On paper it sure looks like a rematch of a very important (and controversial) playoff game from a season ago. In so many ways it is not. There will be no Demarco Murray. There won’t be any Tony Romo either. The 2014 Packers offense was a highly functioning unit despite a quarterback that couldn’t move. The 2015 offense looks awful and it seems all Rodgers does is run for his life.
Dallas made the decision to credit their fantastic offensive line for the production of their running game a season ago. Running back Demarco Murray was allowed to leave after signing a big deal with the rival Eagles. The results are mixed. Darren McFadden has been serviceable but a season ago Dallas was a dominant unit running the ball. As it stands, the Cowboys are 1-6 without Romo and are headed into a must-win situation at Lambeau Field.
This is a huge game for the Packers on a number of levels. First of all it’s difficult to believe that we live in a world where an Aaron Rodgers-led Packers team loses three games in a row. Green Bay has been nearly unstoppable at home with Rodgers at quarterback, but they have lost consecutive division games at Lambeau Field.
If Green Bay wins, it maintains its lead for the division, clearly outpaces the NFC East for the #3 seed and stays alive for the #2 seed. The Packers have to keep winning to have any hope that their week 16 matchup with the Arizona Cardinals is meaningful. If they do use the “Miracle in Motown” as a jumping off point and start winning games again it could also make the home game against the Vikings in week 17 meaningless.
If the Packers lose, they will more than likely still make the playoffs, but it will be hard to believe in anything but a one-and-done playoff appearance. If the Packers can’t springboard off of that victory in Detroit, it will be safe to say that they don’t have “it” this season.
Why the Packers Will Win:
They are still the better team. Green Bay is ranked about 17 spots ahead of Dallas in DVOA. With the home field advantage, the Packers should be somewhat heavily favored (and they are). Dallas sports a defense that is almost exactly league average. Green Bay needs to get over the hump on offense. They don’t necessarily need to get to the level that they were at last year, but they have to get better. Jordy Nelson is a great player, but he’s the only real change in personnel. His loss should not mean this big of a drop in production. You would hope that progression from young players like Linsley, Adams, and Richard Rodgers would have helped offset his loss. It has not.
The Packers defense seems to be the unit that we’ve been waiting all these years for. During this more ugly six game stretch after the bye week, it has been the defense keeping the team in games to give the offense a chance at the end. The offense has failed in Carolina and at home against Detroit and Chicago. While it certainly is time for the offense to start pulling their weight, what we’ve seen from the defense has to be viewed as progress. The Packers inserted rookie ILB Jake Ryan into Nate Palmer’s starting position and the move paid immediate dividends. The Packers should get fellow rookie Damarious Randall back from injury this week as well. This is about as healthy a Packers defense as I can remember, and they are playing like it.
Why the Cowboys Will Win:
Because I don’t understand professional football any more. I am 0-6 picking Packers outcomes since the bye week. In my defense, Green Bay has been favored in every game, even at Carolina. They are favorites again this week. Not just for me, but for many other analysts, this Packers team seems to zig when everyone things it’s going to zag.
The Cowboys don’t have a bad defense. With Sean Lee returning they are 18th currently in defensive DVOA. Right at league average. If the Packers offense continues to struggle, the Cowboys are good enough to hold them under 20 points. There’s certainly a chance that the Matt Cassel offense could make Green Bay pay. It’s not likely that the Cowboys pull the “upset”, but after watching the last two home games at Lambeau Field, I’m taking nothing for granted.
The Packers are going to win this game because they need to win this game. Very few times in the Aaron Rodgers era have the Packers lost a game that they “needed”. Obviously every playoff game is a must-win situation and the Packers “only” have one Super Bowl during Rodgers’ tenure. In the regular season, however, they’ve been able to get it done. Last year against Detroit, two years ago against Chicago, 2010 against the Jets, 2013 against the Cowboys (though Rodgers didn’t play). This team seems to get it done when it needs to.
They’re the better team. They’re at home. The opponent is on a short week. They’re on a long week. Every single thing points to the Packers winning this one, so I’m gonna just go with the flow. Packers 27 Cowboys 17