The Dallas Cowboys and Carolina Panthers have a strange history. Carolina fans generally remember Cowboy games fondly, because the two biggest games in the 11-game series were both playoff games in Charlotte. And the Panthers won both of those convincingly -- following the 1996 and 2003 seasons -- to produce two of the franchise's best moments.
But in the regular season it's been a far different story. The Cowboys are 8-1 against Carolina in regular-season games. Current Dallas coach Jason Garrett threw for 287 yards against the Panthers in one of those victories back in 1998. And Dallas has won the last four matchups in a row. So Panther fans' happy memories of this series are getting pretty ancient.
** In the NFL, the Cowboys are always a friend for the opposing team's ticket director. Dallas will play in front of its 83rd consecutive road sellout Sunday in Charlotte -- the Cowboys' last "non-sellout" on the road was at Arizona 10 years ago. So Panther fans must brace for the inevitable influx of Dallas fans Sunday, because as always a large number of Cowboy fans will have bought their way into the stadium. At least they'll have as hard a time getting through security as everyone else.
** The Panthers better watch out for No.94 Sunday. DeMarcus Ware already has six sacks this season and is fourth on the Cowboys' all-time sack list. Ranking fourth doesn't sound that impressive until you consider the first three (according to the Cowboys' statistics) are Harvey Martin, Randy White and Ed "Too Tall" Jones. Ware only needs nine more sacks to pass them all.
** What the Panthers need most of all Sunday is a ground game. Did you realize Carolina that since the beginning of 2008, which was Jonathan Stewart's first year in the NFL, the Panthers have produced more rushing yards than any other team? But they have been mediocre at running the ball this season (ranked 13th). With the Cowboys' defense No.1 in the NFL against the pass, the Panthers keeping themselves away from third-and-10 situations will be huge.
** Dallas is the slight favorite in this one. But I picked the Panthers to go 8-8 before the season began. If they don't get started winning some games soon, there's no way they will get close to that. Both teams lost to Seattle, but the Panthers played the Seahawks a far better game. Just playing a hunch here -- and my hunches are suspect, given my game-by-game prediction record on the Panthers so far this season is only 2-3: Carolina 24, Dallas 23.