The Green Bay Packers essentially played a playoff game last Sunday against the Chicago Bears, earning their ticket to the postseason with a 17-9 win that was more dominant than the final score suggests.
Jordan Love and the Packers are red hot entering the playoffs. Their last two wins are possibly their most thorough and well-rounded of the year. Jordan Love is playing his best football of the season right now, in part due to the resurgence of Aaron Jones (three-straight 100-plus-yard games), and playmakers like Bo Melton coming on late in the season.
The Packers’ defense has allowed just 403 total yards and racked up 9 sacks the last two games combined. Both sides of the ball are finally playing complimentary football. Still, it’s Joe Barry and the Green Bay defense we’re talking about, so no one should be surprised if the Packers surrender 40 points to a Dallas Cowboys team that has blown out nearly all of their visiting opponents.
The Cowboys (12-5), led by MVP-candidate QB Dak Prescott and former Packers’ head coach Mike McCarthy, have been an excellent team all season. At home, they’ve arguably been the best team in the NFL. Dallas is 8-0 in their building this season, scoring 37.4 points per game, winning by an average of 21.5, and boasting a +10 turnover differential. The Cowboys don’t just beat teams at home, they destroy them.
A Packers’ defense ranked 27th overall by DVOA should be circling Ceedee Lamb. Lamb capped off one of the great receiving seasons of all time, finishing with 135 catches, 1,749 yards and 12 TDs. Jaire Alexander hasn’t seen a lot of action this season, and when he has, he hasn’t appeared completely healthy. It’ll take a good defensive gameplan from Barry to contain Lamb – which, obviously, isn’t exactly something fans should hang their hat on.
Good news for the Packers is the Cowboys have had an average-at-best rushing attack this season. Green Bay’s run defense, per usual, is a bottom-10 unit, but a weakness-on-weakness matchup is the best they could hope for. This should be a close game, so the Cowboys likely won’t have to abandon the run at any point.
The Packers will likely need to score around 30 points to win this game, which is doable. The Cowboys’ defense started the year as one of the league’s best, but have fallen off a bit since then. There’s a chance the Packers’ offense will be fully healthy for this game. If Jordan Love plays at the level he’s shown for most of the past two months of the season, I expect the Green Bay offense to stay humming.
Besides stats and matchups, I still truly think the dynamic between the Packers and Cowboys could play a role in this game. The Packers (and, admittedly, specifically Aaron Rodgers) have owned the Cowboys for the last decade, especially when playing in Dallas. The last Packers’ Super Bowl was won in Dallas. The Packers won with Matt Flynn at QB while down 26-3 at one point in 2013 at Dallas.
They beat the Cowboys at home in the playoffs in the infamous “Dez caught it” game in 2014, and won on a ridiculous Rodgers to Jared Cook pass to set up a Mason Crosby field goal in the playoffs in 2016 at Dallas. Green Bay has won 9 of their last 10 against the Cowboys.
There’s always a sort of magic in the air surrounding the Packers when playing the Cowboys, particularly when in Dallas. Whether that’s a product of Aaron Rodgers, or if it’s akin to way the Packers completely own the Bears regardless of team construction, is to be seen for the first time. It’s also the first time Green Bay will play Dallas with Mike McCarthy on the opposing sideline.
A hot Packers team with history on their side makes them a legitimate candidate to pull off a playoff upset – though it can’t be ignored they’re the youngest team to ever make the postseason. The Cowboys are simply more experienced and have a more talented roster, plus they have a lot more pressure on them to make it deep into the playoffs, especially since McCarthy is apparently on the hot seat. A loss could cost him his job.
Expect a close, high-scoring affair between these two rivals, but one that Dallas narrowly pulls off in the end. Either way, it doesn’t take away from the absolute success that this Packers’ season undoubtedly is.
Packers 27, Cowboys 31——————