Kinda figured this game would have meaning when I first saw the schedule come out in April. The Green Bay Packers travel to AT&T Stadium Sunday to meet the Dallas Cowboys. Back in the spring, I guessed these two would be battling for division titles and high NFC playoff seeds. Well, both teams are still in the playoff hunt but they're battling for survival. The Packers trail the Lions and Bears by a half game in the NFC North, the Cowboys are one back on the Eagles in the NFC East. The winner in Arlington will live for another day, the loser may well be finished.
As of this posting, Aaron Rodgers still hasn't been cleared to play and Matt Flynn is poised to make his third straight start. He led a 4th quarter rally past the Falcons at Lambeau last week, looking quite comfortable with the offense, particularly the no huddle. Another week of practice will help. He needs an effective Eddie Lacy in the backfield and there's some question about his sprained ankle which did not allow him to practice all week. Yet even at less than full strength, the offense should be able to gain yards and score points. Even average teams have done that against the Cowboys who are on track to concede more total yards and first downs than any defense in NFL history. Last Monday night, the Bears scored on every possession until a kneel down to end the game in a 45-28 blowout in Soldier Field. While the Cowboys give up yards, they also take it away, not unlike the Packer defenses of a couple of years ago.
Green Bay's defensive unit will be challenged by a balanced and explosive Dallas attack. Tony Romo is having a solid statistical year, DeMarco Murray is running hard, Dez Bryant and Jason Witten are really effective downfield. While Romo has an uncanny knack of extending plays and making big throws, the Packer focus will be on Murray. Keeping him in check will shrink the Cowboys play calling if they're constantly staring and second or third and long situations. That will allow coordinator Dom Capers to attack with pressure packages.
Here's what I gathered from the principals on both teams as they look ahead to the contest:
This has been a terrific rivaly over the years, from the Lombardi glory days and the Ice Bowl to the frustrating climb to the top under Mike Holmgren when they got knocked out of the playoffs three straight years by the Cowboys in Dallas. All time, the series is dead even at 12 apiece. Cowboys stadium is where the Pack triumphed in Super Bowl XLV against the Pittsburgh Steelers. This will be their first trip back since. I see this as a wide open matchup with the potential for plenty of big plays. The first team to 30 points will win it. Since Rodgers went down, the Pack's high water mark is 26 points in the tie against the Vikings. I have a feeling Dallas will get to 30 first and once again, deliver in essence, a knock out punch to Green Bay. I like the Cowboys 31-24.