Monty: The Green Bay Packers are in turmoil after losing to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Meanwhile, the Dallas Cowboys come to town on a four-game winning streak.
Injuries have taken a toll on the Packers, but they should go into the game with at least one offensive weapon back, in Jordy Nelson. Nelson will make things easier on the rest of the Packers’ receivers and quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
My main question is whether Mike McCarthy can devise a game plan to take advantages of the Cowboys’ weaknesses, which, despite their 6-2 record, are evident. The Cowboys can rush the passer, and Rodgers will take some shots, but overall, their defense is suspect. If the Packers use quick passes, they can win this game.
On defense, the Packers need to stop tight end Jason Witten and contain the run. I hate to say it, but with Aaron Kampman likely out with a concussion, the Packers will probably fare better against Dallas’ passing attack. Kampman is a liability in coverage. Against the run, the Packers have played well, and there’s no reason to think that will stop.
Again, it simply comes down to McCarthy’s offensive game plan. I may be overly optimistic, but I think McCarthy will finally get it and put Rodgers in a position to succeed against a formidable pass rush. The game plan includes a commitment to the run and quick passes off short drops.
The Cowboys aren’t as good as the hype surrounding them, right now.
Packers 24, Cowboys 21
Steffen: It’s all doom and gloom until the Green Bay Packers prove otherwise. Coming off back-to-back humiliating losses, the Packers have all the momentum of a fat kid in a wet snuggie.
The Packers continue to regress each week. The same problems have plagued Green Bay all season (sacks, penalties, poor kick coverage, zero pass rush) and coach Mike McCarthy has been absurdly reluctant to admit these are serious issues, let alone address them.
As if the poor play and gameplanning weren’t enough, but it’s now becoming obvious that the players no longer have confidence in each other or their coaches. They are shutting it down.
But that’s the Packers woeful situation.
Let’s look at the Cowboys, with whom I don’t see one favorable matchup.
Assuming the Packers’ offense continues with the seven-step drops and slow-to-develop bootlegs, the likes of DeMarcus Ware and Jay Ratliff will be able to add to the Packers’ league-leading sack total.
Because the Green Bay defense is soft and tentative, they struggle against hard nosed backs like Adrian Peterson or in this case, Marion Barber. Of course, they can counter this by stacking the box, which leaves them vulnerable to running backs who can hit the outside – fleet footed running backs like Felix Jones. In the week three matchup last season, Marion Barber crammed 142 yards down the Packers’ throat, while Feliz Jones ripped off a 60-yard touchdown. Expect more of the same.
Terrel Owens is gone, so the Packers should be able to lock up the Cowboys’ receivers, right? Not so much. Miles Austin saw some of his first significant action as a pro against the Packers last year and wound up having a coming out party of sorts.
Austin came from nowhere and torched the Packers’ defense for 115 yards and a touchdown on two catches. He’s become a star this season, double teams be damned. The aging, yet still wily, Al Harris and Charles Woodson will be tested. Expect Austin to be a difference maker.
Players also seem to pull out of slumps against Green Bay, so with Austin facing double teams Roy Williams may enjoy his biggest game as a Cowboy to date.
Throw Patrick Crayton, Tashard Choice and All-Pro tight end Jason Witten into the mix and the Cowboys simply have too many weapons for the confused and beleaguered Packers’ defense to contain. The Cowboys’ main weakness is Tony Romo – but he is only a weakness if he becomes rattled and pressured into poor throws. Since Packers’ defensive coordinator Dom Capers refuses to turn the defense loose, Romo will be given plenty of time to throw and he’ll look like the second coming of, well, Josh Freeman.
Last I checked the oddsmakers favored the Cowboys by 2.5. I will be shocked if Green Bay keeps it that close. The spunky play of Aaron Rodgers and a couple big plays by individuals like Charles Woodson might keep the Packers in the game for the first half, but the game will quickly and dramatically slip away as the sacks begin to physically take their toll on the Packers’ quarterback.
Cowboys 41, Packers 23
Sarah: If the Packers’ offensive line can’t stop the likes of the lowly Tampa Bay Buccaneers, then there’s no way they can keep DeMarcus Ware & Co. out of Aaron Rodgers’ grill on Sunday. I expect at least two sacks from Ware alone, keeping Rodgers frazzled and the offense out of balance.
I don’t think the defense will be able to stop Tony Romo and wideout Miles Austin, who has had success against the Packers as a wide receiver and kickoff returner. We all know how bad the Packers’ special teams are, and that isn’t likely to change anytime soon.
This team is going down in flames, and that’s not going to stop this week.
Dallas 31, Packers 14