What’s rare is not so wonderful for Fabian Sommer, but following a losing week 3, he’s gearing up for a Week 4 bounceback!
The Panthers took the league by storm during the first three weeks, going 3-0 while displaying a good offense and excellent defensive play.
Let’s talk about DC Phil Snow’s defense first.
They have hammered their opposition over three games, and it shows in the numbers: Carolina’s defense ranks 1st in EPA/dropback (-0.27) and 3rd in EPA/rush (-0.35). Overall, they lead the league at -0.30 EPA/play. It was also a great experience watching them swarm to the football.
Everything sounds good, doesn’t it? Well, not so fast!
For comparison, let’s take a look at the last two league-leading defenses.
- The 2019 Pats averaged -0.15 EPA/play
- The 2020 Rams finished at -0.13 EPA
It’s WAY more likely than not that the Panthers’ defense will regress soon, starting this week at Dallas.
To a certain degree, defensive performance is always mirrored by the opposing offense. Almost every defense will look badly against Patrick Mahomes (when he’s not missing several offensive line starters).
Let’s take a look at who the Panthers have played against so far:
- Week 1: New York Jets – the worst offense in the league that looks completely lost in all phases. They were without WR Jamison Crowder and lost their best offensive lineman (Mekhi Becton) midway through the game.
- Week 2: New Orleans Saints – we can pump the brakes on the Saints’ offense after three weeks. They have no WR to throw to, were without center Erik McCoy and missed several coaches due to COVID-related issues.
- Week 3: Texans – 3rd-round rookie QB Davis Mills in his first-ever NFL start, on a bad team, and having only one reliable WR to throw to (Brandin Cooks).
We can make the case that this is the most favourable starting schedule for a team that we have seen in a long time.
I don’t want to take anything away from the Panthers. They looked good, and they have earned their 3-0 start.
However, their defensive output is primarily a product of the teams they have played against.
This will be a different story against the Cowboys, especially since their secondary is taking hits. They are down three starters from their week one nickel formation: S Juston Burris, CB Myles Hartsfield, and CB Jaycee Horn.
Their secondary consists of Jeremy Chinn, Sean Chandler, Sam Franklin, Donte Jackson, Rashaan Melvin, and newly acquired CJ Henderson.
Maybe AJ Bouye can make his Panthers debut, but that doesn’t move the needle.
They don’t have the players to cover guys like CeeDee Lamb or Amari Cooper.
Let’s be honest: before week one, this secondary wouldn’t have ranked in the upper half.Bet Now
Dak Prescott is on an absolute heater right now, distributing the ball with first-class accuracy.
The Panthers’ defense is blitzing, but the Cowboys’ offensive line is playing well, and Dak Prescott is one of the best pre-snap quarterbacks.
He knows where to go with the ball when he’s getting blitzed.
The Cowboys should have little trouble moving the ball.
The Cowboys’ defense is getting a lot of hype right now, but they are living off turnovers – they lead the league with 8 of them.
When we look at metrics like EPA/dropback and passing success rate, where we can strip out turnovers, they are precisely middle-of-the-pack, ranking 16th in EPA/dropback and 17th in success rate.
I’m not a Sam Darnold fan by any stretch of the imagination.
What the Panthers offense have shown so far is very promising.
Darnold is playing in an offense that uses more play-action, motion, and passes on 2nd down. Carolina had good game scripts, but when we strip out garbage time (win probability between 5-95%), they rank 2nd in EPA/dropback and 4th in success rate.
On early downs, the Panthers lead the league at 0.47 EPA/dropback.
Panthers OC Joe Brady is cooking, and he has ten days to prepare for this Cowboys defense.
Trevon Diggs is playing well, but he cannot cover all DJ Moore, Robby Anderson, and Terrace Marshall.
I am not overly concerned with Christian McCaffrey being injured. Chuba Hubbard should do fine in the run game, and the absence of CMC and Dak putting scoring pressure on Carolina could lead to Joe Brady calling more passes anyway.
I think both defenses are a bit overrated, and I expect both offenses to move the ball, which shapes up nicely for the final score going over the total.
- Panthers vs Cowboys OVER 51.0 (1.87)
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