This week, the Green Bay Packers will face a stouter defensive foe than the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, in the form of the Dallas Cowboys.
During the Cowboys current four-game winning streak, it has been their defense that has stepped up after not playing up to expectations during the beginning of the season. That’s bad news for the Packers, who, as you probably know, have given up a league-leading 37 sacks this season.
Dallas is tied for seventh in the NFL with 21 sacks and features one of the best pass rushers in the league in outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware, who has five sacks and two forced fumbles so far this season.
Ware got off to a slow start this year. He didn’t register a sack in the Cowboys’ first four games, but has mirrored his team’s hot streak in the last four, registering all five of his sacks in those contests.
Another guy the Packers will have to be wary of is Cowboys’ nose tackle Jay Ratliff, who has four sacks on the season and is coming off a two-sack performance against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Although they have no idea who starts at guard for the Packers, ESPN Dallas expects Ratliff to feast on the Packers interior linemen, pointing out that left guard Daryn Colledge has allowed 7.25 sacks on the season (according to Stats Inc.).
Watch for Wade Phillips to try to create one-on-one matchups against the guards for Ratliff out of the nickel package. Ratliff wins those matchups against most guards. The Packers’ pair ought to be easy pickings.
Of course, these idiots think Allen Barbre plays right guard (Josh Sitton has started at RG since game one) and don’t take into account that some of Colledge’s sacks were given up when filling in for Chad Clifton at left tackle, so their logic is flawed.
I would also argue that since replacing Jason Spitz, center Scott Wells has more than held his own against opposing nose tackles. He’s handled both Cleveland’s Shaun Rodgers and Minnesota’s Pat Williams, two of the larger and better defensive tackles in the league. It would be surprising if Wells wasn’t at least partially responsible for Ratliff most of the game.
Despite such ignorance in the Dallas media, one thing is for sure – the Cowboys are good at rushing the passer and the Packers are poor at protecting him. Factor in the fact the Packers will likely be using their sixth starting offensive line combination of the season, and well, it could be a recipe for disaster.
Despite their penchant to get to the quarterback, the Cowboys defense is ranked in the bottom half of the league (20th) and gives up 336 yard per game. The Cowboys are average against the run (12th, 103 yards per game) and less than against the pass (20th, 233 yards per game).
If the Packers establish their running game to keep the Cowboys’ pass rushers honest and Aaron Rodgers utilizes short drops and quick throws, the Packers have a real shot of winning.
I understand everyone is in love with the deep ball, especially Mike McCarthy, but this isn’t the week or the line to be utilizing seven-step drops and plays that take four seconds to develop. If the Packers do, look for a replay of the last Vikings game.