Looks can be deceiving sometimes.
The Dallas Cowboys (3-7) have won the past nine regular-season games against the Carolina Panthers.
However, Thursday’s meeting at AT&T Stadium has a different look (Nike Color Rush uniforms) and tone.
The Panthers are 10-0 for the first time in team history and Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo is making his second start in five days while coming off a broken collarbone.
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The Panthers will wear mostly all-blue uniforms while the Cowboys will don mostly white uniforms as part of the NFL and Nike Color Rush campaign.
Here are five things to watch:
1. Romo’s encore
Tony Romo’s return from a broken collarbone has inspired hope that the season is not completely lost for the Cowboys. But they might have to win out to have a chance to clinch a second consecutive NFC East title. After beating Miami on Sunday, this will be a telling week with how Romo responds on short rest.
2. Short turnaround
Nobody at Valley Ranch expressed concern about the short turnaround this week. But with injuries slowing Romo, running back Darren McFadden and wide receiver Dez Bryant, among others, there has to be some concern. McFadden and Bryant are two of the offense’s biggest weapons, and must be on their “A” game against a stout Panthers defense.
3. Slowing Cam
Quarterback Cam Newton might not put up eye-opening numbers, but there is a reason he is in the MVP discussion and the Panthers are 10-0. Newton is just as dangerous passing the ball as he is running it. The Cowboys have to contain Newton to give themselves a shot at an upset. Greg Hardy, facing his former team, leads the Cowboys in sacks with 4.5.
4. Turnover battle
Nobody has been better at taking the ball away than the Panthers, who lead the league with 25 takeaways (15 interceptions, 10 fumbles). Nobody has been worse than the Cowboys, who rank last with seven (six interceptions, one fumble). It’s no secret that winning correlates largely with the turnover battle.
5. Mistake-free game
Vegas, with an opening-line favoring the Cowboys, might be the only place that felt the Cowboys should be favored in this game. Yes, the Cowboys missed Romo, but they showed more flaws than just quarterback play during their seven-game losing streak. And they know they have to play a mistake-free game if they are going to knock off one of the two unbeaten teams left in the league. That means they can’t have bone-headed penalties such as excessive celebrations, which happened last week in Miami.