The best (and only) home victory for the Aaron Rodgers Packers is against the lowly Minnesota Vikings. Not only is it against the Vikings but against the Vikings with their backup QB. The 2010 Super Bowl run happened completely on the road. The Packers didn’t get to don their customary green jerseys until the Super Bowl itself. In that time period they dropped the heartbreaker to the Giants that ended the 15-1 season. They lost last season to the 49ers on a dropped interception by Micah Hyde. The second season for the Green Bay Packers has begun, and one of the only things the McCarthy-Rodgers-Thompson crew doesn’t have is on the table: a signature home playoff victory.
There’s a lot of hand-wringing about this game. People are terrified of Demarco Murray. Dez Bryant is an unstoppable force of nature. Jason Witten has “old man game”. The Cowboys have the best offensive line in the league. All of these things are at least a little bit true. Here’s the thing that no one is happening to mention (because it doesn’t fit the narrative), the Packers offense is better.
It’s better in almost every way. Look at the way the Packers ran the ball on Detroit. It’s a good deal better than how Dallas and their 392-carries-worth-of-mileage back Demarco Murray did. And Aaron Rodgers vs. Tony Romo? Please. Yes. Dallas has a top 5 offense. Football Outsiders has them pegged as the #4 offense in all of football (DVOA). Cool deal. Congratulations. Who’s #1? The Green Bay Packers.
Defensively it’s not even close. Since the move of Clay Matthews to ILB, the Packers have been a top 5 run defense in the entire NFL. They rose in the DVOA rankings from 31st a season ago to 16th. They are infinitely more talented on D than Dallas, who improved this season as well, but only to 22nd. Green Bay has a better offense and a better defense. I am then supposed to believe that either the special teams are going to be such a problem or Mike McCarthy is going to going to be so outcoached by
Jerry Jones Jason Garrett that the Packers are going to lose this game. At home.
Why the Packers Will Win: They are the better team. They have the better coach. They are at home. They have the better QB. Those 4 things will usually do it for me. I feel a lot like I did before I told the world that the Packers were going to roll the Eagles by double digits. I am on record this week saying that the Packers are going to score 7 or 8 times. I firmly believe this. What kind of scores they are (TDs or FGs) will determine the final point output. There isn’t really anything that the Packers can try on offense, even with an immobile Rodgers in the pistol, that the Cowboys can take away. Rod Marinelli can scheme him some defense, but he can’t stop this attack at home that put forth 39.75 points per game at home. Brandon Carr can’t cover Jordy Nelson. Orlando Scandrick can’t cover Randall Cobb. Their front 7 can’t stop Eddie Lacy without dropping an 8th man into the box. The 22nd best defense in football is going to surrender at least 35 points to this offense, so the Packers rejuventated defense is going to have to surrender at least 36 to lose.
Defensively, the Packers are in for a tough game. There is no question about that. The Packers played 4 of Football Outsiders top 8 offenses this season. Results were certainly mixed. They played well enough against New England and Miami, but did not show up very well against Seattle and New Orleans. I understand that the defense has higher expectations than this, but the goal this weekend is to hold Dallas under 30. There is no scenario that I can comprehend where the offense scores under 30 so holding the Cowboys below that number should spell victory. The formula is an easy one. Plenty of base defense against Demarco Murray with Morgan Burnett as the unblocked 8th man. That setup, along with the offense jumping out ahead, should put the game in Tony Romo’s hands. Yes, Romo played well this season. It was a career year. He’s still not going to beat Aaron Rodgers from behind on the road against a better defense than Rodgers has to face.
Why the Cowboys Will Win: Superhuman performances are on the table. Dez Bryant is capable of setting Sam Shields aflame. There is no question about that. The impact that Julio Jones had against Green Bay and the impact that Calvin Johnson seems to have every time the Packers and Lions get together is certainly on the table. If the Packers can do absolutely nothing to stop Bryant, Brunett and Clinton-Dix will have to vacate the tackle box. If that happens Demarco Murray could run wild. It’s possible that even with Matthews at ILB the Packers run defense is more of a product of who they’ve faced as opposed to the improvements they’ve made, as ESPN Wisconsin’s Jason Wilde illustrates here. The Cowboys offense is certainly capable of getting into a shootout where the last team with the ball wins if Romo can avoid the big mistake.
Defensively there really isn’t anything the Cowboys can do to contribute to a victory over Rodgers and the Packers. If they got a couple of stops great, but they can’t bring pressure against this offensive line and their defensive backs don’t have the ball skills to create a turnover. The Cowboys have a middling special teams unit, and as you saw in the Packers’ loss to Buffalo, special teams can cost the better team a game. There is no question about that. I’m not sure this is the unit to do it, though.
Bottom Line: Rodgers and Romo have actually missed each other throughout their careers. Their first meeting in 2007 was with Brett Favre at the helm for Green Bay. Rodgers did enter that game, but not until Favre got hurt and the Packers were down big on the road. In 2010 the two teams met again, and Rodgers set Dez Bryant and the Cowboys on fire, winning at Lambeau Field 45-7. Jon Kitna started that game. A season ago the Packers won in Dallas, this time behind a Matt Flynn led comeback. I said before last week’s game that the Lions would win, that they were the better team. They almost did, and if it were not for some of the most questionable officiating in playoff history they would have. The Packers were on pace (before 12 went down) to beat those Lions at home by 17-24 points. I have these Cowboys on a talent level with the Philadelphia Eagles and we all saw how that went. Tony Romo is a good player. Dez Bryant and Demarco Murray are great players. This isn’t basketball. You need more than 3 guys. It’s not just Aaron Rodgers, Eddie Lacy and Jordy Nelson. It’s Randall Cobb. It’s Clay Matthews. It’s Julius Peppers. It’s Mike Daniels. The Packers have a better offense than Dallas. They have a better defense than Dallas. They have a better coach, they’re at home and they have the best QB in the world. Packers 41 Cowboys 21