Packers vs Cowboys: What to Expect Sunday
When the Green Bay Packers face the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, two headline-worthy quarterbacks will be taking the field in one of the most highly-anticipated games of the season.
It’s not quite the Ice Bowl, but the great football each team has been playing, rich histories the two clubs carry, and wintery conditions will make for a great football game to enjoy from the fan’s perspective.For Dallas, the team enters coming off of a striking comeback win in the Wild Card round over the Detroit Lions (albeit marred by a controversial ruling or two).After struggling to overcome the Lions persistent pass rush early in the game, Tony Romo was able to finally adjust in the second half, guiding the Cowboys to their first playoff win since 1999. A key third-quarter run to get themselves back into the game was initiated in similar fashion to how they’ve reached this point: via a total team effort. A physically-imposing run game coupled with Tony Romo’s playmaking ability and an opportunistic defensive unit as they came together when it mattered most to overwhelm Detroit, who ultimately faltered down the stretch.
The win epitomized the type of team football that has been at the center of the Cowboys’ success this season.For Green Bay, they enter as one of the popular favorites to potentially win the conference and possibly even the Super Bowl.Aaron Rodgers exhibited MVP-caliber play over the course of the regular season, racking up 4,381 yards and 38 touchdowns against just five interceptions for the year. He will reportedly be able to start come Sunday, however, his play will be closely monitored due to a torn and strained calf—an injury that has been causing Rodgers discomfort since sustaining the injury during the team’s Week 16 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
His ability to carve defenses apart from the pocket is second to none, and although his mobility is certainly one of the signature attributes of his repertoire it will understandably be limited due to his injury. With that being said, the Cowboys defense—which has played well when it has needed to throughout the season—should act as the aggressor with a gimpy Rodgers who will potentially be limited to playing solely from the pocket.
That’s not to say they necessarily have the advantage in this one, though.
As Chris B. Brown recently wrote in an article tracing Packers head coach Mike McCarthy’s coaching roots and influences of the West Coast offense back to the likes of Bill Walsh and Joe Montana, Aaron Rodgers is elite in his craft in both the physical and mental aspects of the game. The Cowboys defense will still have to be at their best in an environment that will benefit their opposition much more than themselves, especially in considering the team they are playing is undefeated at home this season (8-0).
To make the encounter that much more interesting, Dallas comes in undefeated on the road this season (8-0). So something will have to give.
The key to Dallas’ success this week simply calls for them to stick to the identity that they established for themselves during the regular season: a run-oriented team capable of unleashing their potent passing game when necessary. It very easily could be viewed as a balancing act that has prevented any one player or member of the coaching staff to do too much or play/coach them out of games similarly to how the franchise tended to do over the past years; so much to the point of mediocrity.
Just as Dallas receiver Bob Hayes was held in check during the Ice Bowl in 1967, it wouldn’t surprise me to see less of Dez Bryant’s impact be felt during this game, even though I don’t expect him to be completely shut out from the end-zone all day on Sunday. DeMarco Murray should field at least 30 touches, rushing behind the Cowboys stellar offensive line unit against a Green Bay defense that surrendered 119 rushing yards/game during the regular season. By sticking to this philosophy, they will be able to keep the Packers offense off of the field, preventing Rodgers from gaining any confidence early on.
They will also need Romo to play a relaxed, concentrated game without making too many errors like he did in the first half of their Wild Card win to have any shot. Not to mention a stay-out-of-the-way performance from head coach Jason Garrett.
Comparably, the Packers will need to try and heavily involve Eddie Lacy in their offense this weekend.
More quietly than most, Lacy had another productive year, rushing for 1,139 yards and nine touchdowns, as well as hauling in 42 passes for 427 yards and four touchdowns. Dallas struggled to contain Detroit’s duo of Joique Bell and Reggie Bush early on during their win last week, and if Green Bay is able to establish any sort of consistency rushing the ball, it’ll take the pressure off of Rodgers to try and do too much, furthermore relegating the Cowboys offense to the sidelines.
The game will certainly become a chess match for the two sides, as shades of that tightly-contested Ice Bowl matchup will certainly present themselves throughout the game this Sunday.
For the Cowboys, and specifically Romo, this is a chance to overcome years of public battering and scrutiny to prove his worth as one of the upper tier quarterbacks in this league.
Green Bay, on the other hand, is simply looking to get back to winning in the postseason. Since winning the title in 2009, Aaron Rodgers is just 1-4 in the postseason since, struggling to string together those three or four victories needed to get back.
If I were going to pick a favorite, personally I would have to say that entering the game it’s the Cowboys.
Teams who have gotten “lucky” wins or benefit from controversial decisions like Dallas did last weekend throughout the past decade or so have seem to fatefully find themselves contending (i.e. the 1999-2000 Tennessee Titans – “Music City Miracle”, lost in Super Bowl XXXIV; 2001-02 New England Patriots – “The Tuck Rule Game”, won Super Bowl XXXVI; 2012-13 Baltimore Ravens – “Mile High Miracle”, won Super Bowl XLVII). It’s ironic that they just so happen to be playing the potential league MVP while injured, and then—if the other NFC fixture produces the Seahawks as victorious—Dallas would be facing the defending-champions who they defeated earlier this season.
The Cowboys seemed to have gotten back to their bread and butter to close out their game last week, and I expect their success to continue this week and overpower Green Bay led by a hampered Aaron Rodgers.
Dallas – 34
Green Bay – 23