The Green Bay Packers (3-1) are heading into week 5 as the king of the NFC North and look to take down the NFC East leader Dallas Cowboys (3-1). Both the Packers and the Cowboys are surprise leaders of their divisions since the Packers missed the playoffs two years in a row and the Cowboys have the NFC favorite Philadelphia Eagles in their division. This is going to be one of the best games in the NFL this week and it will not disappoint. Here are the top things to watch heading into this week 5 matchup.
How does LaFleur rebound from first NFL lost:
Heading into week four against the Philadelphia Eagles, Matt LaFleur was the Packers’s first rookie head coach since Vince Lombardi to start 3-0. The Packers starting 3-0 was the first time the team did so since 2015. The biggest difference in the 2015 and 2019 Packers is that Aaron Rodgers isn’t the biggest difference maker and the Packers don’t rely on him the most. The defense has been the driving force of this team led by their new additions Za’Darius and Preston Smith. Even though the defense has been amazing, the offense has left much to be desired. LaFleur and Rodgers struggled to move the ball over the first three games, but seemed to start clicking against the Eagles. They scored a season-high 27 points and Rodgers threw for over 400 yards for the first time this season. The defense, however, struggled to stop the Eagles’ run game and didn’t force a single turnover for the first time this season. That should give hope to the Packers that if they can get both sides of the ball clicking at the same time, they can be unstoppable.
Losing is never easy, but LaFleur should be cautious on how many adjustments he makes after his first loss. The Packers have had success on both sides of the ball this season, so he does not need to reinvent the wheel, but rather sharpen the weapons he already has in place. LaFleur is obviously disappointed heading into week 5 with a loss, but there is still a lot to be confident in.
Randall Cobb’s first game against Packers:
The Packers have made big changes over the last two years under new General Manager Brian Gutekunst. They have released fan favorite Jordy Nelson and Nick Perry, and also let Clay Mathews and Randall Cobb walk in free agency. Nelson, Mathews, and Cobb were all key parts to the Packers success over the years and many were sad to see them go. The decision to move on from them made sense since they all seemed to be past their prime, but Cobb found a new home in Dallas as the Cowboys’ new slot receiver.
Cobb, much like in 2018, started the year off on a high note after racking up 69 yards and a touchdown, but since then was held to 41 yards or less with no touchdowns. Even with the decline he is on track to beat his reception and yardage total from last season. The Cowboys were impressed with Cobb in training camp and so far he has fit in well in the offense. Coming into week 5 Cobb will get a lot of looks with Gallup possibly on a limited snap count on his first game back from a knee injury and Cooper battling plantar fasciitis. Whether Cobb is receiver 2 or 3, he will have his work cut out for him. He will either have physical Kevin King following him around or an experienced and familiar Tramon Williams guarding him in the slot. Regardless of what happens in the game it will be strange for Packer fans seeing Cobb in an opposing team’s uniform.
Ezekiel Elliot is ready to eat:
Elliot was at home watching the Thursday Night matchup between the Packers and Eagles chomping at the bits thinking about playing the Packers the following week. The Packers run defense has been atrocious this season allowing the Vikings, Broncos, and Eagles to run all over them. Dalvin Cook had 154 yards rushing while the Broncos Lindsay and Eagles Howard both had two rushing touchdowns. Cook, Lindsay and Howard are all talented running backs, but Ezekiel Elliot is on another level. The plan for the Cowboys will be simple, give Elliot the ball and make the Packers stop him. In three games against the Packers, Elliot has had over 100 yards rushing in each of them and with the Packers’ defense struggling to stop the run, it could be a career game for Elliot.
The Packers are receiving a boost to their defense with the return of Montravius Adams and linebacker Oren Burks. Adams gives the Packers a strong linemen that can plug up running holes while Burks speed and athleticism allows him to make plays all over the field. If both men are able to return against the Cowboys, the Packers have two more weapons to help slow Elliot, but still have an incredible challenge ahead of them.
Injured offensive lines:
For years the Cowboys have been known for having one of the best offensive lines in the NFL and this season is no different. Combine that with a top running back in the league it causes problems for defenses throughout the NFL. However, the Cowboys offensive line was hit hard by injuries. Both of their offensive tackles, La’el Collins and Tyron Smith missed practice this week with back and ankle issues, while Zack Martin was limited with back problems as well. Fortunately for the Cowboys Collins and Martin are expected to play against the Packers, but Smith is likely to miss. This could spell trouble for a team facing one of the best defensive lines in the NFL. Preston and Za’Darius Smith have been on a terror lately and the Packers have racked up 12 sacks over the first four games. With the Packers not recording a single sack last week, they are coming into this game with a chip on their shoulder and motivation to prove they still are a top defense in the league.
The Cowboys will not be the only team coming into the game with an injured offensive tackle. The Packers right tackle Bryan Bulaga left the Eagles game early with a shoulder injury and is questionable against the Cowboys. The Packers will have their hands full with DE Demarcus Lawrence and having a back up right tackle will make it even tougher. After Bulaga left the game, Alex Light took over as right tackle, but the Packer are looking at all of their options. Another possibility is sliding right guard Billy Turner over to right tackle and playing Patrick or Madison at right guard. The Packers will have options to replace Bulaga if he is unable to play, but no matter what they do to replace him, they will miss Bryan Bulaga.
What Packers’ receiver steps up:
The Packers will not only possibly be without Bryan Bulaga against the Cowboys, but they will also be without their star wide receiver Davante Adams who is battling turf toe. Adams started slow this season but finally had his break-through game against the Eagles (10 receptions, 180 yards) before going down with an injury. The Packers will no doubt miss Davante Adams who has been getting doubled and even triple teamed on plays, but they also have many question marks at receiver.
The next man up in the Packers’ receiving corp is Marques Valdez-Scantling.. Adams and MVS have combined for 41 receptions, 595 yards and 1 touchdown while the other receivers have combined for 10 receptions, 116 yards and 2 touchdowns. The Packers have a drastic drop in production after Adams and MVS, but now is the time for that to change. Adams will likely miss a couple weeks with this toe injury, so Allison, Kumerow, Shepherd, and Lazard, all have the perfect chance to show they are capable of stepping up and playing a role for the offense. Two receivers to look for are Allison who had a big game against the Eagles and Rodgers favorite Kumerow. Adams as averaged 12 targets a game, so there will be plenty of opportunities for the Packers’ young receivers to step up.
Other Key Injuries:
The Packers are slowly racking up the injuries this season. The Packers had five players, Davante Adams, Kyler Fackrell, Tony Brown, Kevin King, and Jamaal Williams, miss practice on October 2nd. The Packers have already ruled Adams, Williams, and Brown out for Sunday, but King is ruled as doubtful. Kevin King would be a big loss for the Packers’ secondary if he is unable to go. They have depth at that position, but King and Alexander have been showing signs of being a top cornerback duo in the NFL when both are on their game. The Packers will hope to have him this week against a talented Cowboys offense.
Both the Cowboys and the Packers are coming off their first loss of the season and looking to get back to their winning ways and stay ahead of their NFC divisions. The Cowboys are facing their toughest test with the Packers after losing to a Bridgewater led Saints while the Packers will face the best running back they have faced so far this season. This game will come down to the Packers ability to stop the Cowboys’ run game. If the Packers can jump to an early lead to make the Cowboys play catch up or if they can minimize Elliots success, the Packers will have the upperhand, but that is easier said than done. Look for another close game between these two teams, but even if the Cowboys are getting the shorter odds, at the end of the day I expect Rodgers to play well in his home away from home and lead the Packers to another victory in Jerry World.
Packers 31 – Cowboys 24