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Cowboys vs. Panthers: Three bold predictions for Sunday’s matchup

It’s time to get bold when talking Cowboys and Panthers.

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

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.

NFL: Carolina Panthers at Houston Texans Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

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.

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.

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.

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

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.

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.

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 has his breakout game of the 2021 season, going for over 150 total yards from scrimmage and finding the end zone twice.

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

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.