Game Overview ::
By Hilow >>
- The loss of Christian McCaffrey is a #bigdeal for the Panthers
- CMC leaves behind over a 40% running back opportunity rate and the second most red zone touches in the NFL
- Highly likely that public perception does not match likeliest game flow and chances at this game developing into something you “had to have”
- Nothing points to a narrowed distribution of opportunities for the Cowboys
How Carolina Will Try To Win ::
The Panthers have run the sixth slowest situation-neutral pace of play to start the young season. Pair that with the ninth highest situation-neutral rush rate (45%) and a defense that has surrendered the second-fewest points per game (10.0), fewest rush yards per attempt against (2.6), third-lowest completion percentage against (57.47%), and third-lowest yards per pass attempt against (8.8) and we begin to see a very clear picture of how this new-look football team is attempting to win games. The big question for the immediate future is how that game plan will change, or if it will at all, in the absence of running back extraordinaire Christian McCaffrey. Although this team lost an offensive star, they did add cornerback CJ Henderson to a vaunted secondary which includes Donte Jackson, AJ Bouye, Keith Taylor, Jeremy Chinn, and Sam Franklin (not to mention standout rookie Jaycee Horn, who landed on IR this week).
Following CMC’s injury in Week 3, rookie running back Chuba Hubbard went on to see 78.44% of the offensive snaps sans CMC, leaving newcomer Royce Freeman a distant 21.56%. To best understand how the team adapted to the loss of CMC, let’s examine the opportunity rate (running back opportunities per snap) of CMC, Hubbard, and Freeman. CMC saw nine total running back opportunities in just 22 offensive snaps prior to his injury, a massive 40.9% opportunity rate. Hubbard saw a solid 16 running back opportunities in 40 offensive snaps, a still unreal 40.0% opportunity rate. Finally, Freeman saw six running back opportunities in 11 offensive snaps, or an unsustainable 54.54% opportunity rate. In total, in a game the Panthers controlled throughout against the hapless Texans, Panther running backs saw an opportunity on 31 of 73 offensive snaps, good for a 42.47% opportunity share. That rate would rank top of the league just about any week of the season. The matchup on the ground yields an average net-adjusted line yards metric of 4.275 but we should expect Chubba Hubbard to see 20-24 meaningful running back opportunities if we assume his 70%+ snap rate carries forward into Week 4 (beat reports out of Carolina say Chubba will draw the start).
Through the air, this offense has reverted to roles and opportunities it found effective two years ago. The current coaching staff has maximized the talents available to them, transitioning wide receivers DJ Moore (10.0 aDOT) and Robby Anderson (18.1 aDOT) back into running routes where each has proved to be most effective throughout their respective careers, but the addition of rookie wide receiver Terrace Marshall (6.1 aDOT, 69.5% slot snap rate) has meant less combined slot snaps for Moore and Anderson. It is likeliest Robby Anderson sees most of the Cowboys’ best defensive player in cornerback Trevon Diggs, who has an interception in each game played this season. The weaknesses of the Cowboys defense are over the short to intermediate middle of the field and perimeter opposite Diggs, where Jourdan Lewis and Anthony Brown have ceded a combined 19 completions on 32 targets in their primary coverage, for 285 yards and three touchdowns. Those are the primary areas of the field that rookie wide receiver Terrace Marshall, Jr. operates. Behind the three starting wide receivers, Brandon Zylstra has played only 44 offensive snaps through the weeks and a whopping five tight ends (Ian Thomas, Dan Arnold, Tommy Tremble, Giovanni Ricci, and Colin Thompson) have played meaningful snaps this season, with all five seeing snaps in two of three games. Consider me not excited about this situation moving forward even with the departure of Dan Arnold.
How Dallas Will Try To Win ::
Dallas is seen as an offense that plays with pace and throws the football at a high rate, which was true in Week 1 prior to the injury to wide receiver Michael Gallup. The numbers tell a different story since his injury. In Week 2 and Week 3, Dallas carried the second-highest situation-neutral rush rate at 55% behind only the Browns and ranked right in the middle of the league in pace of play. Not only that but their offensive line is healthy and back to being an elite run-blocking unit (ranked first in the NFL in adjusted line yards through three weeks). Dallas has also followed suit with the changing dynamics and trends in the NFL of increased 12-personnel rates, playing two tight ends 30% of the time (11-personnel at a below-average 57% clip).
The matchup on the ground is going to be a fun one to watch from a fan’s perspective as it pits the top-performing run-blocking offensive line against a defense allowing the fewest yards per carry to start the season, a matchup that yields a below-average 3.825 net-adjusted line yards metric. The “one cut and find your lane” running style of Ezekiel Elliott at this point in his career mixes well with the open-field burst and vision of Tony Pollard, but the Cowboys have been reluctant to play them on the field together thus far, leaving the offense a little more predictable than we’d otherwise like to see from a rushing perspective.
The matchup through the air appears likeliest to yield production for the Cowboys as their offense has been much more tailored to the short and intermediate areas of the field this season (24th-ranked yards per completion at 9.7; Amari Cooper aDOT of 8.1, CeeDee Lamb aDOT of 10.5, Cedrick Wilson aDOT of 8.4, Noah Brown aDOT of 9.0), areas which the Panthers are more likely to cede production to based on their back-end-forward defensive philosophy which aims to shorten the field, keep the play in front of them, and swarm to the point of reception to limit yards after the catch. In other words, we can expect both Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb to see respectable volume here, but their individual upside is limited due to the prevent nature of Carolina’s heavy zone defense. Behind those two, all of Cedrick Wilson, Noah Brown, Dalton Schultz, and Blake Jarwin should be expected to see 30-70% snap rates in what has become a maddening timeshare of secondary pass game options.
