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Cowboys vs. Panthers: A rapid fire preview

We brought in SB Nation's Carolina Panthers blogger for a word association game about both teams to get ready for Sunday's game.

Streeter Lecka - Getty Images

James Dator is one of the managing editors over at Cat Scratch Reader, SB Nation's excellent Carolina Panthers blog. You can follow him on Twitter @James_Dator.

We gave him a list of all the big players and storylines coming into Sunday's game and asked him for the first thing that came to mind:

Cam Newton: Unfairly criticised, but needs to stop trying to do too much with his arm.

Ron Rivera: Making the mistakes all inexperienced coaches do. Needs to get his coordinators under control.

Steve Smith: Tired. A near-decade of team mediocrity is starting to wear the veteran down, but he still has it.

Carolina's 1-4 record this year: Disappointing. Super Bowl wasn't realistic, 9-7 was. It will take a small miracle to get there.

Carolina's future: Hanging in the balance. Newton is the real deal, but will the front office be here much longer?

Luke Kuechly: As good as advertised. He's a special player, and improving every week.

DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart: Need to get the ball more. Read option offense is killing their effectiveness.

Carolina's defense: Lost. There is talent sprinkled around, but they're not performing as a unit. The secondary is an absolute mess.

Charles Johnson: Worth the money. The Panthers spent a lot to retain him, but he's a consistent force every week-- even if the box scores don't always show it.

Tony Romo: Scapegoat. He has bad games like every QB, but Romo gets way too much flack for the Cowboys' woes.

Jason Garrett: Not much to say, and I think that's the problem. What is the identity of the Cowboys? Rob Ryan seems more of the figurehead than Garrett.

Jerry Jones: Passionate, sometimes to a fault. Easy to make fun of Jerry, but every team wishes they had an owner that passionate. Still think he needs to stay away from talent evaluation though.

Dez Bryant: It looks like he's finally putting it all together. It has taken a while, but you can see glimpses of an elite receiver.

DeMarcus Ware: When it's all said and done we could be talking about him being the greatest pass rusher of all time.

Cowboys 2-3 record this year: Similarly disappointing to Carolina's 1-4. They should be better, and have the talent to be better.

Biggest X-factor Sunday: Did the Panthers make adjustments during their bye? If they did, and play to their strengths it will change the game. If not, they lose; it's that simple.

Prediction: Desperate Panthers at home change enough to beat a Cowboys team minus DeMarco Murray. 23-17

Photographs by jamesbrandon, jdtornow, phlezk, flygraphix, mcdlttx, tomasland, and literalbarrage used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.