Tonight's game


NFC wild card

Dallas (10-6) at Carolina (11-5)

Time: 8.

TV: Chs. 2, 7.

Line: Panthers by 3.

Record vs. spread: Cowboys 9-6-1, Panthers 6-10.

Series: Cowboys lead 4-2.

Last meeting: Cowboys won, 24-20, on Nov. 23 in Dallas.

Story line: Bill Parcells guided the Cowboys to their first playoff appearance since 1999, becoming the first NFL coach to lead four teams into postseason play. It's a different story for Carolina's John Fox, who is making his playoff head-coaching debut. During the regular season, the Panthers won seven games by three points or fewer.

When the Cowboys have the ball: RB Troy Hambrick had his best season as a pro with 972 yards but averaged only 3.5 yards a carry. Dallas has talented receivers in Joey Galloway, Terry Glenn and Antonio Bryant, but QB Quincy Carter doesn't always get them the ball.

When the Panthers have the ball: QB Jake Delhomme may not have eye-opening statistics, but he gets the job done. Delhomme, who has passed for 3,219 yards and 19 TDs, has thrown seven fourth-quarter touchdown passes this season, tied for second most in the NFL. RB Stephen Davis has been in and out of the lineup recently because of a nagging ankle injury but will play tonight.

Bottom line: Expect Dallas to do a decent job stopping Davis and then to win the game on Carter's big-play passing against the Panthers' average secondary.

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