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Position battleground (offense): Cowboys vs. Panthers head-to-head breakdown

Looking at both the Cowboys and Panthers offense, and which team have the better position groups.

Carolina Panthers v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

Everyone will dismiss the Dallas Cowboys’ dominating win last week against the New York Giants. But remember this saying about beating bad teams - good teams win, great teams cover the spread, but top teams make it look easy. The race for NFC East now reaches a crossroads where the Cowboys look to close the gap on the Philadelphia Eagles, who face Kansas City this week. As for the Cowboys, they face a 1-8 Carolina Panthers team that is in disarray this year, and are coming off a bad loss to the Chicago Bears. But in a head-to-head battle between the Dallas Cowboys and Carolina Panthers, which team has the better offense by each position group? Let’s find out.

Dak Prescott
Bryce Young

Last week against the New York Giants, the Dallas Cowboys produced 640 total yards on offense, that’s the second-most yards gained in a single game in franchise history. Dak Prescott threw for 404 yards against the Giants, which now gives him ten games in his career throwing for over 400 yards or more. Patrick Mahomes is the only other active quarterback with the same amount of 400-yard games as Dak, no other quarterback has more than five. Another aspect of Dak’s game that fans are happy to see return is using his legs to get first downs, or as it happened last week, for a touchdown. He only rushed twice last week, one going for a score, and his other run converted for a first down. The extra work defenses have to do accounting for this rushing threat adds an extra dimension. Dak running for first downs has coincided with the sudden success on offense. This week he faces a struggling Carolina Panthers team whose defense is third-worst in total interceptions, third-worst in total sacks, and third-worst in points allowed.

Panthers QB Bryce Young is talented, let’s start there when we talk about the Heisman and National Championship winner a couple years back. The Panthers gave up a lot in the draft to get the first overall pick and select Young, but so far this year the payout hasn’t been what everyone hoped. This isn’t to bash Young, he’s a rookie in the NFL and that learning curve is steep. But the loss last week to the Chicago Bears is another example of the Panthers offense coughing and sputtering to the point where it lost the game. Young has seen his fair share of struggles this year so far; he’s thrown eight touchdowns to seven interceptions, and his 75.9 passer rating ranks 29th among starting quarterbacks. He faces a defense this week that ranks second-best at defending the pass and ranks fourth-highest in interceptions.

Since Week 6, Dak is averaging 9.7 yards per throw (1st), has thrown 12 touchdowns (1st), has a 10.7% big time throw rate (1st), and is second in total passing yards (which includes being on a bye Week 7).
Win: Cowboys

New York Giants v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images

Tony Pollard/Rico Dowdle
Chuba Hubbard/Miles Sanders

After seeing Tony Pollard look effective last week, you have to think his confidence is high for this week’s game. He looked much more elusive and ran with better efficiency against the Giants. He wasn’t perfect and looked flat to start off, but once he found a groove later in the game he really made some solid runs. The star of the show in the run game last week was Rico Dowdle. He had a career game against the Giants and had a total of 79 yards and one touchdown. Among running backs in Week 10, Dowdle had 6.6 yards per attempt (5th), 63 yards after contact (6th) and five forced missed tackles (4th).

Chuba Hubbard and Miles Sanders have combined for two touchdowns and last week against the Bears they combined for an average of 0.1 yards per carry. Yes that really happened. Sanders had two carries for minus five yards and Hubbard averaged 2.6 yards per carry for a total of 23 yards. Hubbard has a season average of 3.7 yards per carry, which puts him out of the top-50 runnings backs. As for Miles Sanders, he’s on 3.2 yards per carry and has two fumbles this year.

The Panthers are averaging 90 rush yards per game, that’s the sixth-fewest in the league, and the team’s two rushing touchdowns is second-fewest.

The Cowboys running backs have their arrow pointing up currently. They are averaging 118 rush yards per game, which is 10th-most in the league. And they go up against a Panthers defense that is allowing the seventh-most yards this year, and have allowed 15 rushing touchdowns, only the Giants have allowed more.
Win: Cowboys

NFL: NOV 12 Giants at Cowboys Photo by Matthew Pearce/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

CeeDee Lamb/Brandin Cooks/Michael Gallup
Adam Thielen/DJ Chark/Jonathan Mingo

The way CeeDee Lamb is playing right now, the Cowboys can comfortably channel the offense through him and become a top offense. His last three games have been incredibly efficient, making 34 catches off 44 targets and he now owns an NFL record by having three consecutive games of 150+ receiving yards and 10+ receptions. There’s a chance with the way he and Dak are connecting that he could make that four games straight. Among wide receivers, Lamb is now third in receiving yards, fifth in receiving touchdowns, fourth in first-downs and fifth in yards-after-catch.

