Two of the most storied franchises in football face off this Sunday, both looking for revenge after being handed their first loss of the year last week. For the Cowboys, it was an ugly loss on the road in which their new-look offense reverted to the old look and failed to help out a defense that didn’t give up a single touchdown. For the Packers, it was a Thursday night loss at home that featured their dramatically improved defense failing to stop what had been an inconsistent running game.
Both teams are looking for a course correction this week, and both will have to do so without some of their best players.
Dallas will most likely be without Tyron Smith after the All-Pro left tackle hurt his ankle on the final drive of last week’s game. Right tackle La’el Collins is also in question after missing the past two practices with back pain. The Packers, on the other hand, are likely to be without their top wide receiver in Davante Adams, and possibly their number two cornerback Kevin King. Right tackle Bryan Bulaga couldn’t finish their last game with a shoulder injury, but he seems like he’ll be ready to go against Dallas.
Both of these teams will have to overcome these significant losses in order to get back to their winning ways. Add in the history that exists between these two teams, and it sets up for a high-drama scenario. These two teams have played each other 36 times in both the regular season and playoffs, with the first matchup coming back in the Cowboys’ inaugural season. Since Jason Garrett has been the head coach of the Cowboys, these two teams have played each other six times, twice coming in the playoffs. Garrett is 1-5 against Green Bay.
Coincidentally, though, the Packers are partially responsible for Garrett being the head coach. It was the 45-7 blowout loss in Lambeau Field that led to Jerry Jones axing head coach Wade Phillips mid-year, giving way for Garrett to become the interim head coach.
The Packers went through a similar situation last year, with Mike McCarthy being fired during the season after being beat by the Cardinals at home. Of course, Green Bay opted not to retain their interim head coach and instead brought in 39-year-old Matt LaFleur, who had just finished his first year calling plays for the Titans.
LaFleur’s hiring was billed as the Packers finding their own Sean McVay by hiring a guy who had worked with McVay for a few years. However, through the Packers’ 3-0 start it looked quite the opposite, as star quarterback Aaron Rodgers struggled to get the offense going and keep it going. But second-year defensive coordinator Mike Pettine trotted out a unit that kept the Packers in the lead for most, if not all, of those games.
Against the Eagles, though, everything went bad on defense while Rodgers finally looked himself again. The defense got gashed for 176 rushing yards and two touchdowns and gave up 34 points after only allowing 35 the first three games. The offense became much more pass happy than in previous weeks, when LaFleur sought to establish the run, as Rodgers threw for over 400 yards. But an interception on the goal line that was very reminiscent of Russell Wilson’s Super Bowl pick a few years ago sealed the loss for Green Bay.
It was a game that capped off a month-long trend for the Cheeseheads: their offense gradually put up more points, presumably as the personnel got more comfortable in LaFleur’s offense, and the defense gradually declined. Now, Pettine’s unit heads into their road game in Dallas allowing over 142 rushing yards a game, ranking 26th in run defense. However, their pass defense ranks third with only 188 yards surrendered per game.
For a Dallas team that just tried to run the ball down the Saints’ throats, albeit to no avail, that has to be an appetizing matchup. Even more so considering the pass rush that this defense has been able to generate, which has them ninth in the league in sacks. Considering the Cowboys will be without at least one of their offensive tackles and possibly both of them, it’s a good time to try and run the ball more frequently.
The Cowboys defense, however, will face its toughest matchup yet. After not giving up a touchdown for two straight games, the defense will go up against Rodgers as he’s hitting his stride. Not having Adams will impact the quarterback’s attack somewhat, but there’s also the nagging fact that Rodgers has more or less had this team’s number for quite a while.
Regardless, these are two teams who feel like they should be 4-0 coming into this game and will be trying to get their fourth win despite missing key players. Something’s gotta give in what should turn into a very intense game between early NFC front-runners.