The Green Bay Packers will travel to Dallas to play the Cowboys in the Divisional Round this Sunday. The Cowboys beat the Packers handedly (30-16) in Green Bay in Week 4. Aaron Rodgers struggled during the game, and the rhetoric that he was in a slump hit its peak. Just like last week, the Packers are entering the game with a little more motivation to play well than the average playoff game. For some reason, that sentence made me laugh, but never underestimate how hungry a bad performance can make a professional.
Dallas RBs vs Packers Run Defense:
The Dallas run game got the best of the Packers during the Week 6 bout. Ezekiel Elliot ran all over the Packers defense, tallying 157 yards on 28 carries. This was when the Packers rush defense was ranked near the top of the league. The Packers need to slow them down in the running game if they hope to walk out with a win. The Cowboys are too talented for the Packers to win a bunch of 3rd and twos against.
This may be a tough match up, as the Packer’s front seven relies on speed moves and gap penetration to defend the run. That’s a difficult task against an offensive line as big and talented as the Cowboys. Dallas showed the ability to move the Packer’s defensive lineman and create big holes for their star running back. Mike Daniels is going to need to play his best game of the season, win his match up and clog the running lanes the best he can.
Dallas Receivers vs Packers Secondary:
The Packers have been able to win their past seven games despite their struggling secondary. Their performance against the New York Giants looks good in the box score, but the Giants dropped a lot of passes. If the Giants receivers could have made some of those catches, where there wasn’t a Packers defender within ten yards, that game had the potential to be a white knuckler. Moving on to Dallas, the secondary will be challenged once again.
Had Odell Beckham Jr played his best ball, I think the Packers would have been on the ropes for more than that first quarter. Dallas has a star receiver of their own, Dez Bryant. I’m very confident that he’ll come to play this week, for redemption of ‘the catch’ alone. He relies on his fire to play his best football, which come playoff time, can either work for you or against you. I’m very confident that he steps up for the big moment, which will be a huge issue for Ladarius Gunter or Damarius Randall.
Last week, both Gunter and Randall got beat multiple times going deep. That’s something they’ll find difficult to overcome with Dez ready to snag anything thrown in his direction. The Packers will almost certainly use safety help over the top to double team Dez whenever he goes past 15 yards. It’s the right move, but it can lead us susceptible to over the middle routes. Dak Prescott’s favorite target for much of the year has been Cole Beasley, a 5’8” receiver who runs crisp routes.
With Dez Bryant attacking the Packers back end, it leaves a lot of open space for the Cowboys favorite receiver to do his thing. Terrence Williams is another Cowboys receiver who could take advantage of gaps in the coverage.
Packers QB vs Cowboys QB:
Dak Prescott has put up some insane numbers for a rookie quarterback, throwing for 23 touchdowns with only 4 interceptions. As much as people want to credit the running game and blocking for his success, he still rolls out and throws dimes where they’re needed. He’s proven to be a very calm quarterback capable of making the necessary reads.
The thing Green Bay has going for them is his lack of playoff experience. It’s great for a rookie quarterback to succeed in the regular season, but when the lights are on and every decision you make can cause your team it’s season, it becomes a tall order for most rookie quarterbacks.
For the Packers, Aaron Rodgers needs to continue to play at his MVP level. Much like the seven-game winning streak, the Packers will need to score efficiently to pull off the upset. Without Jordy Nelson, Rodgers loses his number one option, which proved to be a huge issues last season. Luckily, they played well without him against the Giants, so the personnel may prove to be a better fit this season. Even so, the offense will certainly need to step up to move the ball against the Cowboys, look for Jared Cook to have an even bigger role within the offense.
Rodgers can carry the Packers to a win on Sunday, but he’ll need to perform at a level you can only expect out of #12.