The Green Bay Packers will go into their divisional round game with the Dallas Cowboys as underdogs. Rightfully so, considering the Cowboys are the NFC’s No. 1 seed and trounced the Packers by a score of 30-16 at Lambeau Field back in October.
We remain cautiously optimistic about the Packers’ chances, however.
The reasons are many.
You don’t have to look any further than last season to find a scenario similar to this one. The Packers went down to Arizona in late December and got destroyed by the Cardinals to the tune of 38-8. Three weeks later, they’d find themselves back in Arizona for a divisional round game. Considering what happened less than a month earlier, not many people gave the Packers a chance. They ended up losing 26-20 in overtime, but they were in that game until the very end. History tells us the regular season game doesn’t mean anything and the Packers will be competitive.
When the Packers met the Cowboys in October, Aaron Rodgers was still in his malaise. Or maybe you want to call it his 2015 hangover. He wasn’t playing well. His accuracy, his fundamentals, his discipline — none had yet returned to his pre-2015 form. Rodgers found all of those things and caught fire sometime around the Washington game in November. Since then, Rodgers has been the best quarterback in football. The guy hasn’t thrown a pick in eight straight games. The Cowboys will be getting a completely different Rodgers this time around.
When the Packers last played the Cowboys, cornerback LaDarius Gunter had probably his worst game of the season. He was targeted repeatedly, beat for two touchdowns and several big gains. Since then, Gunter has emerged as the Packers’ top cornerback. He’s coming off a game in which he handled Pro Bowler Odell Beckham Jr. ODB had just four catches for 28 yards in that game and Gunter allowed only one of them, while shadowing Beckham for most of the day. Gunter may be left on an island this week, as the safety help will likely be dedicated to slowing down Ezekiel Elliott and the Cowboys’ rushing attack, but he’s much better equipped to handle that this time around.
Yes, the Cowboys thrashed the Packers during the season. A lot of people probably don’t recall this, but that game featured four Packers’ turnovers. Two of them came courtesy of Aaron Rodgers — an interception and a fumble. The fumble came with the Packers down 20-6 in the third quarter at the Dallas 1-yard line. A score there and the Packers are within a touchdown and it’s a different game. Jordy Nelson and Ty Montgomery also lost fumbles. Additionally, the Packers turned it over on downs once in the first half. If the Packers had played clean football in that game, who knows what might of happened. Clearly, if they play clean football on Sunday, this game should at least be competitive.
We’re not going to put a lot of stock in this, but it at least bears mentioning. The Cowboys’ top offensive player — Elliott — and their quarterback, Dak Prescott, are both rookies. We don’t expect them to fall apart just because this is a playoff game. Both guys have shown tremendous poise throughout the season. Both guys have played in big games in college. That said, we expect the Packers to show Prescott some different looks on defense to try to rattle him. Will he be rattled? The chances of that happening to a rookie are much greater than a veteran.
I think the defense or special teams will need to finally score some points and the offense has to control the clock with some semblance of balance. If those things happen and there are no turnovers then the game will be close. Packers can’t let Dallas control the clock otherwise the defense will break in the second half and give up 20 or more points.
Here is another reason the Packers can pull off the upset. JARED COOK will be on the field! The offense can do more when he is out there.
Even though it is Monty / Mordecai / PF4L writing the article I agree with most of it.
As per Gunter, though, it seemed like Beckham beat himself more than Gunter beat Beckham. I think the credit/blame for that bad day at the office is on Beckham and the distractions from the press as per his boating trip.
All the factors pointed out belong with the Aaron Rodgers performance upgrade far outweighing all the others combined. However, another factor that should be included when looking at how this game differs from the previous one is that this game is in Dallas. GB loses the home field advantage and Dallas gains it. That is normally a 6 point turnaround but home field in the playoffs is estimated at being worth 7 points so that makes it a 10 point overall turnaround factor.
Tough to tell what will happen all things considered.
You might be right about the press getting into Beckham’s head.
What do you think got in the vikings players heads, when they were 5-0 and they had their epic meltdown?
They run out of chili?
Adrian get served papers for his 13th illegitimate kid?
They decided they would just lose in the playoffs anyway so why bother?
How did that work?
Also…..When the vikings shit the bed after starting 5-0. Where do you watch the Packers play in the post season? You go upstairs?
Someone has a playoff party a few trailers down?
When the Packers were busy beating the Giants, did you wear a Ponder Jersey, or a Favre Jersey, or a Rodgers jersey? Or do you watch it in your skivvies wearing a Make America Great Again hat?
All valid questions.
Thank you for your cooperation.
Just curious…..When the vikings players watch the Packers in the playoffs, do they just watch us at their own home, or do they all get together and watch? Maybe the def guys get together at one house, and the off guys at another house? Do they all gather at the Chili dome and watch in the locker room?
How does that work after a team starts 5-0?
No mention of Pad Level… : (
2 things need to happen for the Packers to win.
Rodgers has to have an all world game for 4 quarters to score this team to victory.
The defense needs to give up less than 450 yards, and 35 points. I’m hoping i’ve set that to a manageable goal.
Several good points. Just a couple more items to consider.
Not sure that the Cowboys left tackle Smith is 100%. Smith at less than 100% is clearly a big plus for the Packers.
The reason I thought it was better to get Dallas after the bye is because most of their key players have not played in a meaningful game for 3 weeks. It may not help in the second half but could in the first half of the upcoming game. If the Packers jump out or the Cowboys start slow the pressure is all on the Cowboys on their home field, with rookies at key positions.
I remember a Team that had a great season in 2011. That team blew off their final game (but won) and had a playoff bye. That team played their first game at home against the 22nd ranked defense and 29th ranked pass defense. That Giants team came off a confidence boosting win in the wildcard round.
It does not always happen but the playoffs tend to make coaches and players more conservative and tight. I feel good that the Packers should have already endured their playoff jitters. Let’s see how the Cowboys function as a team, and individual players after not putting in a full team game for the last three weeks. All the pressure is on the Cowboys at home. GO PACK!
I get the rookie thing. But as far as Elliot, i think he’ll run his ass off regardless. The guy doesn’t seem like he thinks deep enough to feel pressure.
Zak is a different animal. Very smart guy by all accounts. He’s made a few errors, but the thing is, when you watch him play, he looks as poised as a 8 year vet. The game just never looks too big or too fast for him. He also has 11 games with a passer rating WELL over 100. He has a passer rating higher than Rodgers. High completion %, better than 4/1 td/int ratio.
I’ll admit a solid 0 line doesn’t hurt, but wow, what a rookie season!!
Gunter “handled” ODB because ODB dropped 3-4 game changing passes. If he catches those it’s a different story. Also, the whole “he’s a rookie so he’s gonna mess up” thing is silly to me. These guys have been playing football their entire lives. Show up and play. Remember when people said Rodgers wouldn’t win the super bowl because he had never been there before and Rothlesberger had? Talk about sound logic.