Undefeated Season Coming to an End for Carolina? 

It’s been a nice start to the 2021 season for the 3-0 Panthers, but they’ve got a tough test in a visit to 2-1 Dallas. The Cowboys are playing on the short week, but they looked really good after a 41-21 win over the Eagles on Monday Night Football. Carolina, on the other hand, has the extra prep as their 24-9 win over Houston was last Thursday. Does that scheduling mismatch give the Panthers value on the upset, which is +175 at both Bovada and BetOnline

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Man Down for Carolina

Even with the extra rest of playing last Thursday, it’s looking like Christian McCaffrey is a no-go for this game after hurting his hamstring vs. the Texans. That has put the NFL odds for this contest as the Panthers visit Dallas as +4.5 underdogs despite starting the season 3-0. The good news is that coach Matt Rhule and OC Joe Brady are used to game planning without McCaffrey, who played in just three games last season. 

The Panthers might still be one of the popular NFL picks this week because of the success they’ve had in the passing game so far. Sam Darnold has thrown for 300+ yards in consecutive weeks, and DJ Moore had his best game of the season with 126 yards receiving in the win over Houston. Rookie Terrace Marshall, Jr. and Robbie Anderson are also threats in the passing game, which you need to hang with the Cowboys’ potent scoring attack. 

One of the strange things about these betting odds is that, although the Panthers are 3-0, two of their wins have also come against the Jets and Texans, which are arguably the two worst teams in the NFL. Carolina did look dominant in a 26-7 win in week two over the Saints, but that game was also in Charlotte. Darnold has ‘seen ghosts’ in the past, so will he return to mistake-prone football in front of 93,000+ at AT&T Stadium? 

Dallas Lighting Up the Scoreboard

The Cowboys had their best offensive game of the season on Monday night, with Dak Prescott completing 21 of 26 passes with 3 TD and the run game combining for 160 yards behind Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard. Prescott got his TE involved as Dalton Schultz had two TD grabs, and it’s impressive that Dallas can score 41 points when CeeDee Lamb and Amari Cooper have a total of six catches. 

Playing well is nothing new for the Cowboys this season, as they barely lost to Tampa Bay in the opener (31-29) and beat the Chargers on the road in week two (20-17) as 3-point underdogs at the sportsbooks. Last Monday was Dallas’ first home game of the season, and also the first one back with fans in full attendance since 2019. 

It will be somewhat difficult to put a game plan together against Carolina without McCaffrey in the lineup. Is Rhule going to open up the passing attack, or will they give rookie Chuba Hubbard a healthier dose in the ground game? Hubbard is a 4th round draft pick but was also a 2,000-yard rusher in 2019 at Oklahoma State. The Eagles ran the ball just 12 times against Dallas on Monday night. 

Panthers at Cowboys Pick

4.5 might seem like a lot of points for these NFL betting odds, especially with Carolina having extra rest and Dallas on the short turnaround. The Panthers are undefeated, but with the Jets and Texans on that resume and the Saints win being at home. It’s a different experience going to “Big D,” and the Cowboys are firing on all cylinders right now.

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