NFL : Saturday Football

NFL : Saturday Football

Cowboys come off humbling loss, face Panthers

Dallas was held to six points at home by Philly and hits the road to face upset-minded Carolina in Week 16. The Cowboys opened as huge road chalk but after the Cats upset the Seahawks, are they ready to give the ?Boys a game? Of note, the past four meetings have all played OVER the total.

The Cowboys lost to Philadelphia 10-6 as a 10-point favorite in Week 15. The combined score fell UNDER the posted over/under total (49).

Tony Romo completed 13-of-36 passes for 214 yards with three interceptions for Dallas and Marion Barber rushed for 32 yards on seven carries.

The Panthers defeated Seattle 13-10 as a 7.5-point underdog in Week 15. The combined score fell UNDER the posted over/under total (37).

DeAngelo Williams rushed for 61 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries for Carolina, while Matt Moore completed 19-of-27 passes fro 208 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions in the win.

Team records:
Dallas: 12-2 SU, 9-5 ATS
Carolina: 6-8 SU, 6-8 ATS

Dallas most recently:
When playing in December are 5-5
When playing on grass are 7-3
After being outgained are 5-5
When playing outside the division are 8-2

Carolina most recently:
When playing in December are 5-5
When playing on grass are 3-7
After outgaining opponent are 3-7
When playing outside the division are 4-6

A few trends to consider:
Dallas is 5-0 SU in its last 5 games on the road
The total has gone OVER in 5 of Dallas's last 5 games on the road
Dallas is 7-1 SU in its last 8 games
Dallas is 6-1 SU in its last 7 games when playing Carolina
The total has gone UNDER in 5 of Carolina's last 6 games at home
The total has gone OVER in 4 of Carolina's last 5 games when playing Dallas
The total has gone OVER in 4 of Carolina's last 5 games when playing at home against Dallas
The total has gone UNDER in 8 of Carolina's last 11 games

Next up:
Dallas at Washington, Sunday, December 30
Carolina at Tampa Bay, Sunday, December 30

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Re: NFL : Saturday Football

Dallas (12-2, 9-5 ATS) at Carolina (6-8 SU and ATS)

Four days after tasting defeat for just the second time this season, the Cowboys hit the road needing to beat the Panthers to maintain their hold on the No. 1 seed for the upcoming NFC playoffs.

Dallas played its worst game of the season on Sunday against Philadelphia, producing season-lows of six points and 240 total yards in a 10-6 loss as a 10-point home favorite, snapping a seven-game SU winning streak. QB Tony Romo had his worst game as a pro, going 13-for-36 for 214 yards and three interceptions, and the Cowboys failed to score a touchdown for the first time in more than three years.

Hours before the Cowboys suffered their stunning loss to the Eagles, Carolina was involved in its own surprise, upsetting the Seahawks 13-10 as a 7½-point home underdog. Fifth-string quarterback Matt Moore, an undrafted rookie out of Oregon, was solid in his first NFL start, going 19 of 27 for 208 yards with no INTs or sacks. The Panthers, who outgained Seattle 322-282, have followed up a five-game SU and ATS losing skid by winning and covering two of their last three.

The straight-up winner has covered the spread in all 14 of Carolina’s games this year.

Romo’s first NFL start came in Carolina last year, and he rallied Dallas to a 35-14 victory as a 4½-point road underdog. The Cowboys have defeated the Panthers in six consecutive regular-season meetings (5-1-1 ATS), including a pair of upset road wins the last two years. However, the Panthers topped Dallas twice in the postseason following the 2003 and 1996 campaigns.

Including the playoffs, the underdog is 7-2-1 ATS all time in this series, including six outright upsets.

Carolina has followed up a seven-game SU and ATS home losing skid with back-to-back wins and covers at Bank of America Stadium. The Panthers, who average a paltry 14 points and 278.3 total yards per game on their own turf, are still just 3-12-1 ATS in their last 16 at home.

Dallas’ last road trip was 10 days ago when it went to Detroit and rallied for a last-second 28-27 victory, failing to cash as a 10½-point road chalk. The Cowboys have followed up a 5-1 ATS run with consecutive non-covers, both as a double-digit favorite. Wade Phillips’ team is now 2-4 ATS when laying double digits this season, including 0-2 ATS on the road.

