The Dallas Cowboys last beat Green Bay at Lambeau Field in September of 2008. Aaron Rodgers was an unknown commodity and Tony Romo and his Cowboys cruised to a 27-16 victory. Since that moment, Green Bay has found a way to be a thorn in the side of the Cowboys. Now, the Dallas Cowboys roll into Lambeau without perhaps their two best players.
Yes, Tony Romo and Dez Bryant are once again (likely) shelved, awaiting their chances to make an impact later in the season. Dallas will enter another week with a rookie running back who happens to lead the league in rushing. Beside him is a rookie quarterback who has been performing up to the exceptional levels asked of him by his coaching staff. Every week, another task lays ahead of the team and nobody picked to perform as well as they have. Especially without quarterback Tony Romo.
Now comes a very stiff test. Regardless of how Aaron Rodgers has performed up to this point, he's still Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers hasn't posted a 100+ passer rating in two seasons. For some reason, he has fallen victim to a slump. Rodgers is only completing 55% of his passes and has thrown three interceptions to nine touchdowns with an average passer rating of 87.7. He just hasn't been the Rodgers that we all know as a perennial MVP candidate. He hasn't had his first 300-yard passing game yet and let's hope that doesn't come this week. Who knows how long that will last because as mentioned previously, he's still Aaron Rodgers. This moment may be the Cowboys best chance to pounce on a victory over an NFC favorite.
The Packers currently are the NFL's best rushing defense but they also haven't faced a running attack this potent and powerful. Can the Cowboys do what they did to Cincinnati to the Green Bay Packers? That remains to be seen.
For all the praise that has been given to the Packers' run defense, you can poke a few holes in that, too. They played the Jacksonville Jaguars (30th in rushing), the New York Giants (27th in rushing), the Vikings (32nd, Adrian Peterson played part of that game before injury), and the Lions (23rd in rushing). So the Packers are only giving up 42.8 rushing yards per game? Well, their opponents have only averaged a measly 79.8 rushing yards per contest. As much of a test as the Cowboys may be facing, don't let the Green Bay Packers off the hook. They haven't faced as dominant of an offensive line yet, with a running back in Ezekiel Elliott leading the league in rushing. The Cowboys are cruising with 155.2 rushing yards per outing.
The Packers are a perennial playoff team that has had that luxury of making teams go to them in the postseason. Dallas must make sure they win this game to try and control that fate in the NFC playoff picture.
As good as Dallas has been on the road, you don't want to face Green Bay at Lambeau in the late winter. You would much rather have an early win and make the Packers come to Dallas when it counts the most. This is one of those games much like they had in Seattle a few years ago. They went to the toughest place to play and dominated the Super Bowl champions in their house. The Cowboys and Packers are looking to be two formidable powerhouses in the NFC and this game is a big one. Yes, the Cowboys have a rookie quarterback but their numbers show that it's not Prescott they are relying on most, it's their biggest strength - the offensive line.
This game will be a strength-on-strength game and it's one the Cowboys need to come out on the right side of. The Cowboys are a physical ground-and-pound team, now they have to go prove it to a team they will have to get past in order to be a "special" team. It all starts with this tough trip to Lambeau Field but with all we've witnessed this season, it's not at all surprising to be confident in their chances. Michael Irvin said that Jimmy Johnson would tell the team that sometimes you have to walk up to a gorilla and just "punch it in the mouth." That's about as good of an analogy as any for this weekend's contest.