Week 4 Game Hub: CAR-DAL

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Week 4 Game Hub: CAR-DAL

Carolina Panthers (3-0, 3-0 ATS) at Dallas Cowboys (2-1, 3-0), 1 p.m.

  • Implied Team Totals: Panthers 23, Cowboys 27.5

  • Spread/Total Movements: 49.5 to 50.5

  • Weather: Dome

  • Panthers Injuries to Watch: RB Christian McCaffrey (hamstring, out), CB Jaycee Horn (foot, IR), DE Yetur Gross-Matos (ankle, doubtful)

  • Cowboys Injuries to Watch: DE Dorance Armstrong (ankle, out), DE Carlos Watkins (knee, out), S Donovan Wilson (groin, out), DE Randy Gregory (knee, questionable)

Brolley’s Panthers Stats and Trends

  • The Panthers own a perfect overall and ATS record and their average cover margin has been by a healthy 10.2 points.

  • The Panthers are 5-1 ATS in their last six games and a perfect 8-0 ATS in their last eight road games.

  • Carolina is 9-2 ATS in its last 11 games as an underdog.

  • The Panthers have played under the total in six straight road games.

  • Christian McCaffrey is on the mend after he suffered a hamstring injury in the second quarter of Week 3, and he’s a long shot to play this week. Chuba Hubbard posted 11/52 rushing and 3/27 receiving on five targets overall against the Texans while Royce Freeman finished with 5/17 rushing with an eight-yard catch. Hubbard dropped a potential touchdown from the one-yard line, and he was promptly replaced by Freeman, who got stoned at the goal line on the next play. Hubbard played 40 snaps with Freeman playing 11, which should be a good indication of their usage while CMC is out. The Cowboys are giving up 5.0 YPC to RBs through three weeks but they’ve faced by far the league-low in carries per game (10.0).

  • Sam Darnold has scored 25.3, 19.9, and 20.1 FP, and he’s averaged 8+ YPA in each of his first three starts with the Panthers, all victories. He completed 23/34 passes for 304 yards (8.9 YPA) and he added two goal-line rushing touchdowns against the Texans in Week 3. The Cowboys have given up 325+ passing yards in every game this season.

  • D.J. Moore looks like a star in the early going and he’s solidified his status as the clear go-to receiver with a hefty 33% target share (31 targets) through three weeks. He’s posted 6+ catches, 75+ yards, and 15+ FP in every game. The Cowboys have developed a bonafide star in the secondary with Trevon Diggs picking off passes in each of Dallas’ first three games — he has six INTs in his last eight games dating back to last season.

  • Robby Anderson’s connection with Darnold in New York clearly hasn’t translated down south, and Robby sits at a meager 12% share (11) after a two-target game against the lowly Texans in Week 3. Anderson finished with just an eight-yard catch and he dropped his other look, which would’ve gone for a minimal gain. Anderson’s 57-yard touchdown in Week 1, which was his only catch in the contest, is the only play keeping him afloat for fantasy at this point. Jalen Reagor posted 5/53 receiving in this matchup last week.

  • Tommy Tremble, a third-round pick out of Notre Dame in the spring, is a player to watch moving forward after the team traded away Dan Arnold for cornerback help. He had a seven-yard rushing touchdown and a 30-yard reception on 26% of the snaps in Week 3. Arnold played on 39% of the snaps to open the season and most of his playing time will transfer to Trimble moving forward. The Cowboys have given up the second-most FPG (20.5) to TEs in the early going.

  • Terrace Marshall has just 10/91 receiving on 14 targets (14% share) through three weeks, and he saw a season-best 62% snap share last week. The rookie could see a spike in his involvement with Arnold out of the picture.

Brolley’s Cowboys Stats and Trends

  • The Cowboys are off to a 3-0 ATS start after finishing with a league-worst 5-11 ATS mark last season.

  • Dallas is 6-1 ATS in its last seven games.

  • The Cowboys are 7-3 toward overs in their last 10 games and they’ve played over the total in four straight home games.

  • Dallas is 4-12 ATS in its last 16 games on short rest.