Likeliest Game Flow ::
There is clear expected regression from a Carolina defense ranked first in the NFL in most defensive metrics (first in yards allowed per drive at 17.31, first in plays per drive at 4.75, first in time of possession per drive at 2:18, and first in drive success rate allowed at 56.3%), but this is yet another difficult matchup for these Cowboys following games against the Buccaneers, Chargers, and Eagles. On the other side of that coin, this will serve as the Panthers most difficult test, particularly on defense, after they opened the season with games against the Jets, Saints, and Texans. Due to the tendencies of both the Dallas offense and the Carolina defense, it is likeliest we see this game start with limited splash plays and two teams aiming to control the trenches down low. This will force an early game flow where each team is likely to aim to string drives together through methodical (and time consuming) drives. With a game setup like we have here, the overall game flow possibilities begin to narrow, leaving a lower likelihood of a back-and-forth style shootout. In other words, this game holds greater than a 50% chance to struggle to hit its lofty game total of 50.5.
DFS+ Interpretation ::
By LexMiraglia10 >>
- DAL has shown improvement on D with Dan Quinn despite losing Demarcus Lawrence, holding TB, LAC, & PHI to 31, 17, & 21 points
- DAL’s D should be the toughest matchup yet for CAR after they’ve faced NYJ, depleted NOR, & HOU
- DAL’s offense should certainly be CAR’s toughest matchup yet after facing Zach Wilson, Winston, & Mills; losing CB Jaycee Horn also significant
- CAR has yet to trail in a game, outscoring opponents 69-30 to start the season
- CAR currently ranks 1st in defensive DVOA (1st in pass & rush both)
- CAR has the most pressures in the NFL
- Dak pass yds with McCarthy: 266 // 450 // 472 // 502 // 403 // 237 // 238
- After 58 pass att in a W1 shootout vs a pass funnel defense, Dak has thrown just 27 & 26 times in the last two games (DAL has 30 & 32 non-QB rush att in those games)
- Dak has scored 20+ DK pts in 22/30 games as a Home Favorite
- When the spread is within 4 pts, he has scored 25+ DK pts in 7/13 games and 30+ DK pts in 5/13 games
- 2020 DAL targets in 4 full Dak games: Cooper (51) // Lamb (28) // Gallup (24)
- 2021 DAL targets: Cooper (16, 5, 4) // Lamb (15, 9, 3) // Gallup (7, – -) // Wilson (3, 2, 4)
- Avg intended air yds: Cooper (8.7) // Lamb (10.2) // Wilson (9.5)
- CAR has faced the 11th lowest aDOT (7.3)
- CAR has allowed the 3rd fewest YAC
- Lamb has the 6th highest YAC above expectation per NextGenStats
- #1 WRs vs CAR: Davis (5:97:2) // Callaway (2:8) // Cooks (9:112)
- Top WR in every Dak/McCarthy game (DK pts): Cooper (18.1) // Lamb (19.6) // Wilson (30.7), Gallup (28.8) // Cooper (34.4) // Cooper (41.9) // Lamb (17.4) // Wilson (9.7)
- Rush att: Elliott (11, 16, 17) // Pollard (3, 13, 11)
- Targets: Elliott (2, 2, 3) // Pollard (4, 3, 1)
- Total yds: Elliott (39, 97, 116) // Pollard (43, 140, 65)
- Top RB yds vs CAR: Ty Johnson (26) // Kamara (30) // Ingram (20)
- Elliott is averaging 21.1 DK pts/g in 33 games as a Home Favorite
- Darnold scored 20+ DK pts in just 8/38 games with NYJ (just one of 30+)
- Darnold has scored 20.1, 22.9, 28.3 DK pts in his first three games for CAR
- QBs vs DAL: Brady (379:4:2) // Herbert (338:1:2) // Hurts (326:2:2)
- Darnold will not have his second-most heavily targeted player in superstar CMC, and his top WR will deal with suddenly elite CB Trevon Diggs
- DAL ranks 14th in defensive pass DVOA through three weeks
- Targets: Moore (8, 11, 12) // Anderson (3, 6, 2) // Marshall (6, 3, 5)
- Only MVS & Hamler have higher avg intended air yds than Robby Anderson
- With Moore dominating targets, he has produced 80, 79, & 126 yds against the weak CBs of NYJ, NOR, HOU (Diggs his toughest matchup to date)
- Best WRs vs DAL: Brown (5:121:1), Godwin (9:105:1) // Keenan (4:108), Williams (7:91:1) // Reagor (5:53)
- 210 underdog WRs averaging 8+ tg since 2014 in 50+ pt total games are averaging 17.75 points
- Some notable WR scores that have fit this criteria in 2021 (DK pts): Cooper (41.9) // Hopkins (26.3) // Jefferson (18.5) // Ridley (19.3) // Mike Will (36.2) // Jefferson (29.8) // Kupp (30.6) // Adams (34.2)
- Hubbard received 11 att & 5 tg after CMC left early in W3
- Royce Freeman received 5 att & 1 tg behind him
- Top RB total yds vs DAL: Fournette (59) // Ekeler (115) // Sanders (55)
- Backfield rec yds vs DAL: TB (39) // LAC (68) // PHI (65)