Game-by-Game Season Preview: Week 3

Week 3
Sunday, September 21, 2008
Dallas Cowboys @ Green Bay Packers
8:15 PM ET
NBC (I’m assuming)

Week 3 appears to be one of the biggest games on the schedules for the Packers.  Last year the Packers went down the Irving, Texas (wait, I thought they played in Dallas?) to meet the Cowboys in a battle of 10-1 teams.  Many thought this game would be a preview of the NFC Championship Game later in the season.  Unfortunately not, as the Cowboys blew the divisional playoff game against the eventual Super Bowl-champion New York Giants.  The Cowboys started out fast and the Packers could not keep up, with the Cowboys taking the 37-27 victory and eventually control of the No. 1-seed in the NFC.  Not that it helped them, of course.  This game also gave Packer fans a taste of the future.  Former Packers quarterback Brett Favre suffered an elbow injury early in the game, paving the way for Aaron Rodgers to bring the Packers to within three points before the Pack Attack eventually succumbed.

This game showed that Rodgers could (hopefully) handle the pressure of being a starting quarterback in the NFL.  Other than that and some shifting on the Cowboys offensive line, both teams return with basically identical lineups.  This game will be exciting and it will be interesting to see how Rodgers responds in his second nationally-televised game in three weeks.  This will also be the first time John Madden broadcasts a Packers game that does not have Favre as the starter in 16 years.  I’m setting the over/under on Favre references at 20.  And I’m taking over.  Will Madden follow the ESPN approach and just bash, bash, and bash the Packers and Rodgers?  Or will he be rational?  I’m saying he’ll bash, but less than ESPN would.  Let’s get to the keys to this game:

Packers secondary vs. Cowboys wide receivers: In November, the Packers were torn apart by Tony Romo and the Cowboys air attack, as any or most Cowboys fans will be quick to tell you.  However, a large of group people are forgetting that Packers starter Charles Woodson missed this game with a toe injury, leaving Al Harris to fight Terrell Owens on his own.  This also led to botched coverages by Tramon Williams, Jarrett Bush, and whoever the hell else was back there on Patrick Crayton, Miles Austin, and possibly Sam Hurd.  Putting Woodson back there changes the landscape of the secondary and makes it more difficult for Romo.  The safety trio of Atari Bigby, Aaron Rouse, and Nick Collins will also be counted on to bring the hammer down on the Cowboys wide receivers.  If Green Bay controls the secondary, they control most of the game.

Packers O-line vs. Cowboys front seven: Favre was absolutely wrecked last year in the pocket in this game.  Actually, there probably never was a pocket for most of it.  The four- and five-wide receiver sets that made the Packers so dangerous down the stretch worked to a disadvantage has Favre held on to the ball too long and allowed the Cowboys to bring an extra rusher, making him force some of his classic throws.  The Packers need their O-line to develop for this game.  Mike McCarthy does not want Rodgers on his back with Greg Ellis, DeMarcus Ware, and Zach Thomas on top of him for most of this one.  Veterans Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher will be counted on again to hold down the fort while the mess that is the interior line gets settled and hopefully gels for this game.  The Packers are also going to have to open up running lanes for Ryan Grant. Grant got in one good run last year against the Cowboys, but was stymied for the rest of the game.  They Packers got to get him going to take pressure off the passing game.

Cowboys secondary vs. Packers wide receivers and Aaron Rodgers: The Cowboys also revamped their secondary this offseason.  They locked up Terrence Newman and Ken Hamlin in the offseason, while Anthony Henry and Roy Williams (a glorified linebacker) return to the fold.  The additions are what makes this group key.  Mike Jenkins was a first-round draft pick in the 2008 NFL Draft while Adam Jones (aka Pacman), if reinstated, gives the Cowboys a dangerous secondary for Donald Driver, Greg Jennings, and James Jones to contend with.  This game will turn very physical, so the Packers will definitely need big wide receivers Ruvell Martin and rookie Jordy Nelson to step up and become factors.  Rodgers will need these guys to get open in order to be successful.

The Verdict: There’s so many more keys to this game than the ones mentioned.  The Cowboys really look like they are gearing up for a Super Bowl run this year and they seem to have the mindset for it, so the Cowboys get the nod, 38-24.

The Packers are now 2-1 after Week 3.

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Tags: Aaron Rodgers Aaron Rouse Adam Jones Al Harris Anthony Henry Atari Bigby Brett Favre Chad Clifton Charles Woodson Dallas Cowboys DeMarcus Ware Donald Driver ESPN Green Bay Packers Greg Ellis Greg Jennings James Jones Jarrett Bush John Madden Jordy Nelson Ken Hamlin Mark Tauscher Mike Jenkins Mike McCarthy Miles Austin New York Giants Nick Collins Patrick Crayton Roy Williams Ruvell Martin Ryan Grant Sam Hurd Terrell Owens Terrence Newman Tony Romo Tramon Williams Zach Thomas

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