  • Dak Prescott is completing 77.5% of his passes and he’s averaging 7.9 YPA in his first three games back from his 2020 injury. He’s attempted just 53 passes in the last two weeks after throwing 58 times against the Buccaneers in the season opener. He’s thrown for three TDs twice this season and he just missed out on a goal-line score last week. The Panthers are giving up a league-low 179.0 passing yards per game, but they’ve faced the likes of Davis Mills, Zach Wilson, and Jameis Winston to open the season

  • CeeDee Lamb saw just three targets last week, but he made them count with 3/66 receiving and he just missed on a long score. He still owns a team-best 24% target share, and he’ll square off with a defense that allowed 9/112 receiving to Brandin Cooks last week.

  • Amari Cooper has a pair of five-point fantasy performances the last two weeks with Michael Gallup (calf) out of the lineup after hanging 38.9 FP in the season opener. His rib issue must not have been a big problem as he ran a route on every Dak dropback last week. The Panthers traded for C.J. Henderson this week after first-round pick Jaycee Horn broke his foot last week.

  • Dalton Schultz and Blake Jarwin each ran routes on 62.5% of Dak’s dropbacks last week, but Schultz was the one who ate with 6/80/2 receiving on seven targets — Jarwin caught both of his targets for 14 yards. Schultz has edged ahead here with 6+ catches in two games while Jarwin has yet to see more than four targets in a game. The Panthers have yet to be tested by a tight end, allowing the sixth-fewest FPG (7.1) to the position so far.

  • Ezekiel Elliott has been just fine the last two weeks after Dallas went pass-heavy against the league’s best run defense in the season opener. He’s posted 33/166/3 rushing (5.0 YPC) and he’s caught all five of his targets for 47 yards against inviting run defenses the last two weeks. He’s also been on the field for at least 70% of the snaps in every game even with Pollard emerging next to him. Zeke will face a much stiffer test this week against a Panthers’ defense that’s giving up league-lows in FPG (7.6) and rushing yards per game (31.3) to RBs.

  • Tony Pollard has seen his snap shares rise each week (24%<34%<38%) and he’s off to an explosive start with his 6.8 YPC average on 27 carries. He ran just eight routes and posted just a five-yard catch on his only target in a lopsided affair against the Eagles last week. The Panthers are giving up just 2.2 YPC to RBs in the early going.

Barfield’s Pace and Tendencies

Panthers

Week 1-3 – Pace (seconds in between plays): 29.6 (22nd)

Week 1-3 – Plays per game: 71.3 (16th)

Week 1-3 – Pass: 56.3% (24th) | Run: 43.7% (9th)

Cowboys

Week 1-3 – Pace: 25.9 (6th)

Week 1-3 – Plays per game: 72.7 (2nd)

Week 1-3 – Pass: 59.0% (20th) | Run: 41.0% (13rd)

Pace Points

The Panthers have had a cake walk schedule so far with the lowest quality of opponents in the NFC through Weeks 1-3 (vs. Jets / Saints / Texans). Well, their defense is going to get their stiffest test – and first real threat – here against a Cowboys offense that is fifth in total yardage gained. While Dallas has continued to play fast, they have, somewhat worryingly for fantasy, really scaled back how much they are throwing the ball. Right now, Dallas is 13th in pass rate over expectation – which is only very slightly above-average (0.5%). Last year, the Cowboys were the No. 1 team in pass rate when Dak Prescott was healthy and threw the ball over 10% more often than you would expect in neutral situations. What we’re seeing is Dallas and their coaching staff attack their opponents weaknesses (like the Bucs’ secondary in Week 1 and Chargers run defense in Week 2), unlike last year when they threw the ball a ton because their defense was shellacked in every game. Being “balanced” isn’t about having a dead even 50/50 pass to run ratio, it’s exactly what Dallas is doing: they can pass when they need to and run when they need to. Overall, this game is the second-best in the pace/plays model and should provide fireworks for fantasy with Dallas playing fast and leaning heavily towards the over (6-2) in Dak Prescott’s last eight starts. With Dak healthy, the last 8 Cowboys games have combined for an average of 62.8 points.

Huber’s Key Matchup Notes

It must be very difficult to stomach for fans of the Jets watching Sam Darnold lead the 3-0 Carolina Panthers. And Darnold isn’t simply managing his offense, he’s doing so with a good amount of top-10 QB metrics working in his favor. Darnold ranks 10th with 23.7 FPG while only working with the 18th-most opportunities. He’s averaging 8.3 YPA (11th-highest) and has overcome one of the weakest O-line units by being sacked at the 12th-lowest rate (4.39%). He’s been able to accomplish the feat by using his underrated mobility. The Cowboys are giving up seventh-most pure passing FPG (19.2).

