Coming off of a mini bye, the Packers are back at Lambeau to take on the Cowboys in a rematch of the Divisional Round from January. But there are some significant elements missing from what was perceived in June to be a marquee matchup late in the season. There is no Romo, no Murray, no Jordy Nelson, and no Eddie Lacy (figuratively).
But there are still some great elements in this game. Division championship implications are all around, and arguable the best quarterback and best receiver will be playing in Green Bay. And both teams are coming off dramatic, potentially season-saving wins. And with each team needing this win, it makes for some great football. Which bring us to this week’s version of 3…2…1…
For those of you who are new, please feel free to go into my archives to read past countdowns, and keep up with reading this series as the season goes on. For those who are consistent readers, feel free to skip down to the next subheading. But 3…2…1… is a series in which I will countdown ways for the Packers to win their game each week. I will highlight 3 key matchups, make 2 bold predictions, and then focus on 1 key stat. So let’s dig into it.
3 KEY MATCHUPS
- Dez Bryant vs Sam Shields
- This was the matchup on the controversial play last season, and Shields rose to the occasion. He is also having a spectacular year. The Packers main website wrote a great story about his season, and he has only gotten better as it has progressed. He has shown the ability to be a shutdown corner and that will continue this week. Dez Bryant, while an amazing talent and a top receiver, has struggled with injuries and hasn’t built a strong rapport with Matt Cassel yet. Advantage goes to Shields.
- Richard Rodgers vs Sean Lee
- After a career performance and a career-defining play, Richard Rodgers has started to get back into the trust of Aaron Rodgers, and he is a safety net to gain some yards every time he is targeted. On the other side, Sean Lee is a top 10 middle linebacker when healthy. He has great instincts and some very good coverage ability to matchup with tight ends. His only size is that his strength isn’t the greatest, which favors Rodgers. But Lee is someone who can take over a game, and Dallas needs him to on Sunday.
- Tyron Smith vs Mike Daniels
- I almost flipped it with Bakhtiari vs Hardy, but Mike Daniels has been so dominant, even if it doesn’t show on the stat sheet as much, that he can cause a serious problem for an underachieving Dallas offensive line. He has drawn double teams and collapsed the line all year, but if Smith is going to play like his talent and contract stipulate, he can shut down someone as good as Daniels. But for consistency, Daniels has a significant edge over Smith.
2 BOLD PREDICTIONS
- Packers win the turnover margin by over 4
- The tale of two teams this season, one turns it over about once every election cycle while the other is quarterbacked by Matt Cassel. Aaron Rodgers looks more confident after his fourth quarter dramatics last Thursday, while Cassel just doesn’t look comfortable at all in Dallas. Throw in the Packers tendency for creating turnovers, from interceptions to fumbles to fourth down stops, will create at least four this game.
- Davante Adams has more receiving yards than Dez Bryant
- An unpopular opinion to most of Packer Nation, as Adams is the main target for all the anger over the past few weeks, and for the most part that is valid. But he has the trust of Aaron and had a couple of nice catches against Detroit. Dallas has a rough secondary right now, and with Richard Rodgers breaking out and getting more focus, Adams will have more one on ones. And I have been a proponent of Adams, saying that he had the yips after getting injured for the first time in a serious way in his career. But I look for a resurgence from him, and he has a better matchup than Dez.
1 KEY STAT
- Offensive Penalties
- Every game comes down to three main facets that decide it: field position, turnovers, and mistakes. That line is from the book Packers by the Numbers, but it is true. And under the heading of “mistakes” is penalties. And nothing can stall an offense worse than penalties. Both of the teams in this game have had their share of drive-killing fouls in recent weeks, and whichever team limits their negative offensive yardage due to the yellow hanky will win this game.
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.