NFL Divisional Round Preview: Cowboys vs. Packers
I think it’s fair to say that this is the most anticipated game of the weekend as the Cowboys and Packers face off for the second time this season. The Cowboys won the first one in Lambeau Field by the score of 30-17 way back in week six. Star WR Dez Bryant didn’t suit up the Cowboys in that contest but it hardly mattered as Ezekiel Elliott and the Cowboys running game pounded the Packers into a fine dust. At the time the Packers defense was ranked #1 against the run but that was buoyed by a weak stable of enemy backs and what Elliott did to them would become a common theme over the final 10 weeks of the regular season. From that point on, the Packers surrendered 4.68 YPC and 10 rushing touchdowns to opposing backs.
The Packers have also been generous to opposing quarterbacks for the majority of the season and especially down the stretch. They allowed 32 passing touchdowns this season and allowed 300-yard efforts to struggling QBs such as Sam Bradford, Eli Manning and Matt Barkley (LOL). Manning threw for 300 last week and that number would have been higher if not for a few bad drops early in the game. Consider that the Packers haven’t faced a good offense at any time during their seven game win streak and that could mean big issues at Jerry’s World against the Cowboys top five offense.
As mentioned before, Dez Bryant didn’t play in the week six tilt between these two teams. Remember the playoff game and the catch that wasn’t in Lambeau in 2014? All reasonable signs point to a revenge game for Bryant. For one, the Packers were the most generous NFL defense with regards to wide receivers this season. They allowed 26 touchdown catches (worst) and 3,017 yards(worst) to opposing receivers this season. Last week the Packers sent all kind of people at Odell Beckham Jr in an effort to contain him and did a decent job of it. I say decent because Beckham still got loose on three different plays in which he dropped the ball. They were able to freely send two and three guys at Beckham because they could bottle up the Giants anemic running game with light six and seven man boxes. The Packers aren’t going to be able to stop the Cowboys running game with a light box which should lead to a lot of Dez Bryant being 1 on 1 with Ladarius Gunter or some other nondescript Packer DB. Remember that the Cowboys victimized Gunter badly in week 6. Terrance Williams turned him around so badly that it led to a 42 yard uncontested pass while Gunter was on the ground after falling. To add a quick daily fantasy tidbit in here, all of the Cowboys pass catchers are in a good spot this week.
Aaron Rodgers has been red hot the last two months. He has 22 touchdowns to 0 interceptions in the last eight games he’s played. He dominated a good but shorthanded Giants defense last week to the tune of25/40 for 362 yards and four touchdowns. Rodgers didn’t play particularly well against these Cowboys in week 6 as he had 294 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. That early season slump Rodgers was in feels like eons ago but he was bad in that game. He’ll have to make a go at it without his best receiver, Jordy Nelson, as he has been ruled out. Standout CB Morris Claiborne is back for the Cowboys in time for their playoff run. The Cowboys gave up a point less and 14 yards per game less with him on the field as opposed to off. Claiborne also helped hold Nelson to 5 for 68 in the first meeting. Chances are Claiborne will see a lot of third year breakout Davante Adams.
The Cowboys rush defense is top 10 in the NFL and over the last six weeks they’ve been stingy as they’ve allowed 3.5 YPC to opposing runningbacks. I think this might be a game where Christine Michael gets the most work in the GB backfield but I don’t expect much from the Packers relatively weak running game. This game, much like everything else in Green Bay, is on the arm of #12. I don’t see the Packers defense providing much resistance so it’s going to have to be a vintage Rodgers performance for the Packers to pull this one off. I think the Cowboys bludgeon a bad Packers defense and send Green Bay home in payback for the 2014 divisional round.
Prediction: Cowboys 31 Packers 24