Of course, it’s a little bit of a tougher draw for WR DJ Moore, who could catch a shadow from CB Trevon Diggs (Diggs has shadowed this year, but didn’t against rookie DeVonta Smith last week). Even if Diggs doesn’t shadow, Moore is still likely to spend roughly 40% of his day against him.

The Panthers took a devastating loss when rookie CB Jaycee Horn fractured multiple bones in his foot that will force him out of action for 2-3 months. Horn ranked within the top-five at each of the Big 4 corner metrics. It’ll fall on Donte Jackson to fill his shoes on the outside, at least until C.J. Henderson has an opportunity to get settled in Carolina’s system. His first assignment will be no other than CeeDee Lamb. Good luck, Donte.

Dolan’s Vantage Points

After dropping Dak Prescott back nearly 60 times in Week 1 against the Buccaneers, the Cowboys have taken a more balanced approach in their last two games, with Cowboys RBs splitting 60 carries compared to 53 pass attempts for Prescott. It’s clearly how the Cowboys would like to play if all else in equal, but you do wonder if they will have to drop back and throw it more this week…

… because Carolina is giving up just 7.6 FPG to opposing RBs, though as part of a particularly easy schedule including the Jets and Texans backfields. I’m still playing Ezekiel Elliott as an RB1 after how he’s looked the last two weeks, and Tony Pollard is a usable FLEX because he tends to get the ball when he’s in there. Pollard has played 70 offensive snaps this year and has received a carry or target on 35 of them — exactly 50%. Just hope that the Cowboys’ run game is a different beast for Shaq Thompson and this Carolina defense if you’re relying on Zeke or Pollard.

Meanwhile, Panther coach Matt Rhule had some very flattering words to say about Prescott this week.

Prescott hasn’t actually been great for fantasy purposes — he is the overall QB15 so far this year, owing in large part to the fact that he has just 19 rushing yards in the three games. That’s fewer yards than Tom Brady has. That is probably to be expected given he’s coming off the awful injury, and the Cowboys’ receiving corps lends itself to strong pockets and pocket passing. We’ll see if that lack of mobility shows up this week — the Panthers are generating pressures on 65.0% of opposing dropbacks, by far the highest rate in the NFL. Again, the Panthers’ schedule could have a lot to do with that — I’m not sure I have a great feel for that right now. Prescott is a low-end QB1.

Obviously, CeeDee Lamb and Amari Cooper are in lineups, though neither guy had big numbers against Philly last week (Cooper might not have been 100% with his ribs injury). It was Dalton Schultz who really put up numbers on Philly with 2 TDs, but his route usage was identical to that of Blake Jarwin. That’s a tricky situation for me to break down, but if Schultz continues to pull away in terms of actual targets, I’ll be more willing to fire him into a lineup.

I think it’s a viable week to stream Sam Darnold, and historically he’s done his best against Cover 1, which the Cowboys have played a ton of this year. But I’m also interested to see what Darnold will have to do if his top WR, DJ Moore, has to deal with a Trevon Diggs shadow. Diggs is playing at an exceptional level, and is PFF’s top-graded cover corner so far. You’re not sitting Moore, but he might be more of a WR2 this week.

It’s possible that could finally open the door for Robby Anderson to make an impact. Anderson sits at a meager 12% share (11), and his 57-yard touchdown in Week 1, which was his only catch in the contest, is the only play keeping him afloat for fantasy at this point. That said, the matchup with Anthony Brown is much easier than Moore’s, so I can sign off on Robby as a WR3 this week. Terrace Marshall is still more of a bench stash to me, though he had 5 targets last week.

Also a bench stash — especially in dynasty — is TE Tommy Tremble, who could ascend to a full-time role with Dan Arnold traded away. He was one of our Greg Cosell’s favorite mid-round players in the 2021 NFL Draft.

Our Dr. Edwin Porras doesn’t believe there is much reason to be worried about a longterm absence for Christian McCaffrey, but for as long as CMC (hamstring) remains out, Chuba Hubbard will be on the RB2 radar. Hubbard played on 39 of 50 possible snaps while Royce Freeman got 11 snaps after CMC went down last week. More importantly, Hubbard was involved on 20-of-27 passing plays (74%) and got 5 targets. While he dropped a TD — and maybe the Panthers believe Freeman is a better option at the goal line as a result — there should be plenty of opportunity for the rookie Hubbard here.

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