Early Bird Breakdown NFC Divisional Round – Packers @ Cowboys
Hello and welcome back to Early Bird Breakdown. It’s the divisional round of playoffs! Before diving into the game, let’s look at the recap from last week.
Last week Green Bay hosted the top wildcard seed New York Giants and Rodgers looked as good as ever scorching the Giants defense for 362 yards & four touchdowns. It could have been a different game, with the Packers offense managing only a few yards in the first quarter. The Giants wide receivers had a chance to break the game open early but failed to catch multiple easy catches. Once the Packers’ offense heated up, the Giants’ offense was overwhelmed by a motivated Packers defense late after the initial miscues that let open receivers go.
Packers’ Offense vs Cowboys’ Defense:
Green Bay’s offense is red hot and will have to play that way all four quarters this week because Dallas’s hyper conservative offense will cut a lot of possessions out of this game. Dallas does not boast a particularly scary defense, but they are fully healthy and motivated for this game. Rodgers without Nelson, who suffered broken ribs last week against the Giants, should still be light’s out. The receivers all played well last week and will need to continue to do so without Nelson, as drops have been prevalent especially for Davante Adams at times. Dallas secondary is not going to be scaring anyone and there will be openings to make plays.
While normally a balanced attack is important for keeping the opponent’s offense off the field, Green Bay is going to need to throw it a ton, at least 50 times most likely, against the Dallas secondary. Dallas is favored for a reason and their offense needs to have pressure on it so they cannot sit back and dictate the game. If Dallas follows it’s gameplan, Rodgers will not have many possessions and will need to make the most of what he is given.
Packers’ Defense vs Cowboys’ Offense:
This game is going to be much different for Green Bay than last week. For one, it is unlikely the Dallas receivers will make as many mental errors as the Giants did last week. Second, the Giants were one of the worst rushing teams in the league and Dallas boasts the best offensive line and second best rushing attack in the league. Ezekiel Elliott led the NFL in rushing yards by over 300 over second place despite not playing the last game of the season. The Packers were on a historic start with the run defense when Elliott and Dallas rode into Green Bay week five and they smoked Green Bay for 191 rushing yards as a team. While I do not think Dallas will run for near 200 yards again, as a team it is very unlikely they are held under 150 yards unless they are down early. As good as the Packers run defense can be, the Dallas offensive line has been able to consistently move two yards up the field on the snap meaning nearly every run is for positive yards and it takes little effort from the running backs to get four or more yards.
The silver lining is that Dallas is leaning on their rookie running back Elliott & rookie quarterback Dak Prescott. While Elliott is unlikely to have many post season jitters due to his position & history at Ohio State, Dak Prescott has a lot to prove in this game. He had been very good in the regular season especially with ball control. Historically though rookie quarterbacks tend to feel too much pressure and get loose with the football, leading to turnovers. Green Bay’s defense will need the help of the rookie jitters to get an edge versus a very good offense that will do it’s best to keep the ball away from Rodgers.
Dallas plays in a dome and weather will not be a factor.
This game is very hard to pin down because of how much of a wild card Dallas is with their two offensive stars being rookies. If they play as well as they did during the regular season it is hard to see Green Bay being able to win. They have the wide receiver weapons highlighted by Dez Bryant to burn the secondary and Ezekiel Elliott with that offensive line is likely to run right through the defense. Rodgers will do his part to make this a scoring fest and that is where the upset hinges. If the Packers can get out early and force Dallas off of it’s plan Green Bay will likely win from a turnover off of the rookie Prescott. If they cannot, Rodgers will have limited looks at scoring and will have to do it without his best receiver in Nelson. If I knew for certain Prescott was going to bring his A game, I would likely pick Dallas. But something tells me the lights will make him sweat a bit and Dallas falls behind early and cannot dictate the tempo. Green Bay wins 31-24.As always, go Pack go! Stu Weis -Journalism graduate 2012, Carroll University