Early Bird Breakdown Week 14 – Dallas Cowboys @ Green Bay Packers
Hello and welcome to Early Bird Breakdown! Before diving into the game, let’s take a look at the last game against the Lions.
This is the recap and the play of the year for the Packers, coming back and winning the game on a Hail Mary pass with no time on the clock. Detroit controlled the game for the first half, leading the Packers 17-0. Green Bay had to mount quite the comeback and got a break by a facemask call as time expired. As the game cannot end on a defensive penalty, Rodgers got one last chance, spun away from the Lions’ rush and delivered a game winning bomb to Richard Rodgers.
Packers’ Offense vs Cowboys’ Defense:
The Packers’ offense will face off with the fifth ranked total defense this week. Their primary strength has been their pass defense, also fifth in the league giving up only 222.4 yards passing per game.
With the recent struggles with the Packers’ offensive line in pass blocking, Rodgers will have to have the hard count going strong at home this week to give them the best chance to throw down the field against this excellent coverage unit. As discussed previously multiple times, the Packers’ receivers have difficulty getting open consistently regardless of who is covering them, and this week will be no exception with Dallas having a solid pass rush to generate quick throws and a quality secondary to shut down the wide receivers.
Dallas is only average against the run, ranking 15th in rushing defense. A healthy dose of running the ball will be Green Bay’s key to continuing drives. Last week Eddie Lacy was a non-factor because he missed curfew in Detroit and was mostly relegated to the bench. This week, he is expected to start and head coach Mike McCarthy said Lacy looked “rejuvenated” this week in practice. I expect the bulk of the carries will go to Lacy this week, with Starks primarily coming in only to spell Lacy and perhaps be used in the hurry up offense.
Packers’ Defense vs Cowboys Offense:
Once again, it will be up to the Packers’ defense to lead the Packers to victory, and based on the opponent it should not be a difficult request. Dallas has only won a single game without quarterback Tony Romo this season and their offense has been atrocious. Despite having the best offensive line in the league and a quality receiving corps led by Dez Bryant, Dallas has only averaged 17.6 points per game in games without Tony Romo. Matt Cassel has as many interceptions as touchdowns (five).
The two challenges Green Bay faces are dealing with the offensive line and dealing with Dez Bryant.
Dallas’ offensive line will be difficult for the Green Bay front seven to break through, but they do not have a running back this year to exploit it as well as they did last year when they had Demarco Murray. The Cowboys still are ranked 13th in rushing despite not having a true starting running back, instead relying on multiple backs shuffled into the game to keep the others fresh. Green Bay should focus on taking this away from Dallas early and dare the Cowboys to try and win via the pass. The Packers pass rush still may get a couple sacks on the day as Dallas has allowed a fair amount of them this season, though part of that is on the quarterback for holding onto the ball for too long. Even without a sack, defensive coordinator Dom Capers should turn up the pressure as Matt Cassel does not have the arm strength to try and take advantage deep. This should result in sloppy throws that the Packers secondary could make a play on.
The only way Dallas can win via the pass is by having Dez Bryant go off against Green Bay. This is the one player Green Bay should put two people on fairly consistently. A rotation of either Sam Shields or Damarious Randall with help from a safety should keep Bryant relatively in check, since Matt Cassel does not have the arm strength nor the skill to locate perfect balls only Bryant would be able to catch. The Packers defense should hold Dallas relatively low on points and give the Packers offense good field position.
The forecast shows the game will be a relatively warm 55 degrees with rain throughout. Expect this to weaken the passing for the teams and for them to look towards the run.
While the Packers were able to make a strong comeback last week, the offense continues to look shaky and is going up against the 5th ranked total defense. However, the Cowboys offense has looked awful without Tony Romo and will have to go against a good Packers defense as well. Despite any previous struggles by the Packers, this comes down to Matt Cassel vs Aaron Rodgers, and it is pretty obvious who wins that matchup. Green Bay’s defense will hold Dallas early and generate good field position for Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers will hand off frequently to Lacy early, Rodgers himself commenting this week on how good he is when he gets 20 or more carries, and will eclipse 100 yards rushing while Rodgers will get one or two offside free plays extending early drives. I expect the team overall to look pretty good and the Packers win this one 24-13.As always, go Pack go! Stu Weis -Journalism graduate 2012, Carroll University