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Do The Cowboys Have What It Takes To Beat The Packers?

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For the Cowboys to keep their season alive, they are going to have to find a way to get a tough road win on Sunday against the Packers.

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Last year, Lambeau Field was the scene where the Dallas Cowboys season came to a close when the Green Bay Packers beat Dallas, 26-21, bouncing them out of the playoffs. Should the Cowboys lose to the Packers on Sunday, they could see their 2015 season come to an end as well. If Dallas loses this game, there is a good chance they'll fall two games behind the NFC East leader with only three games left. Even with the opportunities created by the weak play of their divisional counterparts ,that could be too much to overcome this late in the season. For the Cowboys to have any shot at keeping their season alive, they must pull off a win in Green Bay this week.

Can Dallas pull off the upset? The magic eight ball would tell us that the outlook is not so good. There could be some level of hope in the fact that Green Bay is not playing good football right now as they've lost four of their last six games. Of course, that's the same amount of losses the Cowboys have over that span. And like Dallas, it took some late game heroics for the Packers to pull off a win last week. And despite their records being inverses of each other, both teams find themselves in a divisional battle. So how do the 8-4 Packers matchup to the 4-8 Cowboys?

In a complete script flip from last year, the advantage both teams have will come on the defensive side of the ball. Dallas struggled to stop Aaron Rodgers in last year's playoff game, but things should be a little different this time around for a couple reasons. First off, the Cowboys defense has improved, now ranking in the top five for yards allowed. And also, the Packers offense is struggling this season. In 2014, the Packers were second in the league in scoring with 29.7 points a game, trailing only New England. This season, the Packers have dropped to 12th in the league in scoring with 24.1 points a game. But the biggest drop is their ability to move the ball as the Pack have gone from 383 yards per game (ranked 6th) in 2014 to 341 yards a game (22nd) this season. The Packers are struggling to sustain drives as they only convert on third downs on 34.9% (ranked 26th). With no Jordy Nelson available to stretch the field, Green Bay has had problems getting their passing game going. Even with the great Aaron Rodgers behind center, the Packers are only getting 229 yards a game through the air this season, which is 23rd in the league. This is very uncharacteristic for the Green Bay Packers. In fact, this is Rodgers' lowest yardage totals per game since taking over as the starting quarterback. Rodgers just doesn't have the pin-point accuracy that he's had in year's past, which may or may not be attributed to a lingering shoulder injury. Green Bay is banged up on the offensive line and will most likely be without their center, Corey Linsley who is battling an ankle injury. And with Eddie Lacy not posing much of a threat and the Cowboys linebackers filling the gaps to perfection, the Packers are going to have to work hard to scrounge out yards in the running game. This presents a really good opportunity for the Cowboys defense.

Green Bay will work the short passing game. This means the press coverage needs to be stout for the Cowboys DBs in this game. Dallas needs to take this part of the game away and force Rodgers to look deeper. Then it will become a race to see which happens first - sack Rodgers or find an open receiver downfield. This is a race the Cowboys should be able to win and may come down to just how accurate Rodgers is when he does let loose.

On offense, the Cowboys should find themselves in a very familiar situation where they are at a complete loss for finding their way into the end zone. Matt Cassel has not been good throwing the ball downfield, so the opportunity for explosive plays will be few. Dallas will resort to their patented ground attack to keep Cassel in manageable third down situations, but this team must find a way to sneak out some bigger plays. With the offense being so scanty throwing deep, Scott Linehan may try to put his receivers in position to get yards after the catch. Lucky Whitehead has shown some good flashes of what he can do with the ball in recent games and Terrance Williams was once known for taking it to the house at times. For this offense to make any big gains, it is imperative that the receivers slip some tackles. But the biggest plays are going to need to come from their biggest playmaker. Look for the Cowboys to throw more quick passes to number 88. This offense has a talented receiver and it is a crime to not put the ball in his hands and let him make plays. Dallas is going to need about 20 points to win this game. That's asking a lot for a team that struggles to get touchdowns. But if they are to do it, it's going to come in the form of a Dez Bryant redemption game.

With play of the quarterback such a big determining factor in who wins the game, the Cowboys are at a big disadvantage in this one. It's going to take a poor performing, rattled Rodgers and a solid performance by Cassel to pull this one out, but if we all could just have the same amount of optimism as Lloyd Christmas has, the Cowboys have a chance.