How you feeling? Cowboys-Panthers

October, 21, 2012
10/21/12
10:55
AM ET
As the Dallas Cowboys prepare to play the Carolina Panthers at 1 p.m. ET (noon CT) today in Charlotte, here's one reason for Cowboys fans to feel good and one reason for concern.

Feeling good: If there's a team against which the Cowboys can hope to continue the success they had running the ball last week in Baltimore, it may be a Panthers team that ranks 23rd in the league in rushing yards allowed per game (127.4) and yards per attempt (4.4). Even with starting running back DeMarco Murray out, the Cowboys' beleaguered offensive line looked tough and physical in Baltimore and was able to open holes for backups Felix Jones and Phillip Tanner. I'd look for more of the same as Dallas tries to maintain balance on offense.

Cause for concern: The Cowboys' defense, so strong in the first three weeks of the season, has struggled in its past two games, especially in the secondary. If Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne aren't locking down wide receivers in one-on-one matchups, the rest of the Cowboys' defense doesn't work the way it's supposed to work. Carolina quarterback Cam Newton is a difficult matchup due to his size and his rushing ability, and the Cowboys want to keep Newton contained in the pocket and force him to make quick decisions while they work to win matchups in the secondary against Steve Smith and the rest of the Carolina receivers. But we still don't know if linebacker Anthony Spencer will play, and if he doesn't the Cowboys will have to devote extra attention to the Carolina run game, which means Carr and Claiborne will have to play much better than they played last week.

Dan Graziano

ESPN New York Giants reporter

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