This is it. Everything the Dallas Cowboys have worked for begins on Sunday afternoon. The youthful seventh-seeded Green Bay Packers come into Dallas looking to knock off the second-seeded Cowboys in this fun Wild Card matchup.
These two franchises have a lot of history, and have made for interesting outings in the past. While those games have little to nothing to do with the here and now, Sunday promises to add another thrilling chapter to the saga.
Let’s take a closer look at this matchup and see who, on both teams, may end up being X-factors for Sunday’s game.
Dallas Cowboys X-factor: Johnathan Hankins
The best way the Packers can knock off the Cowboys will come by way of the running game, even with how well Jordan Love is playing. With A.J. Dillon listed as doubtful for the matchup it looks like the Cowboys will get a healthy dose of Aaron Jones in this one. With that being the case, it puts defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins in the spotlight to be the game's biggest x-factor.
The Cowboys run defense has been an issue for years, and it’s something the rest of the league is very aware of. However, the unit plays far better when Hankins is in lineup compared to out of it, and Hankins is good to go for Sunday. With the playoffs being unpredictable at times, It may take a Herculean effort from an unsung player to secure a win.
Hankins will need to do the dirty work - take on blockers, and disrupt rushing lanes all game long in order to free up the linebackers and others to make plays. It’s a thankless job with not much statistical data to boast about, but it’s paramount that Hankins is able to handle his business allowing for others to make plays. And if he does the Cowboys should take home a victory on Sunday.
Green Bay Packers X-factor: Jaire Alexander
Jaire Alexander comes into the game with a questionable tag after rolling his ankle in practice on Thursday. With his availability in doubt at this time - it really doesn’t matter as he is still a major x-factor whether he is on the field on Sunday or not.
If he suits up, he will surely be tasked with challenging and following CeeDee Lamb throughout the contest providing “a game within the game.” Alexander is unafraid of playing in the slot or on the outside, so following Lamb around is of no concern for him and is something he is often tasked with.
However, if he is unable to play, his absence becomes a major x-factor for a defense that can be had in the air. That would have the Packers down a proven defensive playmaker and force them to get creative in how they attack Lamb. No matter if he suits up or not, Alexander will play a massive role in this playoff matchup and it’s something the Cowboys better be prepared to attack - one way or another.