For the season, the Cowboys are 6-0 on the highway (4-2 ATS). They’ve outscored their hosts by an average of 12 points per game (32-20) and outgained them by an average of 81 yards per outing (382-301).

The over is 4-0 in the last four series meetings (playoffs included) and 4-0 in the last four battles in Carolina. Also, the over is on runs of 10-4 for Dallas this season, including 6-0 on the road, 7-2-1 for Dallas in December games and 7-2 for Carolina in December.

ATS ADVANTAGE: DALLAS and OVER

gametimepicks.com

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Re: NFL : Saturday Football

Game Preview for Cowboys vs Panthers

(Sports Network) - Fourteen months ago, Tony Romo had his coming out party at Charlotte's Bank of America Stadium. Now, the Dallas Cowboys quarterback will head to the site of his first taste of success, while hoping to rebound from the worst start of his young career as the NFC East champions visit the Carolina Panthers this Saturday.

Romo's meteoric rise to stardom began when he supplanted Drew Bledsoe as the Cowboys' starter under center in a game against Carolina during Week 8 of last season. The confident signal-caller came through with a strong performance in his first NFL start, completing 24-of-36 throws for 270 yards and a touchdown to lead Dallas to a 35-14 victory over the Panthers.

The 27-year-old has gone on to achieve even greater success since that outing, as he's guided the Cowboys to a 12-2 overall record and the inside track towards earning the top seed for the upcoming NFC playoffs so far this year, as well as ranking among the league leaders in virtually every passing category. However, Romo couldn't live up to his usual high standards when Dallas squared off against the Philadelphia Eagles last Sunday.

Romo hit on just 13-of-36 throws and was intercepted three times during that game, as the Cowboys were dealt a surprising 10-6 defeat at the hands of their division rival. He finished with a 22.2 quarterback rating that was by far the lowest of his 24 lifetime starts.

The undrafted triggerman will not only have to quickly shake off that subpar showing, but also a bruised thumb on his throwing hand that Romo suffered during the second half of last week's loss.

Romo's rough week did get a little brighter on Tuesday, when he was one of a league-high 11 Cowboys named to the NFC Pro Bowl squad.

Sunday's setback snapped a seven-game win streak for Dallas, which can still secure the conference's No. 1 seed with a victory over the Panthers coupled with a loss by Green Bay to Chicago on Sunday.

Carolina is still in the hunt for one of the NFC's two Wild Card berths, albeit barely. In order to make the playoffs, the 6-8 Panthers will need to win their final two regular-season games and have Minnesota lose their last pair, plus Washington has to drop next weekend's matchup with Dallas and New Orleans has to fall in one of its two remaining contests.

The Panthers remained alive in the chase with last Sunday's 13-10 upset of NFC West champ Seattle, fueled by an impressively efficient day from rookie quarterback Matt Moore. The 23-year-old completed 19-of-27 passes for 208 yards and no interceptions in his NFL starting debut.

Moore may be a relative unknown around the league, but the Cowboys are quite familiar with the youngster's talents. He signed with Dallas as an undrafted free agent in the spring and spent training camp and preseason with the club before being released during the final roster cuts. Moore was then promptly claimed off waivers by Carolina.

SERIES HISTORY

Dallas leads the all-time regular season series with Carolina, 6-1, winning six straight since the Panthers notched their only such win against the Cowboys at Texas Stadium in 1997. Dallas was a 35-14 winner at Bank of America Stadium last season, in a game that, as mentioned, marked the first career start for Romo. Dallas is 3-0 in regular season games played in Charlotte.

In addition to the regular season series, the teams have met twice in the postseason, with the Panthers winning both. Carolina was a 26-17 home victor in a 1997 NFC Divisional Playoff, and took a 29-10 decision in a 2003 NFC First-Round Playoff.

Cowboys head coach Wade Phillips is 1-0 in his career against the Panthers, with that win coming for his Buffalo Bills team in 1998. The Panthers' John Fox is 2-3 in his career against Dallas, and will be meeting Phillips for the first time as a head coach.

