(Editor's Note: Each Tuesday, the staff of DallasCowboys.com presents "The Big Picture" for the upcoming game, presenting an overall update for each team as they head into the upcoming contest. This week, the Cowboys and Carolina Panthers meet on Thanksgiving Day at AT&T Stadium.)
WHAT:Carolina Panthers (10-0) at Dallas Cowboys (3-7)
WHEN: Thursday, 3:30 p.m. (Central)
WHERE: AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas
The Cowboys franchise is certainly accustomed to this Thanksgiving stretch – Thursday marks its 48th all-time appearance on the annual holiday. But a short week is always a bit easier after a win, and the Cowboys gave themselves about a three-hour plane ride to enjoy their 24-14 win over the Dolphins before getting focused on the unbeaten Panthers.
Following his return to the lineup this past Sunday, quarterback Tony Romo got back to work at Tuesday's practice and knows how to get his body prepared on three days' rest – this will be his ninth career Thanksgiving start. He benefited from a strong running game against the Dolphins – Darren McFadden reached 20-plus carries for the fourth time in five games.
Defensively, the Cowboys have now gotten at least one takeaway in consecutive games for the first time this season. Linebacker Rolando McClain's interception return for a score was a pivotal play against Miami.
These teams last met in 2012 as the Cowboys overcame a fourth-quarter deficit to beat the Panthers, 19-14. This is Carolina's first-ever Thanksgiving Day appearance.
The only undefeated team left in the NFC outscored its last two opponents, Tennessee and Washington, 71-26. It's the best start in Panthers history, and it starts with quarterback Cam Newton's MVP-like performance to date.
Newton threw a career-high five touchdown passes in last Sunday's 44-16 win over the Redskins, and he's equally effective as a rusher from the pocket. He's four rushing touchdowns shy of Steve Young's career quarterback record since the NFL-AFL merger.
Tight end Greg Olsen is Newton's top passing target with team highs in catches (48), yards (718) and receiving touchdowns (6). Since entering the league in 2007, Olsen ranks in the top 10 among tight ends in all three categories.
The Panthers' 29.9-point scoring average, ranked third in the league, is their highest through 10 games in team history. Defensively they're just as stout, yielding the fourth-fewest yards per game (322.8) and tallying the third-most sacks (31). Veteran linebackers Thomas Davis and Luke Kuechly are their leading tacklers, and Davis is the only NFL player this year with at least three sacks (3) and at least three interceptions (3). Cornerback Josh Norman is their top cover man with a team-high four interceptions.
Perhaps the most telling stat about the Panthers' undefeated start is their plus-13 turnover differential, tied for first in the league.