One Cowboys official in the hallway just now said he thought there was a 98 percent chance that Barber misses tonight's game, for the simple reason that he's not fully healthy and it's the third game of the season.
With Barber out, look for offensive coordinator Jason Garrett to try to get Jones and Choice involved in the passing game early. My best guess is that Jones will end up with about 15 to 18 carries and Choice will be somewhere in the 10 to 12 range. Choice did a really nice job filling in last December, so I could see him getting hot in this game and reeling off 75 yards and a touchdown.
More Panthers @ Cowboys after the jump.
Here's what Coach Phillips said about the swelling in Barber's quad.
"I want him to be healthy, completely healthy," Phillip said. "I don’t know if that means 100 percent, but I don’t want him to be in a situation where, No. 1, he could be hurt worse and you lose him for a longer amount of time. That goes with the determination of the athletic trainers and the doctors and so forth as to where he is. Because he had some swelling. He had a legitimate injury that we just have to find out day-by-day what it’s going to do and how much better it gets. But, we didn’t think it was a long-term injury, that’s why we’re thinking he may be able to play, so that’s where we are."
Just after two weeks of regular season action, Carolina's injured list is quite substantial.
Thehave already lost two defensive tackles, and now they’ll be without the services of starting outside linebacker Na’il Diggs (ribs). Starting safety (knee), starting fullback (back) and backup defensive end (ankle) are all doubtful. Starting offensive tackles (knee) and (shoulder), plus starting defensive tackle (toe) were questionable earlier in the week, but enter the game as probable.
For the Cowboys, S (arm) and ILB Jason Williams (ankle) are out. QB Stephen McGee (knee) is probable, and RB Marion Barber (quad) is questionable. Barber's status should change as gametime nears.
Somehow, some way, the Dallas defense needs to show up tonight.
"If you're aggressive, like we are, things will turn out fine. We're working at it," Phillips said. "The most important thing is winning the game, whether you get 10 turnovers or none."
gets his turn as the starting cornerback tonight instead of , who had a poor performance and was repeatedly beaten by the . The Cowboys plan to keep alternating the second-year cornerbacks as starters opposite .
"I remember 32 (Scandrick) because they've been playing him on ESPN pretty frequently," Panthers receiver Steve Smith said, followed by a laugh. "By the scouting report we got, he probably won't be in because he's been playing continually on the rotation on ESPN."
Tom Orsborn at SAEN says that the defensive pressure has been limited by three things: max protection, no pressure from the strongside, and a lack of depth at the OLB position.
Knowing how much pressure the Cowboys generated last season, opponents have opted to max protect, meaning they're keeping backs and tight ends in to block.
"Teams we've played and teams we'll play will try to protect the quarterback as much as they can," Cowboys coach Wade Phillips said Saturday. "If they do that, you need to cut down the percentage of passes they complete, and we haven't done that."
Another problem: With strongside linebackerunable to generate pressure, weakside backer — the NFL's sack leader last season with 20 — is getting double-teamed.
"We've had a tough time at the end of the last two games, and some of it is having (Spencer and Ware) playing every play," Phillips said. "We're trying to alleviate that by working some other guys in so they'll be fresher."
To that end, Phillips is hopeful, and can provide relief. Bottom line: Someone other than Ware has to generate pressure.
A key to beating the Panthers could be how the Cowboys utilize their tight ends.
Carolina has the third-ranked pass defense, but five of the seven touchdowns given up by the defense have come through the air. And the Panthers have been worked over by the tight ends in the first two weeks. Philadelphia'scaught six passes for 37 yards and a score. Atlanta's Tony Gonzalez had seven catches for 71 yards and a TD. Hello, and .
This may also be a game in which ST coach Joe DeCamillis' units can help the team to victory.
The Panthers' coverage teams are struggling. They allowed an 85-yard punt return for a score and 29.4 yards per kick return. Even if Felix Jones doesn't return kicks,is almost as dangerous. Two of the top kickoff guys – Carolina's and Dallas' – will be on display.
Dallas has owned Carolina in the regular season.
The Cowboys have won seven straight regular season games over the Panthers since losing the first meeting in 1997. In the last matchup Dec. 22, 2007, Romo threw for 257 yards and a touchdown in a 23-13 victory.
The Cowboys fare pretty well on MNF. Of course, they have had plenty of opportunities to do so.
Their 70 appearances on Monday is more than all but the, who have 74, and the Cowboys have won the most of any team, with 41. The Cowboys have played at least one game on Monday Night Football in 36 of the past 39 seasons.
The upcoming contest against Carolina will mark the Cowboys' 32nd home Monday-nighter over the years, the team compiling an 18-13 record in primetime weekday affairs at Texas Stadium. Like the Cowboys stadium opener last week, the Cowboys should be giving maximum efforts under the bright lights.
Here is NFL.com's Game Center for Carolina @ Dallas.
"Some day he will have greatest day of all," Jones said. Asked to clarify his comments, Jones didn't back down. "I do, I do I (think he will win a Super Bowl for us)," Jones said. "I feel like that will happen. It is in no small part due to his skill level because of his ability to come back from adversity because of his hard work. That will be one of the big reasons we get it done."
Only a team with no chance entertains the idea of a midseason coaching change. That still does not prevent people from asking Jerry Jones about who will lead this team in the future.
"I have an option, number one, and don't discuss certainly at this time of the year our coaches' contract, especially the head coach's contract," Jones said. "I'd like for him to win his first Super Bowl as a head coach as head coach of theand that might take more years than this year to do it."
The first part of that answer means that Jones can extend the deal into 2010, if he so chooses. The rest of the answer implies that he'll exercise that right.
As to the notion that Garrett might be the successor to Phillips, Jones smiled and said, "Well, he certainly is in the family portrait." (So much for those offseason rumors that Jones was hoping Garrett would get a head-coaching job elsewhere.)
The Cowboys are still breaking records. This latest one is in one of the most famous records books of all.
On Monday, the Guinness Book of World Records will arrive at new Cowboys Stadium to certify its celebrated and controversial video board as the largest in the world.