WHEN THE COWBOYS HAVE THE BALL

Dallas is coming off a rare poor display on offense, as its normally prolific unit was limited to a season-low 240 yards by the Eagles and failed to put up 24 points in a game for the first time this year. The Cowboys still stand second in the NFL in both scoring (32.5 ypg) and total yards (389.2 ypg), and boast a trio of elite skill players in Romo (3838 passing yards, 35 TD, 17 TD), wide receiver Terrell Owens (76 receptions, 1307 yards, 14 TD) and tight end Jason Witten (88 receptions, 1068 yards, 7 TD). Owens has been held in check as of late, having recorded just 58 yards on five catches without a score over the last two weeks, but Witten has delivered back-to-back outstanding efforts to offset his teammate's recent dip in production. He had a team-best eight grabs for 113 yards in last Sunday's defeat. Dallas' third- ranked passing offense (270.4 ypg) should get a further boost this week from the hopeful addition of veteran wideout Terry Glenn, who's finally ready to return from knee surgery that forced him to sit out the team's first 14 games.

The Cowboys can run the ball as well, as the potent duo of Marion Barber (871 rushing yards, 40 receptions, 11 total TD) and Julius Jones (556 rushing yards, 2 TD, 20 receptions) averages over 100 yards per game behind a top- notch line that had three members -- center Andre Gurode, guard Leonard Davis and tackle Flozell Adams -- receive Pro Bowl nods this week. Gurode will likely sit out Saturday's tilt, however, after spraining his right knee in the Philadelphia game. Barber will also be headed to Honolulu as one of seven Dallas offensive players to represent the NFC.

Carolina will attempt to rattle Romo in much the same way the Eagles did last week, when Philly sacked the all-star quarterback four times and hurried him into a number of off-target throws. Pressuring the passer has been a year-long problem area for the Panthers, though. The club is last in the league with 19 sacks, although the defense got to Seattle's Matt Hasselbeck three times on Sunday. Compounding the issue is the potential loss of standout end Julius Peppers (39 tackles, 3 sacks), who suffered a knee sprain against the Seahawks and is highly questionable to play. Carolina, which comes in 13th overall in pass defense (212.4 ypg), does have the talent in the secondary to stay with Dallas' strong receiving corps, as Chris Gamble (46 tackles, 1 INT), Ken Lucas (56 tackles, 2 INT, 11 PD) and Richard Marshall (69 tackles, 2 INT) are all capable corners.

After yielding an unwanted 178 rushing yards in a loss to Jacksonville two weeks ago, Carolina's defense toughened up against Seattle and held the Seahawks to a mere 44 yards on the ground. For the year the Panthers are allowing a stout 3.7 yards per rush attempt, with massive tackles Maake Kemoeatu (39 tackles) and Kris Jenkins (34 tackles, 2.5 sacks) plugging the gaps for rookie middle linebacker Jon Beason (118 tackles, 1 INT) and athletic strong safety Chris Harris (90 tackles, 1 INT, 8 forced fumbles) to make plays.

WHEN THE PANTHERS HAVE THE BALL


The insertion of Moore (374 passing yards, 0 TD, 3 INT) provided some much- needed stability to a Carolina offense that has struggled mightily since regular quarterback Jake Delhomme went down with a season-ending elbow injury in Week 3. The little-known rookie hit on 70 percent of his air attempts versus Seattle and enabled the Panthers to convert 9-of-18 third-down attempts for the game, while also engineering a pair of long scoring drives during the fourth quarter. Moore will be looking often in the direction of dangerous wideout Steve Smith (73 receptions, 6 TD), who hauled in eight passes last week. Second-year tight end Jeff King (45 receptions, 2 TD) serves as the main safety valve for a Carolina squad which averages just 172.8 passing yards per game (28th overall).

