Last week the Packers faced off against their oldest rival; Da Bears. And as everyone saw the Packers showed up from the first snap of the game and took the lead in the overall series with the Bears for the first time since 1932! Now, that feels good, doesn’t it? The Packers have had a little bit of a longer week of rest and will hopefully get some key players back from injury and they’ll need them. This week Green Bay faces a rematch of last season’s divisional playoff game against the Dallas Cowboys. Last week’s playoff game was a nail biter and this game looks like it could be another one. So, let’s take a look at what the Packers are up against this week!
THREE BURNING QUESTIONS
Can Elliot the Packers contain Elliot?
The Dallas offense has been very hit or miss this season so far. During some games they’ve looked very tough to stop. The key to making this offense look pedestrian has been to stop the run game, namely, Ezekiel Elliot. The Packers at this point of the season are ranked 19th at defending the run. This may not seem like a spectacular ranking but just last week this defense held Bears running back, Jordan Howard to just 53 yards on 18 attempts. Although he isn’t quite the big name that Elliot is, Howard is a very talented back in his own right. The Packers contained him without their best defensive lineman, Mike Daniels. With him back in the lineup the Packers stand a very good chance at slowing down Elliot and tipping this game in their favor.
Which Dez Bryant shows up?
Dez Bryant is rightfully considered one of the NFL’s elite receivers. His strength and ability to make difficult catches is nearly unparalleled at the position throughout the NFL. However he has been having a pretty up and down season. Even in his best statistical game this season he caught only 5 of his 13 targets. In this game he still ended up with nearly 100 yards and a touchdown but not every game has gone this well. In his other three games he has caught only 11 of his 27 targets for a total of 114 yards and one touchdown. So, what Dez will the Packers be up against this week? If Dez is able to bring his best the Packers secondary will surely have their hands full. But if the Packers are able to keep him off his game a little it will be a major part of the Cowboys offense that is missing.
Can the Packers keep Demarcus Lawrence off Rodgers?
The Packers pass protection has been very up and down so far this season. For stretches it is reminiscent of years past where Rodgers has plenty of time to do what he needs to. But other times he is running for his life around the back field being chased by pass rushers. The Packers offensive line has not been short on challenges this year as both Seattle and Atlanta have very formidable rushers coming off of the edge. This week will be no different. Although the Cowboys don’t have multiple premier pass rushers they do have Demarcus Lawrence who has already racked up 7.5 sacks this season! If he continues like he has been it could be a long afternoon for Aaron Rodgers. Can the Packers tackles manage to keep him at bay for the afternoon? Depending on who is in there this could be a very important one to watch.
2 KEY MATCHUPS
Packers receivers vs Cowboys secondary
The Cowboys have a very middle of the road pass defense as evidenced by their 20th rank in passing yards allowed this season. As everyone know the Packers offense is very much centered around the air game which in theory plays right into the Packers hands. But it will be very important for Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, Geronimo Allison and potentially Davante Adams to be able to create separation and to do it quickly. The Cowboys best defense against the pass is unleashing Demarcus Lawrence on opposing quarterbacks. In order for the Packers offense to remain effective against a great pass rusher like him, Rodgers will need to get the ball out of his hand quickly. One of Rodgers favorite ways to do that is to spread the receivers out and let them run short routes that can keep a defense on its heels. The only way for that to be effective is for the Packers receivers groups to beat their guys off the line and create separation immediately.
The Packers front 7 versus the Cowboys offensive line
One of the greatest strengths of the Dallas Cowboys is their vaunted offensive line. Although not quite as dominant this season as it has been the past couple years this is still one of the most dominant units in the NFL. This is a team that very much relies on the offensive line to open up holes in the run game and make Elliots job much easier. Although the specialty of this line is to bulldoze defenders in the run game they are also very much adept at keeping pass rushers at bay when young phenom quarterback, Dak Prescott, drops back to pass. Since this team does rely so heavily on the big boys up front to take care of business, if the Packers front seven are able to win their one on one matchups it could swing this game big time. Potentially having Mike Daniels back will make a huge difference in that regard as he is nearly unblockable and demands a double team most of the time. If he and the other lineman in the rotation can win some battles and open things up for the linebackers we could see the Packers defense thriving and the ‘Boys offense struggle.
ONE BOLD PREDICTION
This week will be another big one through the air ladies and gentlemen. The Packers receivers will feast on the Cowboys sub par secondary and will be open all night. In particular Randall Cobb will have a spectacular night. He is one of Rodgers favorite targets and his quickness and ability to create separation in an instant will make him impossible to cover in the quick passing game I expect the Packers to very heavily lean upon. Once he has the ball in his hands he is absolutely electric and can rack up big run after the catch numbers. Look for Cobb to have somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 catches for 120 yards and I think he’ll find the end zone twice.
PACKERS – 27
COWBOYS – 24
GO PACK GO