The emergence of Brandin Cooks in last week’s game is maybe the biggest takeaway however. You could even argue it was more important than Lamb’s achievements. Against the Eagles in Week 9, Cooks had two targets, but last week against the Giants he had seven receptions, 104 yards with one touchdown, and that was just at halftime. What makes his emergence so important is the fact how there are few NFL teams that have a quality second cornerback on their roster. But also opposing teams will look to add extra resources to defend Lamb and cut-off the key factor to the Cowboys offense. If Cooks can be the guy they can target in that instance, the Cowboys offense can maintain a high efficiency.

Seeing Michael Gallup score a terrific touchdown was wildly important to his confidence. Jalen Tolbert finished last week’s game with 48 snaps on offense, the second-most among Cowboys receivers. He could slowly be making his way on the field a whole lot more. But it was the other Jalen that should raise eyebrows, Jalen Brooks. He played 24 snaps last week, a career high so far. At one point during the game, Brooks had more receptions than both Cooks and Gallup. Keep an eye on his progressing snap count each week.

It’s no surprise Adam Thielen is leading the Panthers in receiving yards. Sure he’s getting long in the tooth, but he’s still a very capable and talented receiver. The problem facing Thielen at the moment is he hasn’t scored a touchdown in his last three games, and in that time he has 19 receptions for 142 yards. The teams deep-threat receiving option, DJ Chark, has a possibility of missing this week’s game. He’s currently nursing an elbow injury and missed last week’s game against the Bears. With him on the sideline, defenses are able to defend Thielen a lot easier and take him away from the offense. Behind both these receiving threats is Ole Miss rookie receiver Jonathan Mingo. He has yet to score his first NFL touchdown, and in his last three games he’s made eight receptions for 87 yards. Keep watch on Laviska Shenault on the practice report, he was out last week with an ankle injury.

The Cowboys defense is allowing the second-fewest receiving yards and has sacked the opposing quarterback 26 times this season, the seventh-most in the league. The Cowboys also have star defensive back DaRon Bland, who now has five interceptions this season which is the second-most in the league. As for the Panthers offense, they are producing the third-fewest receiving yards and fifth-fewest receiving touchdowns this year.
Win: Cowboys

New York Giants v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

Jake Ferguson
Hayden Hurst

While everyone talks about Lamb’s achievements, we cannot overlook how well and productive Ferguson is playing. In the last three games, Ferguson has 15 receptions (5th-most), 164 yards (6th-most), and three touchdowns (most among tight ends). The fact he’s now gone three consecutive games with a touchdown shows how important he is for Prescott. The talent is certainly there, now it’s a case of Ferguson making those tough catches with consistency and when it matters most.

The Panthers leading tight end is Hayden Hurst. His last three games have been at the opposite side of the spectrum, making four receptions for 68 yards. He ranks 27th in receiving yards among tight ends and hasn’t scored a touchdown since Week 1 against the Atlanta Falcons.

The Cowboys defense has allowed more touchdowns to the tight end position this year than the Panthers have. But this number is slightly misleading due to teams running the ball so easily against the Panthers. That means plenty of 12-man formations this week for Dallas to get the running game going, and have guys like Ferguson and Luke Schoonmaker help create more running options for the running backs
Win: Cowboys

NFL: NOV 12 Giants at Cowboys Photo by Matthew Pearce/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images


The Cowboys offensive line played a clean game last week against the Giants allowing zero sacks. Dak took a couple of shots after he threw the ball, one hit seemed to knock the wind out of him after he made the play which had everyone else watching holding their breath. The much talked about Terence Steele managed to do better allowing only two pressures all game. But what was much better from this line was the run blocking. As the game drew on against the Giants you could see the offensive line getting more push and opening up holes for guys like Pollard and Dowdle to run into. To no surprise, when the offensive line got on top of things, we saw chunk plays start to occur from the ground game. This week, this offensive line should be able to get the same success from one of the worst run-defending defensive lines the NFL has to offer. Getting into the second level and dominating there will be key to win with explosive plays.

One of Bryce Young’s issues is the amount of pressure he comes under during the game. His offensive line is allowing the fourth-most pressures this year and Young has been sacked 32 times, that’s fifth-most. The same failings on the offensive line can be seen in the run game, getting man-handled often which shuts down options for the team’s running backs. The Panthers offensive line is perhaps one of the worst run-blocking teams in the NFL.
Win: Cowboys


Which team has the better offense?

This poll is closed

  • 99%
    Dallas Cowboys
    (338 votes)
  • 0%
    Carolina Panthers
    (3 votes)
341 votes total Vote Now

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