It’s hard to believe we are already entering Week 4 of the 2021 regular season.
Before the Cowboys take on the Panthers this Sunday, here are three bold predictions for this Week 4 matchup.
1) Sam Darnold tosses two interceptions
Three games into the 2021 season, Sam Darnold has looked like a completely different player than what we saw with the Jets. With high expectations, the signal-caller struggled during his three years in New York. Darnold threw nearly as many interceptions (39) as touchdown passes (45) during his time in the Big Apple and was unable to lead the Jets to a single winning season.
Coming into the season many questioned whether Darnold would look better in Carolina with a better coaching staff and team surrounding him. So far, the answer has been a resounding yes.
The former third-overall pick has helped lead the Panthers to a 3-0 record while completing 68% of his passes for 888 yards and three touchdowns. Pro Football Focus has Darnold rated as the 10th-best passer in football, and his overall PFF offensive grade of 81.0 is seventeen points higher than his best grade with the Jets.
Sam Darnold played 38 career games with the Jets. He never recorded back-to-back 300+ yard games.— NFL on CBS (@NFLonCBS) September 24, 2021
In just his third game as a Panther, he's recorded his second straight game with 300+ yards.
Carolina Sam is slinging. pic.twitter.com/2pn8OkFyjc
304 yards in the air, 2 TDs on the ground for Sam Darnold last night. #CARvsHOU pic.twitter.com/B4BQCdHbfJ— NFL (@NFL) September 24, 2021
Overall, Darnold has had a fantastic start to the season. Unfortunately for the Panthers, he’s about to hit a roadblock on Sunday.
The Cowboys have been the takeaway kings of the NFL through three games. Dallas has picked off Tom Brady, Justin Herbet and Jalen Hurts two times each. On Sunday, Darnold will become their fourth victim.
Only NFL player with an INT in every game this season:— PFF (@PFF) September 28, 2021
Trevon Diggs pic.twitter.com/MZkd6AXKd7
Anthony Brown with the INTpic.twitter.com/fEKoQqFV7y— Tom Downey (@WhatGoingDowney) September 28, 2021
Carolina has the fourth-worst pass-blocking line in football, via PFF, so the Cowboys should be able to generate some pass rush against Darnold. The former Jet has a tendency to get trigger-happy, and the Cowboys will bring that out in full force on Sunday. Dallas picks off Darnold twice, courtesy of Trevon Diggs and Jourdan Lewis, and builds on their lead of most takeaways in the NFL.
2) CeeDee Lamb dominates, going over 150 totals yards from scrimmage and scoring two touchdowns
Three games in the Panthers have the best defense in football, via PFF. Carolina has an 80.1 team defense grade and has allowed the fewest total yards (573), fewest passing yards (438), and second-fewest points (30 in football). While the Panthers do have talent on the defensive side of the ball, it’s fair to question if their hot start has been more a product of who they have played.
Carolina has faced three quarterbacks this season. Zach Wilson, Jameis Winston and Davis Mills. Wilson was making his first NFL start, Winston had one of the worst games of his NFL career and Mills is a career-backup that was forced into action due to injury.
This week they face their first real challenge, and a certain #88 is going to give them some problems. Last week against the Texans, Carolina lost first-round pick Jaycee Horn for the foreseeable future with a broken foot.
The Panthers placed CB Jaycee Horn on injured reserve Monday. https://t.co/NSGCHmp1l1— Darin Gantt (@daringantt) September 27, 2021
Without Horn for most of the game, Carolina struggled a little bit in the secondary. They allowed Mills to complete 19-of-28 passes and surrendered 112 receiving yards to the Texans’ number one wideout Brandin Cooks.
Brandin Cooks - one of four players in NFL history to record three 1,000 yard seasons prior to turning 25— Pro Football Network (@PFN365) September 24, 2021
Facing their first real test of the season this Sunday, Carolina’s secondary is going to struggle to stop CeeDee Lamb. The talented wideout will be matching up primarily against either Donte Jackson or veteran A.J. Bouye who is returning from injury.
CEEDEE LAMB BOMBS AWAY pic.twitter.com/IOZZN5xtkV— PFF Fantasy Football (@PFF_Fantasy) September 28, 2021
CeeDee has his breakout game of the 2021 season, going for over 150 total yards from scrimmage and finding the end zone twice.
3) Cowboys register their second straight double-digit victory
If Christian McCaffrey was playing in this game it may be a different story, but without him the Panthers won’t be able to keep up with the Cowboys on Sunday. Carolina’s defense is about to face their first real test of the season, and the Cowboys will make sure they don’t leave Dallas as the NFL’s number one defense.
Dak Prescott is playing the best football of his career, the two-headed monster running game attack is working to perfection, and the defense continues to take the football away. Dallas builds upon their blowout win against Philadelphia from Monday night, getting their second straight double-digit victory.