Last year's Turkey Day game was spoiled by a dominating performance from the Philadelphia Eagles and this year the Cowboys drew the 10-0 Carolina Panthers. That is the way of the NFL, after watching how poor the NFC South was last season, many fans thought that would lead to some easy pickings for the 'Boys. That hasn't been the case as the Cowboys have become the NFC South's whipping boy. Yep, the Buccaneers, Falcons and Saints have all beaten the Dallas Cowboys this season and the Panthers are coming to town in hopes to complete the sweep. There is the one big caveat though, all those defeats came without the services of Romo.
Tony Romo happens to be the only quarterback in NFL history to have orchestrated victories over multiple undefeated teams of 9-0 or better. Of course, we all remember the 9-0 Colts getting beat in 2006 and nobody can surely forget that time in 2009 where the Cowboys served a big L to the 13-0 New Orleans Saints. Another interesting side note, each time the Cowboys have beaten the unbeaten, those teams have wound up winning the Super Bowl. This is the game that can set everything in motion for the Cowboys. Think about it, 10-0 team, Cowboys are 3-0 with Tony Romo, a win over the NFC's best would be huge for this team.
The Panthers are such a formidable opponent because they can create all sorts of troubles on both sides of the ball for Dallas. On one hand, you have a team that averages about 140 rushing yards per game including a quarterback that can punish a defense with his legs too. Add to the equation a tight end that is already over 700 yards receiving and six touchdowns. If you switch the the other side of the ball, you get a team that knows how to take the ball away and give it back to their third ranked scoring offense. This is the toughest game on their schedule even considering they have Green Bay at Lambeau Field and a solid defense from Buffalo to face later on in the season.
At 3-7, every game is going to be important for a Cowboys team that refuses to roll over and quit on the 2015 season. Jerry Jones said himself that what he saw in Miami was the Cowboys team he thought he had at the beginning of the year. They won't really say what's on their minds but this is a Cowboys squad that plans on running the table and getting into the postseason. Is it going to be tough, well of course it is. Any time you lose seven straight games in any stretch, the likelihood of you making a comeback is next to zero. However, the team that we saw take the field this past Sunday against the Dolphins was a completely different unit. They were inspired by the return of their gutsy leader and it made them believe in themselves again.
The Cowboys know that their margin for error is nonexistent and even though they crazily opened up as favorites, this game favors the Panthers by any sane logic. The Tony Romo factor is huge as has been outlined by my colleague Tom Ryle:
The specifics of what Romo does on the field can be described in details from the Dolphins win. Although he was by his own admission knocking off some rust, getting more comfortable as the game progressed, he opened up with one of the moves that very few other quarterbacks can make, the scramble to evade a safety followed by an almost casual left-handed toss that bought Chris Jones some extra room to get a punt off, and came very close to getting a first down. It was not the only display of his Romodini skills that day, but it announced to the world that he was back, and the Cowboys were, too. But spectacular plays in isolation do not make a team successful. It is the way the individual efforts combine.
That's what was missing without Romo, the ability to create and understand what to do when something doesn't go as planned. There is no better quarterback in the league that is as good at improvisation than Tony Romo. See, in many ways, that little left hand shuffle pass might have won them the game. It's that keen sense of ability to make something happen that has always been the marvel of Tony Romo.
That is precisely why this Cowboys team believes that they can play with anybody, because with their trigger man, they certainly can do anything. This game is going to be a very telling for the Cowboys because if they can find a way to win this one, we just may be in for a magical end to what began as a very dismal season. This short week doesn't make it any easier for them but they are used to playing on the big stage on Turkey Day. Tony Romo is 6-2 as a starter on Thanksgiving, can he get his 7th win? It's a one game season, hopefully Romo can pull another victory out and make our Thanksgiving desserts that much sweeter.