The 2021 NFL season is finally in full swing, as contenders start to separate themselves from pretenders entering Week 4. The Dallas Cowboys and Carolina Panthers are hoping to cement themselves in the contender category when they face off at AT&T Stadium this Sunday.
Dallas, at 2-1, leads the NFC East after consecutive convincing wins over the Los Angeles Chargers and Philadelphia Eagles. Carolina, at 3-0, is undefeated through three weeks for the first time since 2015.
But the bigger story is the quarterback battle between the Cowboys’ Dak Prescott and the Panthers’ Sam Darnold.
Prescott is less than a year removed from a gruesome ankle injury suffered last October. Through three games, he has six touchdowns, two interceptions and 878 passing yards with a career-best 77.8 completion percentage.
Darnold was cast off by the New York Jets of all teams following three rocky seasons to start his career. He’s been a steady signal-caller so far in Carolina, with six total touchdowns (three rushing) and just one interception.
Prescott and Darnold’s strong play to start the 2021 season has them among the early favorites to win Comeback Player of the Year. Quarterbacks often win this award after major injuries or changing teams, and both of these players fit the bill. Alex Smith (injury), Ryan Tannehill (team change) and Andrew Luck (injury) have won it the last three years, respectively.
Sunday’s Cowboys-Panthers game could go a long way to determining who wins Comeback Player of the Year. While it’s still extremely early in the season -- especially since there’s now an extra game -- voters will remember if Prescott or Darnold significantly outplays the other in a head-to-head matchup.