The Panthers also use a two-pronged ground attack, with DeShaun Foster (821 rushing yards, 23 receptions, 4 total TD) and DeAngelo Williams (536 rushing yards, 22 receptions, 3 total TD) splitting ball-carrying duties for the team's 15th-ranked rushing offense (112.5 ypg). Williams has been the more effective part of the tandem, as the 2006 first-round pick is averaging 4.7 yards per attempt and sealed last Sunday's victory with a late 35-yard touchdown run. Foster totaled only 47 yards on 18 rushes in the game.

Those two backs will be plugging away at a Dallas defense that has become quite submissive against the run in recent weeks. The Cowboys surrendered 134 rushing yards in the Philadelphia loss, one week after a Detroit's normally- useless ground game piled up a whopping 152 yards on them. Dallas will also be without one of best defensive stoppers for this test, as strong safety Roy Williams (83 tackles, 2 INT) will serve a one-game suspension for an illegal "horse-collar" tackle on the Eagles' Donovan McNabb last Sunday. He will be replaced in the lineup by special-teams stalwart Keith Davis (16 tackles). Despite their recent troubles, the Cowboys still rank fourth in the NFL in rushing defense (90.7 ypg).

Expect the Cowboys to try to apply the heat to Moore with its outstanding pass-rush combo of linebackers DeMarcus Ware (75 tackles, 11 sacks) and Greg Ellis (27 tackles, 11.5 sacks). The pair has accounted for over half of the club's healthy season total of 38 sacks. Ware is one of three Dallas defensive players chosen to this year's Pro Bowl, along with cornerback Terence Newman (46 tackles, 4 INT, 12 PD) and free safety Ken Hamlin (54 tackles, 5 INT, 13 PD). Those latter two have been the top performers on a secondary which has given up 217.1 passing yards per game (15th overall) but has snared 18 interceptions.

FANTASY FOCUS

Those who have rode Romo to get this far in the fantasy playoffs shouldn't jump ship on their top quarterback because of one lousy day, and the odds are he'll reward his owners with a nice rebound effort on Saturday. Owens and Witten are must-plays for Dallas as well. The Panthers won't be able to stop both of them, so whoever Carolina decides to focus its attention on in this game, the other should have a big night. Barber's been a very good fantasy back as well, and makes for a good start, while the Dallas defense has plenty of point-producing potential against a Panthers team that struggles to score and will be fielding an inexperienced quarterback. Smith has had a disappointing year from a fantasy perspective, but Carolina's best offensive weapon still remains start-worthy. He's probably the only one on the home side with that status, however.

OVERALL ANALYSIS

The Cowboys' impressive body of work over the course of this season still tabs them as the team to beat in the NFC, but their back-to-back mediocre showings following their big win over Green Bay in Week 13 is a cause for concern with the postseason just around the corner. Now Dallas is in a situation where there's precious little margin for error, as there's a very good chance that the NFC East champions will have to win out in order to capture home-field advantage for the conference playoffs. That should be more than enough motivation for the Cowboys to come out firing on all cylinders. The Panthers will surely try to control the clock on offense, and if Moore can effectively move the chains like he did last week, Dallas could have a battle on its hands. Carolina's defense is capable of neutralizing the Cowboys' run game but needs to get consistent pressure on Romo to keep the score close, as there's no way the Panthers will be able to win in a shootout. The thought here is that Romo gets plenty of protection and will have a strong return to form after his one-week hiccup.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Cowboys 24, Panthers 10

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Re: NFL : Saturday Football

Peppers doubtful with knee injury
December 21st, 2007

Charlotte, NC (Sports Network) - Carolina Panthers defensive end Julius Peppers is listed as doubtful for Saturday's game against Dallas because of a sprained knee. Peppers suffered the injury in the first half of last week's game against Seattle, he hasn't practiced since.

Peppers leads all Carolina defensive linemen with 55 tackles through 14 games this season. He also added three sacks, three forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, one interception, 19 quarterback hurries and two blocked kicks in those 14 contests.

Should Peppers fail to make the start, it would end his streak of 78 consecutive starts. That mark ties him with tackle Jordan Gross for longest among active Panthers.

