Carolina Panthers gear up for their measuring-stick game in Week 4

(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) Matt Rhule
(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) Matt Rhule /

The Carolina Panthers are set for a stern test of their recent good form when they travel to take on the Dallas Cowboys in Week 4.

If the Carolina Panthers were looking for a measuring-stick game after their fantastic start to the 2021 season, it appears as if they’ll get it in Week 4 at the Dallas Cowboys.

Matt Rhule’s men go into the contest on the back of three-straight triumphs to begin the campaign. But a trip to Arlington is going to be their stiffest test so far judging by how Dallas dismantled the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday Night Football.

Nobody was under any illusions as to the size of the task. The Panthers will also be without three starters in Christian McCaffrey, Jaycee Horn, and Juston Burris, which only makes things tougher in pursuit of extending their unbeaten run.

The Cowboys have an elite offensive line, a strong running game, an exceptional group of wide receivers, and a quarterback in Dak Prescott who looks like the player of old after missing most of last year with a gruesome ankle injury.

Not only this, but Dallas’ defense is also much improved under the guidance of Dan Quinn, who was fired as head coach of the Atlanta Falcons last season after a loss to Carolina.

Players relish games and challenges like this.

Or at least they should.

One thing is for sure, we’ll know much more about what we can truly expect from the Panthers after this game.

Going into it without McCaffrey – the team’s focal point and talisman – is a bitter blow. They rose their game at the Houston Texans, but the Cowboys have far greater ambitions with the talent at Mike McCarthy’s disposal.

The onus will obviously be on quarterback Sam Darnold producing the goods once again. Carolina’s imposing defense must also rise to the occasion and prevent Dallas from having their way on home soil.

Perhaps the extra preparation time will be an advantage. Although one cannot say for sure given the current roster upheaval and the importance of McCaffrey to the team’s fortunes on the field.

It’s going to be a pressure-cooker atmosphere at AT&T Stadium. One this young roster must respond to in a positive manner.

If they can do this, there doesn’t appear to be much difference between the two teams from a talent standpoint outside of the offensive lines. Although that’s a pretty big discrepancy when one considers Dallas has two All-Pros in Tyron Smith and Zack Martin.

Carolina Panthers can send expectations through the roof in Week 4.

Carolina has taken the league by storm over the first three games. But what comes next is equally as important if they want to be considered as realistic postseason contenders.

This needs to be a collective effort. The team spirit within the Panthers is there for all to see and has contributed significantly to their surprising start, even if analysts are picking holes in Carolina’s accomplishments to date.

That would all change if they can go to Dallas and get a victory. An achievement that would no doubt send expectations through the roof.

Something special is happening in Carolina. Whether it happens this year or next, they are going to be a contender in the not-too-distant future.

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Just how far the Panthers are from this eventual goal remains to be seen. But we’ll get a better indication after their trip to Dallas on Sunday.