Panthers vs. Cowboys Odds, NFL Picks, Week 4 Predictions: How To Bet This Game Despite Lengthy Injury Report
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images. Pictured: Dak Prescott.
|Moneyline||+170 / -200|
|Time||1 p.m. ET|
|Odds via DraftKings. Get up-to-the-minute NFL odds here.|
In Week 4, the undefeated Carolina Panthers (3-0) head to the Big D to take on the Dallas Cowboys (2-1).
The Panthers are a team that’s drawn early praise for how they’ve remade their roster from last year’s 5-11 team, most notably at quarterback. Sam Darnold is currently ranked sixth in the league with a Total QBR of 66.5. He produced a 45.9 Total QBR in his rookie year, which was his career high before this season.
However, per TeamRankings, Carolina has played the second-easiest schedule to date. Can the Panthers step up in class against a Cowboys team that could easily be 3-0 after playing the NFL’s most challenging schedule?
Let’s take a look.
Is Carolina’s Offense Overvalued?
With three weeks of data to go off, we can start to build a profile of each team and evaluate their resumes next to one another. The most convenient place to begin is points per game.
Carolina is one of five teams that’s still undefeated in the league, and it’s also averaged the fewest points per game (23.0) in that group. If we look at points per play, Carolina is also the lowest-ranked undefeated team (0.34).
To their credit, the Panthers have been able to move down the field, ranking 10th with 390 yards per game. Carolina even racked up 407 yards of offense against the Texans in Week 3, despite losing Christian McCaffrey in the first half to a hamstring injury.
But if we dig even deeper to examine the Panthers’ success rate on each down, we’ll see that they’re average to below average at best within the league:
- First-down success rate: 46% (25th)
- Second-down success rate: 51% (16th)
- Third-down success rate: 41% (16th)
Panthers Defense Yet To Be Challenged
Carolina’s defense ranks second in points allowed per game (10.0). Note that the Panthers’ opponents were the Saints, Texans and Jets. If we evaluate each team offensively using the Football Outsiders Total DVOA metric, we’ll find that the Saints are ranked 19th, Texans 21st, and Jets 30th.
If we look at yards allowed per game, Carolina leads the league in allowing just 191 yards. But again, the Jets and Saints rank in the bottom three of the NFL in terms of yards per game, while the Texans are slightly better in 25th at 314.7 yards.
The key takeaway here is that we shouldn’t be in a great hurry to anoint the Panthers just yet, at least not until we can assess them against better competition.
On the injury front, Carolina lost three key players in Week 3 against the Texans. In addition to McCaffrey’s injury, starting rookie cornerback Jaycee Horn broke bones in his foot. Earlier this week, safety Juston Burris was also added to the injured reserve with a groin injury.
Cowboys Offense Should Pose Menacing Threat
Just as we built a profile for the Panthers, we’ll follow the same approach with the Cowboys using essentially the same metrics. Both teams are at different ends of the spectrum in terms of strength of schedule, so it should be interesting to examine the numbers Dallas has put up so far.
Let’s begin with points scored, as the Cowboys are one of seven teams averaging 30 per game. Even their 20-17 victory against the Chargers is misleading because there was only one punt between the two teams in the game. Moreover, both racked up at least 400 yards on offense. There weren’t as many points on board because those long sustained drives resulted in field goal attempts.
Next, if we move on to points per play, the Cowboys are also ranked in the top 10 in that category (0.43). In yards gained, Dallas is fifth with 416.7 total yards per game.
Finally, let’s look at their success rate on each down:
- First-down success rate: 65% (first).
- Second-down success rate: 54% (10th).
- Third-down success rate: 54% (fourth).
Cowboys Defense Better Than Advertised
While the Cowboys offense might get all the headlines, their defense is beginning to find its stride.
Dallas is 13th in points allowed per game (23.0), which is almost seven fewer than last season. Keep in mind that Dallas played two teams — the Chargers and Buccaneers — that are ranked first and fifth offensively in Football Outsiders’ Total DVOA metric.
Another revelation of the Cowboys defense has been their ability to create turnovers against these quality offenses. Dallas logged two interceptions in each of its games this season and is currently +5 in turnover differential.
There’s been plenty of talk about how new defensive coordinator Dan Quinn has simplified things for the players, and he’s also played a role in the recruiting process to identify the specific skill sets in players that could benefit the team.
Dallas appears to be ahead of schedule in terms of how it has already implemented Quinn’s scheme. We can already see the versatility in his players based on how they’ve been able to cope with multiple injuries to key starters on defense.
On Monday night, the Cowboys held the Eagles to 21 points despite missing seven defensive players.
The Cowboys' Front 7 will be without Demarcus Lawrence, Dorance Armstrong, Neville Gallimore, Carlos Watkins and possibly Keanu Neal and Randy Gregory (COVID list) against the Eagles on Monday.
— Mike Clay (@MikeClayNFL) September 23, 2021
In Week 4, they’ll likely be without most of those players again but could get a boost with the potential return of Randy Gregory, who is listed as questionable after practicing on Friday.
Starting safety Donovan Wilson (groin) was added to the injury report this week, along with offensive tackle Ty Nsekhe (illness). Both have already been ruled out.
I was all set to play the Cowboys, but I didn’t realize their injury report was this lengthy. Despite its poor strength of schedule, Carolina is ranked first overall in Football Outsiders Total DVOA metric — 16 places higher than the Eagles who the Cowboys trounced last week.
The Panthers also come into this game on an impressive 8-0 against the spread (ATS) run. However, five of those covers were with Teddy Bridgewater as the quarterback.
As for the Cowboys, this isn’t entirely the best spot for them as they’ll be at a disadvantage with fewer days rest after playing on Monday night.
However, they have Dak Prescott, and he’s 16-8-1 ATS (7.26 units), as a favorite of four or more points.
Nonetheless, I’m not ready to commit to the Cowboys fully. This game will likely be just a lean for me based on Dallas’ lengthy injury report.
Lean: Cowboys -4