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Re: NFL : Saturday Football

Boys big 'chalk' at Carolina
By Brian Edwards

A number of NFL games on the Week 16 card have minimal significance, but that won’t be the case in Charlotte where Carolina will play host to Dallas on Saturday night. The Cowboys have no room for error in terms of clinching the NFC’s top seed ahead of Green Bay, while the Panthers’ slim playoff hopes are still alive, albeit barely.

Most sports books are listing Dallas (12-2 straight up, 9-5 against the spread) as a 10½-point favorite with the total in the 42-43 range. Gamblers can back the Panthers to win outright for a plus 400 return (risk $100 to win $400).

The Cowboys are looking to bounce back from a 10-6 home loss to Philadelphia as 10-point ‘chalk.’ Tony Romo had the worst game of his career, completing just 13-of-36 passes with zero touchdowns and three interceptions. In fairness to the Pro-Bowl signal caller, he did suffer an injury to his right thumb in the first half.

Despite the thumb malady that clearly bothered Romo against the Eagles, he will play this week. The Cowboys certainly need him because they must win their final two games – assuming Green Bay does the same – in order to have homefield advantage throughout the playoffs.

Carolina (6-8 SU, 6-8 ATS) might be playing for John Fox’s job and it can stay alive for the playoffs with a victory in this spot. The Panthers are off a 13-10 win over Seattle as seven-point home underdogs.

Rookie quarterback Matt Moore threw for 209 yards and played mistake-free football for the winners. DeAngelo Williams scored on a 35-yard touchdown run and Steve Smith added eight receptions for 72 yards.

Carolina’s season has seemingly been cursed since starting QB Jake Delhomme went down with a season-ending elbow injury at Atlanta way back in Week 3. Since then, off-season signee David Carr has either been injured or ineffective, leaving Fox to go with either the 44-year-old Vinny Testaverde or the rookie Moore. Neither had been a very good option until Moore’s solid showing last week.

On the flip side, Dallas has received MVP-like play from Romo with the exception of last week and the interception-happy performance at Buffalo. For the season, Romo has connected on 64.9 percent of his passes for 3,868 yards. The Eastern Illinois product has a 35/17 touchdown-interception ratio.

Terrell Owens has been Romo’s big-play target. The former team cancer in San Francisco and Philadelphia has enjoyed an outstanding campaign, hauling in 76 receptions for 1,307 yards and 14 TDs. Tight end Jason Witten has actually been Romo’s favorite target, as the combination have hooked up 88 times for 1,068 yards and seven TDs.

But the Cowboys’ high-octane offense hasn’t been limited to the aerial attack. Dallas can run the ball effectively with the 1-2 combo of Marion Barber and Julius Jones. Barber averages 4.9 yards per carry and has nine rushing TDs.

The media has attempted to link the presence of Jessica Simpson at the Philadelphia game to Romo’s poor play last week. Therefore, he will be anxious to respond against Carolina to put the Simpson distraction to bed.

Dallas is unbeaten in six road games this year, posting a 4-2 spread record in the process. Even better, the Cowboys are 7-2-1 ATS in their last 10 road outings dating back to last season.

On the other hand, Carolina has struggled in Charlotte. The Panthers are 2-5 both SU and ATS at home. They are 1-4 ATS in five games as home underdogs since 2006.

The ‘over’ has been a big-time money maker for the Cowboys. In fact, they have seen the ‘over’ post an unblemished 6-0 mark in their road games.

Carolina might be without its best pass rusher, Julius Peppers. The perennial Pro-Bowl defensive end is listed as "doubtful." Peppers has a sprained knee and hasn’t practice this week. Smith, one of the NFL’s top WRs, is expected to play despite an illness that caused him to miss Tuesday’s practice.

Moore will get the starting nod at QB for the Panthers. Testaverde’s status as the No. 2 QB is “questionable.”

The NFL Network will provide television coverage Saturday night at 8:15 p.m. Eastern.

vegasinsider.com.

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Road is perfect fit for Cowboys

They've been a better bet away from home.

For most NFL teams, playing at home is a positive. But not for the 2007 Dallas Cowboys, who have been a better bet on the road than at Texas Stadium.

Under first-year Coach Wade Phillips, Dallas leads the NFC East with a 12-2 record, which includes a spotless 6-0 mark away from home.

