Keys to Victory

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Keys To Victory: Which Team Can Strike First?

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It's a statement game for teams here in Week 4.

The Panthers are a surprising 3-0 but the schedule is expected to get tougher that what they've seen so far. Those challenges should start on Sunday when they travel to AT&T Stadium.

The Cowboys have won two straight games to get to 2-1 and have one of the best offenses in the NFL, facing a Carolina defense that ranks No. 1 in many categories.

Here's a look at the keys to victory for both the Panthers and Cowboys.

The Cowboys will win if…

The Cowboys will get the victory on Sunday if they can continue to play the balanced offensive attack we've seen in the first three games. One thing offensive coordinator Kellen Moore has shown us so far is that he's willing to play any style of game plan needed to win. We've seen a passing-attack that basically abandoned the run in Tampa Bay and that was enough to win. We saw a running game that kept the Chargers on their toes wide plenty of wide runs. And then against the Eagles, the Cowboys went back to an Old-School approach that run it right over the Eagles and Dak was more of a game manager, but still was efficient without the flashy stats. So whatever the Panthers give, the Cowboys must be willing to adapt to that and have success. More than likely, it'll be a vertical passing game with occasional runs to offset the Panthers blitz.

Defensively, the Cowboys need to put the pressure on Sam Darnold and make him uncomfortable. The Panthers don't have the most experienced offensive line and it can be vulnerable. If Dan Quinn can figure out a way to be creative again with Micah Parsons and get Randy Gregory off the edge, the Cowboys should be able to turn the Panthers over enough to build the lead.

The Panthers will win if…

Carolina has won three games because the offense has been efficient with Darnold at the quarterback spot. He's been a crafty signal-caller and has three rushing touchdowns as well, showing his mobility. But they have to win without Christian McCaffrey and so the Panthers need to rely on rookie Chuba Hubbard, who has plenty of speed, just lacking in experience. Carolina needs to get D.J. Moore in mismatch situations and if he's locked up with Trevon Diggs, then he has to win his share of those battles. Moore leads the NFL in 20+ catches with six and that has to continue for the Panthers to win.

Defensively, the Panthers have to use their team speed to rally to the ball. If Dak Prescott has plenty of time to make throws, he's going to pick them apart, as he's shown this year. But exotic blitzes and coverages is something that needs to work in this game. And with 10 days to prepare since their last game, the Panthers have to use that time to figure out a way to confuse the Cowboys on their short week. An early lead will help turn the Cowboys into more of a passing team, and while that doesn't mean instant success, keeping them one-dimensional is a way to slow them down.

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