Some sportsbooks have Carolina as a favorite and some with this game as a pick'em, but others still have Dallas favored for the middle game on Thanksgiving from AT&T Stadium. And you might never see a 3-7 team favored over a 10-0 one again this decade in the NFL. It's only the second time a 10-0 team has opened as an underdog. The other was that storied 1985 Chicago Bears team. It was a 2-point opening dog when it visited a 7-3 Cowboys squad. Chicago won 44-0.
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"A little disrespectful," Carolina coach Ron Rivera said Monday when seeing his team was an underdog. I guarantee you he loves it and has used it as a motivational tool. Rivera played on that '85 Bears team, by the way. It's the third time the Panthers have been underdogs this season. They were +7 at Seattle and +2.5 at home vs. Green Bay.
Carolina is only the third NFC team since 1992 to achieve a 10-0 start. The other two were the 2009 New Orleans Saints and 2011 Green Packers. Both of those teams started 13-0 before losing. Those Saints won the Super Bowl, but the 15-1 Packers were stunned at home in the divisional round by the New York Giants. The Panthers are two games clear of Arizona for the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs. The Panthers and Cardinals don't play in the regular season. After this, the Panthers are: at Saints, vs. Falcons, at Giants, at Falcons, vs. Bucs.Not a very hard schedule with the Falcons fading. Carolina and Arizona are both +300 on Bovada to win the NFC title.
Dallas still could win the sad NFC East as the Cowboys are two games behind the first-place Giants. I went into the season thinking the Eagles would win the division but no longer do -- they likely lose the early Thanksgiving game in Detroit to fall to 4-7. The Cowboys and Giants split their two regular-season meetings, and that's obviously the first tiebreaker. Dallas finishes: at Redskins, at Packers, vs. Jets, at Bills, vs. Redskins. I don't see Dallas winning in Green Bay, so the Cowboys better win this game and the others and hope 8-8 is good enough. Dallas is +300 to win the East with the G-Men at even money. No team has made the playoffs after starting 2-7.
Panthers at Cowboys Betting Story Lines
This is the 47th Thanksgiving game for Dallas -- I had forgotten the St. Louis Cardinals took it from the team in 1975 & '77 -- and it is 29-17-1. It's the first-ever Thanksgiving game for Carolina. Now the only current franchise not to play on the holiday is Jacksonville.
The Dallas players do believe they can win out, and the team is 3-0 in games Tony Romo has started in 2015. He returned from his Week 2 broken collarbone on Sunday and was a bit rusty in a 24-14 win in Miami. Romo was 18-for-28 for 227 yards, two scores and two picks. The Cowboys ran the ball 38 times and passed 28, holding the ball for nearly 39 minutes. That's how they won the NFC East last year -- balance.
One of those Romo TD passes was to Dez Bryant, and it was the 50th between those two. That broke the Dallas record of 49 set by Hall of Famers Troy Aikman and Michael Irvin. Romo is 6-2 in eight Thanksgiving career starts and has thrown for 2,232 yards and 18 scores, the most of any player on the holiday.
I still think Carolina is overrated, but the Cats appear to be improving every game. They won by eight against the Packers in Week 9, by 17 in a potential trap game at Tennessee in Week 10 and then stomped the visiting Redskins 44-16 on Sunday. Cam Newton continued his MVP campaign by tying a team record with five touchdown passes. Newton completed 21-for-34 for 246 yards and threw TD passes to five different receivers. After completing only 53.7 percent of his passes in the first seven games, Newton has completed 70 percent in the past two. The Panthers have now won 14 straight regular-season games dating to last year.
Two story lines involving defensive ends in this one as well. Of course, the Cowboys signed former Panther Greg Hardy this offseason despite all his off-field baggage. He has 4.5 sacks in six games but apparently is turning into a locker-room cancer. Don't think he will be back next year. Guy just doesn't get it. Many Panthers players did want him back, however. Carolina will have defensive end Charles Johnson for this game. He has been out since Week 3 with a severe hamstring injury. Johnson has three seasons of double-digit sacks in his career and had 8.5 in 16 games last year.
The Cowboys won their fifth straight in this series and ninth straight in the regular season, 19-14 in Charlotte on Oct. 21, 2012. Romo threw for 227 yards and a touchdown. Newton finished 21-for-37 for 233 yards with one touchdown and an early interception in the red zone.
Panthers at Cowboys Betting Odds and Trends
At 5Dimes , this game is a pick'em with a total of 45.5. There is thus no moneyline as of this writing. There are gazillions of alternate lines. There's Cowboys -1 (-102), -1.5 (+103), -2 (+108), -2.5 (+113) and -3 (+138). For the Panthers, you have -1 (-102), -1.5 (+103), -2 (+108), -2.5 (+113) and -3 (+138). Plenty more options available. Carolina is 8-2 against the spread (4-0 on road) and 6-3-1 "over/under" (2-2 on road). Dallas is 3-7 ATS (1-4 at home) and 4-6 O/U (3-2 at home).
The Panthers are 4-1 ATS in their past five vs. teams with a losing record. They are 1-4 ATS in their past five Thursday games. Dallas is 5-13 ATS in its past 18 November games. The Cowboys are 1-4 ATS in their past five on Thursday. The over is 7-1 in Carolina's past eight vs. the NFC. It is 9-3 in its past 12 on the road. The under is 4-1 in the Cowboys' past five vs. teams with a winning record. Dallas is 4-1 ATS in the past five meetings.
NFL Expert Picks Against the Spread: Panthers at Cowboys Betting Predictions
For what it's worth, the Cowboys have been favored in each of their past four Thanksgiving games but failed to cover in all of them (losing two straight up). I do believe this is a confident team with Romo under center. Looking forward to watching excellent Panthers cornerback Josh Norma, an NFL Defensive Player of the Year candidate, shadow Bryant. I think Dallas wins straight up, but I might take the 3.5 points on an alternate line (-180). Go under.
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Read more articles by Alan Matthews
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