That's good news for loyal supporters of the Cowboys, who are listed as 10 1/2 -point road favorites for tonight's game at 6-8 Carolina.

Dallas is 7-2-1 against the spread in its last 10 road games and 10-4 against the spread in its last 14 games versus a team with a losing record.

Another good sign for the Cowboys, 9-5 against the spread this season, is that they have won two in a row at Carolina, including last year's 35-14 victory.

In that game, quarterback Tony Romo made his first NFL start and completed 24 of 36 passes for 270 yards and a touchdown. With Romo as a starter, Dallas has won 20 of its last 24 regular-season games.

Carolina, 6-8 against the spread, will start rookie Matt Moore at quarterback, and the Panthers are hoping that he can deliver as he did in last week's 13-10 victory over Seattle.

In his first career start, Moore completed 19 of 27 passes for 208 yards and gave Carolina's offense some much-needed stability. Moore needs to play well again tonight to help Carolina break a few negative trends.

The Panthers are 1-4 against the spread in their last five games against a team with a winning record, and 1-5 against the spread in their last six games as an underdog.

And finally: The over/under for tonight's game is 43 points. The over is 11-1-2 in the last 14 games Dallas has played as a road favorite and the over is 5-1 in the Panthers' last six games played as an underdog of 10 1/2 points or more.

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Glenn still on standby for Dallas Cowboys

IRVING – Time is running short on Terry Glenn getting on the field before the Dallas Cowboys reach the playoffs.

Glenn is one of three injured players, joining Andre Gurode and Patrick Watkins, who won't make the trip to Charlotte, N.C., today. Coach Wade Phillips said Thursday morning that he'd make an assessment on Glenn's condition at practice, and after the workout decided that Glenn wasn't quite ready.

As has been the case all week, Glenn participated on a limited basis in seven-on-seven work but was held out of team drills. For the 30 minutes the media was present at practice, Glenn was off to the side, without a helmet.
Cowboys/NFL

"We're going based on how he feels, and [head athletic trainer] Jim Maurer and our doctors and [associate athletic trainer] Britt [Brown], how they feel about him," Phillips said. "Some of it's confidence. Anytime coming off an injury or an operation, how a player feels, how confident he is, I don't want them to get out there if they're not confident."

Although the team hopes Glenn can play in the season finale against the Redskins, Phillips also has said he wouldn't hesitate to put the veteran in a playoff game even if he doesn't get in a regular-season contest.

Crockett practices: Fullback Zack Crockett practiced after being claimed off waivers from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Phillips and Crockett were tight-lipped on whether he would be able to play against Carolina. But Crockett's ability to play special teams, with safety Keith Davis playing an expanded role and Watkins shelved, could be valuable this week.

"Just go out there and make plays and do what you do and be ready for anything they put in front of you," Crockett said of his approach. "And when they call your number, you've got to be ready."

Crockett had two stints with Tampa Bay this year after an eight-year run with the Raiders, the last seven of which (2000-06) were spent with Cowboys running backs coach Skip Peete as his position coach. The 13-year veteran can play tailback and fullback and provides insurance behind fullback Oliver Hoyte, who has fought through a neck sprain and may require off-season surgery.

Expect rookie to be busy: Courtney Brown might see more action defensively Saturday than he's seen the rest of the season combined. The rookie assumes a role as one of the team's top safeties in the dime defense, taking over Watkins' spot.

Brown also will fill in for Watkins on the field goal block team. He already is on the kickoff, kickoff return, punt and punt return teams.

"I'm going to play a lot, a lot of special teams, even more than before," Brown said. "That's what everyone wants to do, get out there and play. ... But I'm going to prepare like any other week. Someone could've gone down and they would've thrown me in, so I've had to be ready."

dallasnews.com

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What bettors need to know: Cowboys at Panthers
Covers.com

Dallas Cowboys at Carolina Panthers (10½, 43)

History repeating itself ?

The Cowboys have claimed a place in the playoffs thanks to a 12-2 record. But that doesn’t mean they are taking their final two games lightly. Following last week’s loss to the Eagles, Dallas needs to get back on track against Carolina.

