Many Cowboys fans are looking forward to Sunday’s game against the 1-4 Carolina Panthers and expect the Cowboys to finally hit their stride both offensively and defensively against what looks like an overmatched opponent.
Other Cowboys fans are worried that the game against the Panthers is a classic trap game: After losing to the now 5-1 Baltimore Ravens and with the 4-2 Giants loomng next week, the Cowboys could look at the 1-4 Panthers as an easy win and take the game for granted. Even the most die-hard fan will concede that with the Cowboys, this is always a possibility.
Interestingly though, the Cowboys are also a trap game for the Panthers. The 2-3 Cowboys are sandwiched between the 4-2 Seahawks and the 4-1 Bears. Do the two traps cancel each other or will this turn out to be the Mother Of All Trap Games? And for which team?
Whether you believe in trap games or not, and there is ample evidence to suggest that there is no such thing as a trap game, the fact is that the Cowboys’ first five games have been against some very tough opponents: Through Week 6, the Cowboys have had the toughest schedule of any team in the league. The Cowboys’ opponents so far have combined for a .679 winning percentage (19-9 record) and a +221 points differential. Both values rank as tops in the league.
And if you’re concerned that these numbers may be artificially inflated because those teams played the Cowboys, don’t be. Excluding their games against the Cowboys, those five teams combine for a .696 winning percentage (16-7 record) and a +196 points differential. Both values would still be tops in the league.
Historically, the Cowboys have done quite well against NFC South teams, compiling a 52-23 all-time record for a winning percentage of .693, the best percentage the Cowboys have against any NFL division. Versus the Panthers, they are 8-3 all-time and have won four straight. The last time the two teams met, the Cowboys celebrated their first win in Cowboys Stadium in a 21-7 win in Week 3, 2009.
Both teams are currently on small losing streaks. The Panthers lost their last three while the Cowboys have dropped two in a row. Will the Cowboys end their mini-skid and climb to a .500 record?
The game will be broadcast on Fox where Kenny Albert and Daryl Johnston will be the commentators while Tony Siragusa will roam the sidelines and make me feel a lot better about not exercising. In other inconsequential trivia, the Cowboys will wear blue on Sunday for only the second time in three years, and Romo could replace Garrett in the Cowboys’ record books if he passes for more than 287 yards, the most the Cowboys have achieved versus the Panthers (in 1998).
Of course, none of the above will matter when the Cowboys take to the field in Charlotte at 1:00 pm ET on Sunday. If the Cowboys want to remain in contention for a postseason berth, they’ll have to start winning some games soon. Carolina would be a good place to start. So here's the question: Do you think the Cowboys can shine against the Panthers?