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Week 5 Matchup: Previewing the Packers defense and the Cowboys offensive strategy

The pressure is mounting on Ezekiel Elliott to return to form and lead the Dallas rushing attack.

NFL: NFC Divisional-Green Bay Packers at Dallas Cowboys Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Cowboys enter week five facing the Green Bay Packers at home in a game that will help determine conference seeding and clubhouse confidence going into a tough stretch for the Cowboys. We previewed the Green Bay Packers offensive approach so now let’s take a look at the Packers defense and how the Dallas offense can capitalize.

Defensive Line

The Packers feature a 3-4 defense; Dean Lowry, Kenny Clark and Quinton Dial got the most snaps along the defensive line last week in a decisive win against the Chicago Bears. Injured tackle Mike Daniels is the best player on this line, his status for the game is unknown at this point. Overall, this is an average group and it provides Ezekiel Elliott an opportunity to continue his dominating ways against the Packers. In two career games against Green Bay, Zeke has averaged 141 yards, which is a performance that he will have to mimic this week in order for the Cowboys to pull out the victory.

The defensive line for the Packers relies heavily on the linebackers to make plays and to blitz the quarterback with Clay Matthews. The Dallas offensive line has struggled somewhat in prior weeks and Dak Prescott has found himself on the ground more times this season than last season. This front three for Green Bay provides an opportunity for Dallas to reset their offensive line play.

Linebackers

The Packers feature Matthews, Jake Ryan, Blake Martinez and Ahmad Brooks along their linebacking group. This quartet is lead by superstar Matthews who in five career games against Dallas is 4-1 with 3.5 sacks, 11 tackles and 1 interception returned for a touchdown. The offensive line for Dallas last year was recognized as being the best of the best but it has not proven to be as effective this year. It remains unclear if this is the result of losing both Ronald Leary and Doug Free or it is a regression in play from Dak and Zeke.

Regardless of why the offensive line has struggled this season, the Packers know the Cowboys tendencies well and will blitz often and attempt to force Prescott into beating them through the air. Thus far, Prescott has showcased the long ball but it was his ability to find short but valuable yardage with Cole Beasley and Jason Witten that made him particularly elite last season. This week provides Dak with an opportunity to find last year’s magic.

Secondary

The Green Bay Packers feature veterans Morgan Burnett and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix at the safety position and a revolving door at cornerback due to poor play and injuries. Josh Jones filled in at safety quite a bit last week and was flanked by rookie Kevin King, Damarious Randall and Josh Hawkins at cornerback. Backup safety, Kentrell Brice, and Clinton-Dix are the only members of the defense to have recorded an interception this season.

Similar to Prescott’s opportunity to reconnect with Beasley and Witten, this young secondary also plays into his strengths. Given the firepower across the Packers offense, Dez Bryant, Terrence Williams and Brice Butler need to team up for one or two long completions or touchdowns to set the tone early. Look for Bryant to continue his success against the Packers after recording two touchdowns and 132 yards in Dallas’ playoff loss to end the 2017 season.

Key Matchup

Matthews is the sack leader for the Packers with 2.5 sacks this season thus far. His matchup against Prescott, Elliott and Witten will dictate the course of this game. The Dallas offense has rightfully been accused of being predictable in recent weeks which will play directly into the hands of Matthews and his defense. In order for the Cowboys to beat the Packers, they must neutralize Matthews, keep him out of the pocket and watch Zeke regain his rookie form. If the Cowboys make early mistakes or are forced to a string of three and out drives, the Packers offense will outdo Dallas early and ensure a Green Bay victory.

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