History is not on its side. Since its last playoff victory in 1997, Dallas has continually come undone at the end of the season. The Cowboys are 16-29 in games played in December and early January over that time, and that doesn’t include four playoff losses.

"I wasn't a history major in college, so I don't worry about that history stuff," Terrell Owens told the reporters after Sunday’s loss. "There's no doubt in this locker room. There's no reason for a lack of confidence, not at this stage of the game, anyway."

There’s also no doubt that the Cowboys’ performances have slipped in recent weeks.

They beat Green Bay on Nov. 29, a result that was skewed by an injury to Brett Favre. Then they squeezed by the Lions without ever really impressing, before producing their worst performance of the season against Philly last week.

"It's frustrating right now. This is the part of the season that is going to be an emotional letdown," Tony Romo said after the Eagles game. "We still have a chance to do what we're trying to do."

Love struck

Tony Romo had his worst game of the season, and possibly his career, last Sunday. He threw three interceptions, no touchdowns and had a 22.2 quarterback rating. Was it just coincidence that he played so badly on the day his new girlfriend, Jessica Simpson, made an appearance at Texas Stadium?

Terrell Owens thinks not.

"Right now, Jessica Simpson is not a fan favorite in this locker room or in Texas Stadium," Owens told reporters after Sunday’s loss.

"I think with everything that has happened, and obviously the way Tony played and the comparison between her and Carrie Underwood, I think a lot of people feel like she's kind of taken his focus away."

T.O. was referencing last season’s loss to the Eagles, when Romo produced a similarly disjointed performance in front of then-girlfriend Underwood.

In reality it’s more likely that Romo’s poor performance was due to a thumb injury he sustained before half time. He had X-rays on the thumb this week but they came back clear and he is expected to start on Saturday.

Familiar face

A decision the Cowboys made in preseason could come back to haunt them this week. They cut undrafted free agent Matt Moore after camp but he will return to face them as starting quarterback for Carolina.

The Panthers, who are without the injured Jake Delhomme and Vinny Testaverde, handed Moore his first NFL start last week. He was impressive, completing 19 of 27 passes for 208 yards in the 13-10 upset of the Seahawks.

“This is definitely unexpected," Moore said in a conference call Wednesday. "No way, eight months ago if you had asked me what I thought, could I have given you this kind of story. I've kind of had to pick up things on the run and just try and get better as fast as I can.”

The most frustrating part for the Cowboys is they didn’t actually want to lose Moore. He threw for 182 yards and one touchdown in three preseason games for them but they didn’t have room on their roster for such a raw talent.

Dallas cut him in the hopes he would stick around on the practice team but Carolina snapped him up off waivers.

"Nobody liked him enough to draft him, our team or anybody else's," Cowboys coach Wade Phillips told the Fort Worth Star Telegram. "We did like him. It's just hard at the end to decide who to cut, and hopefully you get some of them back on the practice squad."

Williams’ suspension stands

Carolina was spared some scrapes and bruises when the NFL upheld a one-game suspension for hard-hitting Dallas safety Roy Williams.

Williams received the suspension for violating the “horse collar” tackle rule for the third time this season. He appealed the decision but was turned down by league commissioner Roger Goodell. He will now sit out a game for the first time in his career.

The NFL actually adopted the rule because of Williams. He seriously injured four players in 2004, by grabbing them by the collar and dragging them down from behind.

One of those players was teammate Terrell Owens, who suffered a fractured fibula and torn ankle ligaments while playing for the Eagles.

"The way he tackles people is very, very dangerous," Owens said of Williams in the Houston Chronicle. "Other than that, Roy's a great guy. But the thing is, you have to be safe. I know this is a violent game, but you have to tackle safely."

The loss of Williams is a big blow for a Cowboys’ defense that could be without center Andre Gurode and defensive end Chris Canty this week.

Betting trends

The Cowboys have won SU and ATS in three of their last four meetings with the Panthers.  Interestingly, the underdog is 6-2-1 ATS in the last nine games between these teams.

Four straight contests between Dallas and Carolina have gone over the total.

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