This Sunday, the Green Bay Packers will travel to Dallas and take on the defending NFC East champion Dallas Cowboys. This will be the first meeting between these two teams since Green Bay’s epic 34-31 playoff victory which culminated in a game-winning field goal by Mason Crosby with no time remaining. This season, both teams have Super Bowl hopes and a victory over an elite opponent would bring either team closer to making the playoffs and achieving that goal. Most importantly, this game could mean a lot down the road for home field advantage in the playoffs.
There are three specific matchups that can decide this game:
1. Jordy Nelson vs. Orlando Scandrick
When discussing NFL receivers, it is almost impossible to find someone who is more consistent than Jordy Nelson. Nelson has been Aaron Rodgers’ favorite target for several years now and this season looks no different. In four games this season, Nelson has over 200 yards receiving and five touchdowns despite missing one game due to a leg injury. Nelson is a threat all over the field. Whether it is deep down the field or in short yardage situations, Rodgers has faith in Jordy to make a big play. Jordy’s role this Sunday will be even bigger than usual due to the injury to Davante Adams last week against the Bears. Adams is currently listed as questionable for this contest and one has to wonder about his effectiveness if he does in fact suit up for the game. Either way, one has to assume that Rodgers will be targeting Nelson early and often during the game which means that Nelson could be poised for a huge game.
2. The Packers’ Defensive Line vs. the Cowboys’ Offensive Line
So far this season, Green Bay’s defensive line has looked solid at times but has been extremely inconsistent as a whole. This Sunday, this defensive line will have to face, arguably, the best offensive line in the entire league. The Cowboys have 2016 All-Pro linemen at multiple positions including former Wisconsin center Travis Frederick, former Alabama tackle Tyron Smith and former Notre Dame guard Zack Martin. Together, these three lineman are the key to the Cowboys’ potent offense. If Green Bay’s defensive line manages to win the battle at the line of scrimmage, then 2016 All-Pro running back Ezekiel Elliott will most likely struggle which will result in more pass attempts by Dak Prescott. The Cowboys’ success starts and ends with Elliott. His ability to pick up yardage in the running game as well as the passing game makes this offense extremely difficult to stop. However, if the Packers can stop him similarly to the way the Broncos did a few weeks ago, expect the Packers to win by double digits.
3. The Packers’ Secondary vs. Dez Bryant
One glaring concern for the Packers going into the 2017 season is their secondary. The Packers tried to rectify this issue by signing cornerback Devon House and by drafting cornerback Kevin King in the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft. Last season, the Packers’ secondary got exposed in the playoffs by Dez Bryant and they now have a chance to get some revenge. In the playoff game last season, Bryant had nine receptions for 132 yards and two touchdowns. LaDarius Gunter, the cornerback that guarded Bryant for the majority of that game, is no longer on the roster, so one can expect different results from this Packers’ secondary.
So far this season, Dez Bryant has been underachieving. In four games this season, Bryant only has 16 catches for 212 yards and two touchdowns. However, Bryant did look extremely good last week against the Rams and had five catches for 98 yards. If the Cowboys plan on beating the Packers, Bryant will have to win his one-on-one battles on the outside. If Bryant can create some separation, expect several big plays down the field in the play action passing game. If Bryant underachieves once more, I cannot see how the Cowboys can win this contest.
As for my prediction in the contest, I expect the Packers to win an extremely close game. The Packers looked amazing last game and are poised to build on their two-game winning streak. I personally think that Elliott and Bryant do have big games for the Cowboys but I think that Dallas’ defense has way too many holes. I expect Rodgers to carve up this defense for four quarters while leading the Packers to a victory.
Prediction: Green Bay Packers 34, Dallas Cowboys 30