how we match up, but before, make sure to smash that thumbs up button and give the C3 Panthers Podcast a subscribe:




The Cowboys passing attack was far less successful, ranking: 

  • 26th in passing yards (avg 196 yds per game)
  • 30th in scoring at 10.8 points per game

Dak Prescott threw for over 3000 yards and was careful with the football, tossing 22 TDs and 13 interceptions and finished with a 62.86% completion rate. Outside of the rushing attack, Dallas offense was limited to a dink and dunk game, averaging 6.8 yds per completion. Prescott’s numbers interestingly resembled Newton’s numbers in yards per game and per completion. 

Dak Prescott

Dak Prescott

The strengths to Dallas’s offense are clearly their offensive line and the rushing attack powered by Zeke. Without Jason Witten or Dez Bryant, Dallas passing game is sure to look different, it’s just not clear if Cole Beasley, Allen Hurns, and Michael Gallup make for much more of a threat.

Carolina matches up pretty well. While Dallas is known for a stout offensive line, they are playing with a backup center and Zack Martin is getting over a knee injury suffered in the preseason. He’s practicing, but he may still have a lingering hiccup in his gitty up. He’ll want to be fully healthy with a rookie beside him as he faces Kawann Short and Dontari Poe all afternoon. If these guys can clog up the middle, it’s going to force Elliott outside more, but also allow our linebackers to run free and take some pressure off the Panthers secondary which is the most susceptible aspect of the defense. 

As Kevin Avery on advised: run-fits, gap assignments, and backside contain will be key.

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If Dallas gets the run game going, it’s going to force Carolina’s linebackers up in the box and create some intermediate space that the Cowboys receivers are best at work. 

Offensively Carolina’s depleted by injury will have to face Demarcus Lawrence and Taco Charlton backed up by linebacker Sean Lee. 

Dallas’s defense statistically wasn’t all that impressive last season, but they do have two talents that can rush the passer and with the addition of Randy Gregory, it looks like they will only be better. Dallas, however, is hurting at defensive tackle. David Irving will miss the first four games and Malik Jones is really the only player they are confident in that defensive interior, and he is returning from a foot injury suffered in training camp. 


Although the defensive line is backed up by Sean Lee, who Skip Bayless ridiculously argues is the best linebacker in the league, the Cowboys are vulnerable in the defensive backfield. Both Xavier Woods and Kavon Frazier are dealing with injuries. Woods has been nursing a hamstring injury for the last three weeks and did not practice on Wednesday. This leaves undrafted rookie free agent Tyree Robinson possibly starting free safety. 

How do the Panthers match-up?

Clearly, the greatest concern is that threatening edge rush given the litany of injuries Carolina has suffered. Daryl Williams, who missed all of camp and the preseason with a knee injury, has been practicing this week. Second-year player, Taylor Moton, will start at left tackle with Matt Kalil now on IR. The strength of Carolina’s line, Trai Turner and Ryan Kalil, could pose a problem for Dallas’s thin defensive interior. Carolina also has the speed that could really test the Cowboys defensive secondary whose inexperience may lead to some big-play opportunities. This is the type of defense that Norv Turner’s offense is designed to exploit. Attack the middle with a between the tackle power run-game, forcing both linebackers and the safeties to creep up in run support. This puts more pressure on those safeties to play mistake-free football as Carolina sets up vertical deep shots to stretch the field. 

Carolina will need to run the ball effectively between the tackles. Expect Carolina to attack middle rushing lanes opened up by Turner and Kalil. 

Carolina featured McCaffrey a ton in the preseason, particularly on those inside runs. McCaffrey will definitely get his touches, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Carolina attempts to use him as a decoy both as a receiver coming out of the backfield and in the slot in hopes of baiting those linebackers or dragging them one side of the field to test the safeties decision making and one on one. 

All of this will work to help open up a downfield passing game, one we didn’t see a ton of in the preseason which could mean that it is a feature of the regular season game plan. 

Carolina is going to, like Andy Massey stated, get ahead early and limit Elliott's effectiveness by forcing the Cowboys to pass. 

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And how @DangerousVulcon supported “quick start so we aren’t playing catchup

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Or most eloquently stated by @123lebo “kickass early and often and give away a bunch of footballs.”

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We want to hear more from you about this matchup. Comment with who you think will win and let us know what you think it will take for that to happen. Be sure to like, subscribe, and share and follow @Cat_Chronicles for the latest Panthers news and opinions from the fan perspective. Keep Pounding.