We remain hopefully optimistic about the Green Bay Packers’ chances against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday. Earlier in the week, we discussed the reasons why the Packers CAN beat the Cowboys.
Can and will are two different things. There are also plenty of reasons why the Packers WON’T beat the Cowboys.
Here they are.
They Can’t Stop the Run
This is really THE reason right here. If the Packers let this game get out of hand or even if they lose, it will likely be because they didn’t stop the run well enough. Yes, the Packers finished eighth in the league in rushing defense. It was smoke and mirrors. They built that fairly-lofty ranking by facing a bunch of slobs early in the season and by forcing opponents to rely almost exclusively on the pass late in the season, by scoring early and often. The Packers have talked about staying disciplined this week, but they’re facing the best offensive line in football and the league’s leading rusher in Ezekiel Elliott. Zeke gouged the Packers for 157 in the first meeting. If that happens again, you probably know what that means. The Cowboys control the clock and keep the ball out of Aaron Rodgers’ hands.
Rodgers Can’t Find Any Openings
The Cowboys had an interesting strategy against Aaron Rodgers the first time around. They primarily rushed only three with the objective of keeping Rodgers in the pocket. That dropped eight guys into coverage. The Packers are already without Jordy Nelson. Davante Adams and Randall Cobb will need to find ways to get open and Rodgers may need to find ways to get out of the pocket and extend plays. Or — and the chances of Mike McCarthy doing this seem slim — the Packers are actually going to have to run the football effectively early to get the Cowboys out of that look. Rodgers is a different player now than he was in the first matchup. He’s threading the needle again, but he might have smaller windows than ever this week. If the Packers can’t find a way to counter this scheme, they’re in big trouble.
A Repeat Performance
One of the oft-overlooked aspects of the Cowboys’ win against the Packers this season was turnovers. The Packers dumped the ball four times — three fumbles and a pick. Everyone likes to point to Elliott’s big day, but if the Packers hadn’t repeatedly shot themselves in the foot, that’s a different game. Yes, I am stating the obvious here, but turnovers played a huge role in the outcome of the first matchup. The Packers need to stay even or win the turnover battle in this game probably just to stay in it. If they start having acid flashbacks to the last matchup and handing the ball to Dallas again, it will turn into a blowout in rapid fashion.
No Defensive Playmakers
The Packers’ defense is about one thing — creating havoc. They’re not going to beat anyone with their sound, fundamental play. That means getting to the quarterback and creating turnovers. Shawn said it early in the week. The Packers need their defensive playmakers — Clay Matthews, Julius Peppers, Mike Daniels, Nick Perry — to come up with at least a big play a piece. The thing is, all of these guys have been invisible at one time or another this season. If too many of them are invisible in Dallas, it will be the same old story for the Packers — defense isn’t good enough for the team to win in the playoffs.
Speaking of the Same Old Story
Of course this means nothing in the context of this game, but we’ve all grown accustomed to this very scenario. The Packers win a playoff game and then lose their next one. Since the 2010 season, it’s happened three times. Last year, the Packers beat Washington and then lost to Arizona. The year before, they beat Dallas and lost to Seattle. Following the 2012 season, they beat Minnesota and lost to San Francisco. The other two seasons, they lost their first playoff game. If it holds true, this would be the fourth time in six seasons the Packers have gone 1-1 in the playoffs. What’s the common denominator since 2010? Primarily, good offense, bad defense. The 2010 team had the league’s fifth-ranked defense. With the possible exception of 2015, the Packers’ offense has always been superior to the defense by a wide margin. This year is no different.