Football is at its best when the Cowboys and Packers square off in the playoffs.
Dallas and Green Bay are two of the best-recognized and best-represented franchises in NFL history. They share a combined nine Super Bowl titles (and nine more NFL Championships, all courtesy of the Packers) and have two of the largest and most spread-out fanbases in football (I have no stats to support it, but it sounds correct, doesn’t it).
Even their uniforms look good across from each other on the field. The green and gold contrasts with the silver and blue and, though the styles have changed over the years, the aesthetic looks like you could be watching a game from 1967.
But even without all the pomp and history surrounding the game, we’re in for a treat. The Dallas ground game has been gushed over all season and the Packers offense has seemed unstoppable for two months.
This game boils down to essentially which defense can slow down their opponents offense more. Packers DT Mike Daniels will be a huge factor in creating a fulcrum and making Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott uncomfortable. If Daniels can penetrate and make Elliott either bounce outside or dive into a crowded line, that will go a long way in stopping the Dallas running game. When Elliott isn’t bothered in the backfield (see 5:55 and 8:15 of the linked video), he makes you pay.
On the other side, Aaron Rodgers’ recent stats speak for themselves and there’s been plenty of analysis of the Packers passing game thus far. One area to watch in particular though, is TE Jared Cook. Since Cook’s return in Week 11, he’s progressively gotten more and more involved. Dallas’ pass defense is quite weak against tight ends this year. According to Football Outsiders, they rank 30th defending the tight end. Cowboys LB everyman Sean Lee could see time one-on-one with Cook and that matchup could determine the outcome of multiple Green Bay drives.
Green Bay – S Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix
Clinton-Dix has emerged as a franchise safety this season. His help in coverage has allowed the Packers to maintain some semblance of a secondary despite like, eight different cornerbacks playing over the course of the season. But where he has been really effective, and where he’ll need to be effective on Sunday is in the run game. Clinton-Dix will be called on to stack the box against the Cowboys’ dominant offensive line. He’s made big plays all year and will need to continue doing so if the Packers want to keep the Cowboys from running all day. That will leave Morgan Burnett alone over the top, but it’s a risk the Packers will have to take. 4 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 big play (INT, FF, FR, etc.)
Dallas – WR Cole Beasley
When these teams played in October, Beasley had a big game, catching six balls for 58 yards and two short scores. He’s exactly the type of player that the Packers offense can’t handle. Because Green Bay lacks a shut-down corner, their safeties need to provide help over the top against top-tier receivers. Thus, players like Beasley, Adam Thielen, and Mohamed Sanu benefit from the extra attention drawn by Dez Bryant, Stefon Diggs, and Julio Jones, respectively. I see Beasley having another big game to supplement Elliott and the Dallas rushing attack. 7 catches, 85 yards, 1 touchdown
My Pick: Call me a homer, but I think the Green Bay rush defense will be able to hold Dallas under 150 yards rushing – which has to be considered a success. That will put too much pressure on Cowboys rookie QB Dak Prescott to deliver in his first career playoff game. Julius Peppers and Nick Perry have looked great lately. Elliott can beat them, but Prescott can’t.