The Green Bay Packers are set to make a stop at Jerry World on Sunday to take on the Dallas Cowboys in the Divisional Round of the NFL Playoffs. Although the Packers didn’t fare well when these two teams met earlier in the season (Week 6), they are a different team than they were and the outcome could be quite different as well. Dallas spent most of the year consistently being consistent. Green Bay, on the other hand, has taken the fans and the NFL on a roller coaster ride like that in 2010. Here are 3 ways to keep the ride going:

STOP ZEKE

I don’t think it is any big secret. The Cowboys are a run-first team. And they should be. They have one of the best offensive lines we have seen in a while. 3 out of the 5 are in the Pro Bowl. They are the driving force that catalyzed exceptional rookie campaigns from both RB Ezekiel Elliott and QB Dak Prescott.

Ezekiel Elliot enters the game as the top running back in the game. He has piled up 1,631 yards, 15 TD’s, and a 5.1 average per carry. As a rookie, you can’t ask for much more. Green Bay will have their hands full with the young stud who put up 157 yards on 28 carries against the Packers the first time around.

The Packers’ run defense, however has been much more solid down the stretch. In the seven-game winning streak, Green Bay’s defense has held opposing running backs to just 80 yards per game.

That mark that would be one of the NFL’s best if stretched over a full season — but also came against backs like Zach ZennerPaul Perkins, and Thomas Rawls. There’s no one in that group, except for possibly the Bears’ Jordan Howard, but still no Zeke.

PUT GAME IN DAKS HANDS

Control the game. From the get go. One of the main reasons Dallas has been so successful this season is that they have been able to score early and control the clock by running the ball so effectively. Which has allowed their defense to remain off the field.

If you look at the defensive rankings across the NFL, Dallas shows up near or at the top. This is not because of stellar play but in part due to the time of possession the offense usually has. If the Packers score early, and force them to play catch-up then the Cowboys will be forced to put the game in Dak’s hands instead of Zeke’s.

And as well as the young man is playing, the Tony Romo effect is staring over his left shoulder, while a shoot-from-the-hip old owner peers over his right. The pressure of being “The Cowboys QB” is unfortunetly a thing and Dak will feel it, especially on Sunday when a fan base like theirs is so close to getting back to the happiness of the 90’s.

Lordy Lordy No More Jordy

The news came down this week that WR Jordy Nelson will not suit up for the Packers. A Blow? Yes. The end of the world? Not nearly. The receivers have been stepping up.

The Packers receiving corps still managed to haul in 20 receptions for 310 yards and four touchdowns post Nelson. Both Randall Cobb and Davante Adams finished the evening with 100-plus yards through the air.

For Cobb, the performance was an affirming explosion that proved he can still be a game-changing player despite a forgettable 2016. For Adams, it was validation his breakout 997-yard, 12-touchdown season was no fluke. Together, the pair can take a game and run with it.

But those two aren’t alone. Geronimo Allison popped off for a game-high 91 yards in Week 17’s NFC North title game. Tight end Jared Cook is averaging nearly five receptions per contest over the team’s last four games. Ty Montgomery, the team’s de facto lead tailback, is a dynamic receiving threat after starting his NFL career at wide out.

Green Bay’s receivers and tight ends combined for 19 catches on 28 targets, 188 yards, and just one touchdown the last time these two teams faced off. Expect all those numbers to rise Sunday.

The last time they met, Jared Cook was unavailable, Geronimo was on the practice squad, and Montgomery was an exclusive wide receiver. Now, Cook is back and changing the game for the Packers, Geronimo is a starter and a third down master, and Montgomery is a dual threat running back and receiver.

Conclusion

Things have changed. The Cowboys are the same. Cool. The Packers though, new players, new positions, new team. In week 6 the Packers were screaming to find some type of identity. Now, they may be the most feared team in the league. With mismatches, all over the field, defenses should be worried. Dallas will come to play and try and defend their home, but the same old story will be exposed on Sunday. The only true running on Sunday will be Aaron Rodgers and the Packers continuing to run the table…not Zeke for 100.

Prediction

Green Bay Packers – 34
Dallas Cowboys        – 13

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