The best game of the 2015 Thanksgiving schedule is easily the second contest of the day when the Carolina Panthers visit the Dallas Cowboys. Carolina is looking to stay undefeated and continue their incredible season, while Dallas looks to somehow get back into the playoff hunt.
Even though the 10-0 Panthers are seven games better than the Cowboys, Thursday’s Week 12 contest should be very competitive. The Cowboys won their first game since Week 2 on Sunday with Tony Romo returning to the lineup, getting a 24-14 win over the Miami Dolphins.
Carolina wasn’t projected to be a Super Bowl favorite at the beginning of the season, but they just keep on winning, having defeated their last two opponents by a combined 43 points. The Panthers are running away with the NFC South, and they lead the second-place Atlanta Falcons by four games.
Dallas still has an outside chance to win the NFC East, despite their slow start. They trail the first-place New York Giants by just two games, and they are 3-0 with Romo at quarterback.
The Cowboys have been one of the NFL’s worst teams this season, and they are still four games under .500. Jason Garrett's squad hasn’t been favored since Week 1, but they could be giving the Panthers points by kickoff on Thursday.
The game in Dallas is a pick’em at Las Vegas sportsbooks, according to vegasinsider.com, but the Cowboys were favored by one point as recently as Monday morning with the over/under at 46.5 points. Carolina continues to stay undefeated and win convincingly over their opponents, but not everyone believes the Panthers are as good as their record might indicate. Even though they have a two-game lead on the rest of the NFC, Carolina still doesn’t have the best Super Bowl odds in the conference.
Dallas was considered to be one of the NFC’s best teams before Romo got hurt, and they began the season with higher expectations than the Panthers. If the Cowboys are favored, it will be the only time in NFL history that a team that is undefeated in Week 10 or later is an underdog against a team with a losing record.
Cam Newton Making MVP Case
Newton’s name was mentioned in the early-season MVP conversation, and now there is no more debate. The quarterback has been among the NFL’s best players this season, and he’s one of the top candidates to win the award.
Several quarterbacks have more offensive weapons than Newton, but Carolina’s star quarterback has helped make his offense one of the best in football. The Panthers rank third in the NFL with 29.9 points per game, and they’ve been incredibly consistent, scoring at least 27 points in their last eight games.
Newton’s numbers weren’t very impressive at the start of the year, but after 10 games they are more than respectable. Including rushing touchdowns, he has 26 scores on the season and nine interceptions. Newton has registered a passer rating of at least 104.4 in each of his last three games, totaling 760 passing yards, 11 touchdowns and one pick over that span.
Romo’s Return Breathes Life Into Dallas
Dallas had a chance to win most of their games during their seven-game losing streak, but they were unable to pull out a victory with a bad starting quarterback. The Cowboys were able to snap that streak with Romo back in the lineup, and they are a much different team than they were a week ago.
The Cowboys’ offense wasn't always clicking against the Dolphins, but Dallas was in control of the game for most of the way. Romo had an 83.5 passer rating, leading the Cowboys to 24 points. The Cowboys scored just 26 total points in Brandon Weeden’s final two starts with the team, and Cassel had a passer rating of less than 70.0 in three of his four starts with the team.
Romo is coming off his best season in the NFL. He had a 113.2 passer rating last year, throwing for 3,705 yards, 34 touchdowns and nine interceptions in 15 games. He completed 75 percent of his passes before going down with a collarbone injury in Week 2.
The betting public keeps waiting for the Panthers to be exposed, but it’s time to accept that they are just a very good team. Dallas is probably the best team in the NFC East now that Romo is back under center, but they don’t have a reliable running back and their defense is no better than average. This promises to be a tight game with two teams entering with momentum.
Carolina over Dallas, 30-27