With the 10 day break following a Thursday night win against Chicago, the Packers return to Sundays to take on the Dallas Cowboys and be the bane of Skip Bayless’s very existence. And it will also be a return to Jerry World where just a few short months ago the Packers ended the season of the Cowpokes on a miracle throw to Jared Cook and two 50-plus yard field goals by Mason Crosby. Let’s see if they can repeat that result Sunday afternoon. And we’ll do our best to predict it in 3…2…1…
In this article, and this series all season, we’ll take a look at 3 X-Factors (less obvious ones, not established superstars like Aaron Rodgers or Jordy Nelson), I’ll make 2 Bold Predictions, and then I’ll make the 1 prediction that matters: the score. So let’s dig in.
1. Blake Martinez
The biggest key to stopping the Cowboys offense is to limit Ezekiel Elliott. And no Packer besides Mike Daniels will be more important to that than Blake Martinez. The second year linebacker has been a very good run stopper so far in 2017 and has shown the ability to fill the hole and make a hit to stop any forward progress. That’ll be a little more difficult against a runner like Elliott, but Martinez could be the guy to step up and make sure that his yards after contact are minimal.
2. Martellus Bennett
On the other side of the ball, the Packers likely will want to limit possessions with Elliott, Dak Prescott, and Dez Bryant on the other sideline. So a tight end like Bennett could be more valuable here than in most other games. Bennett hasn’t had the numbers you’d expect so far, but a lot of that has to do with the need to have him stay in line to help the young backup tackles. With David Bakhtiari and Bryan Bulaga both on track to play, Bennett may be able to be more of what fans thought he’d be in the passing game. Look for a lot of out routes and hitch routes to move the chains to #80
3. Morgan Burnett
Kevin King has been vocal about his desire to cover Dez Bryant, and I expect that to be the case, but Dez is only part of this Cowboy passing game. They are much more successful if they can work the underneath routes with Cole Beasley and Jason Witten. Those guys have been quiet and it’ll be up to the slot defenders to keep that up. And the assignment will likely fall to Morgan Burnett first. The defensive leader has been up to the task so far this season, and if he can limit the opportunities for those two guys, the Packer defense will have a great chance of creating turnovers.
2 Bold Predictions
1. With the starting offensive line (likely) playing, the Packers allow less than 2 sacks to Aaron Rodgers.
Currently, both tackles David Bakhtiari and Bryan Bulaga are listed as questionable for the game, but after a 10 day break, it is expected that both will be available to play. That is a huge boost for an offense that has had to limit itself because of issues about pass protection. Having arguably the best tackle duo in football back is massive. Mix that in with the fact that Dallas has only one premier pass rusher in Demarcus Lawrence and the Packers offensive line could finally be the line that Coach McCarthy called one of his best ever.
2. Dak Prescott has at least 2 turnovers.
Tying in with the importance of Morgan Burnett’s performance, my prediction is that the Cowboys won’t be able to get their short passing game going, which will make Dak Prescott make more plays down the field. And if there has been a negative for the young signal caller, it has been that he can struggle without his safety nets. I look for one interception (likely from a safety) and one strip sack to change the complexion of the game early in the second half.
1 Game Prediction
The Packers use their improving health to down the Cowboys 31-21.——————
Mike Wendlandt is originally from Iola, Wisconsin and graduated from Drake University in 2015 with a degree in History. With a significant journalism background both in writing and broadcasting, Mike can be heard as the play-by-play voice of Central Wisconsin High School sports on WDUX FM 92.7 and on Twitter @MikeWendlandt.
Mike Wendlandt is a writer covering the Green Bay Packers for PackersTalk.com.