We are now getting into the latter half of the NFL schedule, the time when playoff teams should really start separating themselves. The Cowboys seem to have begun this process with their incredible transformation on offense, essentially after the bye week. Last week, they showed all their weapons in a 49-17 destruction of the New York Giants.
This week, they get another mismatch on paper as they travel to play the 1-8 Carolina Panthers. Not much has gone right for the Panthers, especially since they traded up to get Bryce Young number one overall in the 2023 draft, only for C.J. Stroud, the guy they passed on, to have a remarkable rookie season. Meanwhile Young is struggling along with the rest of the offense.
The Cowboys come into this game very confident, relatively healthy, and riding a wave of good play, especially from Dak Prescott and CeeDee Lamb. DraftKings Sportsbook has the Cowboys as 10.5-point favorites over the Panthers.
The two franchises have met 15 times in their history, with two of those being post-season games. The Cowboys are 10-3 versus the Panthers in the regular season, while the Panthers have won both post-season games (1997, 2004). The last meeting was on October 3rd, 2021 and was won by Dallas 36-28. The last time Dallas played Carolina on the road was in 2018, a game won by the Panthers 16-8.
There are lots of elements that go into winning football games in the NFL, but having a potent offense is certainly a shortcut to getting there. And that’s what the Cowboys have. At one point in the season we were lamenting this Texas Coast offense and its missed chances in the redzone, and its short passing game that seemed to stifle production. That feels like a while ago.
The Cowboys have opened things up with pre-snap motion, flexibility at the line of scrimmage, and a willingness to push the ball deep. It has paid off in a big way.
Let’s just run through some of the extraordinary statistics the Dallas offense and some of the players are putting up.
CeeDee Lamb has four games this year when he caught more than 10 passes. That is a single-season record for the Cowboys and is also tops in the NFL this year.
Dak Prescott has 38 big pass plays (20+ yards) in 2023, good for third in the NFL. Eight of those big pass plays came last week versus the Giants. That is tied for most in a game since they began tracking that stat (1994). In the last four games the team has 23 big pass plays which leads the league over that time.
Dallas stands alone with three games of 40+ points this year. Since Mike McCarthy’s arrival, they have 14 games with 40+ points, most in the NFL.
Dallas is also first in 10-play drives (26), second in scoring average (29.9) and fourth in yards per game (379,1)
It really is remarkable what the offense has accomplished, especially since the early part of the year when they were a big worry and the Texas Coast offense was bordering on being the Texas Toast offense.
We shouldn’t forget about the defense. We could do a lot of stats around them too, but let’s let these few take care of that. Dallas is the only team in the NFL that has yet to allow a 100-yard rusher, 100-yard receiver, or given up 300 yards passing to a single QB. The last team to accomplish that through the fist nine games of a season was the 2005 Saints. That is a long way back. You have to go all the way back to the 1977 season to find a Cowboys team that has matched that stat.
Back to the offense. The two guys who have led the renaissance of the offense are Dak Prescott and CeeDee Lamb. Let’s dig into some more individual stats and records there.
Of course, you’ve doubtless heard that Lamb set an NFL record with three consecutive games of 10+ catches and 150+ yards. Some more Lamb stat-busters. He needs 25 yards receiving to reach 1,000 yards in 10 games. Only Michael Irvin will have reached that mark quicker in Cowboys history, he did it nine games in 1995. Once Lamb hits 1,000 yards receiving, he will be the only Cowboys player to do that in three of his first four years.
Lamb can build on his record of eclipsing 150 yards receiving. If he does it again, he will be the only NFL player to do that in four straight games. He can also set or tie numerous other Cowboys records over the next games.
His partner in crime, Dak Prescott, is also tearing it up. Prescott shreds man coverage. His 136.1 passer rating versus man is the best in the NFL and leaves Patrick Mahomes’ 121 second-place effort in the dust.
If Prescott hits 300 yards on Sunday, that would be a franchise record fourth-consecutive game of hitting that mark. Prescott has nine games throwing for four touchdowns, one more game like that ties the franchise mark of ten set by Tony Romo.
Dak currently holds the longest active streak of 100+ passer rating games with four.
- Punter Bryan Anger is having another great season. His 44.8 net punting average is second in the NFL. If he keeps this pace up he’ll break his won franchise record of 44.6 which he set in 2021.
- Jake Ferguson needs one more touchdown catch for his seventh, which would tie him for second among Cowboys tight ends in their first two seasons (Jason Witten, 7). Billy Joe Dupree holds the record at 10.
- Stephen Gilmore actually played eight games with the Panthers in the 2021 season. He had two interceptions in that time.
Team comparison stats:
Scoring Avg. (NFL rank): Dallas - 29.9 (2) Carolina - 17.0 (29)
Opp. Scoring Avg. (NFL rank): Dallas - 18.3 (4) Carolina - 26.9 (30)
Total Off. (NFL rank): Dallas - 379.1 (4) Carolina - 275.6 (30)
Rushing Off. (NFL rank): Dallas - 117.9 (11) Carolina - 90.3 (27)
Passing Off. (NFL rank): Dallas - 261.2 (6) Carolina - 185.2 (27t)
Total Def. (NFL rank): Dallas - 275.1 (3) Carolina - 308.3 (7)
Rushing Def. (NFL rank): Dallas - 109.1 (15) Carolina - 131.9 (26)
Passing Def. (NFL rank): Dallas - 166.0 (2) Carolina - 176.4 (6)