Tonight the marquee matchup of the first three weeks of the season occurs with Dallas Cowboys headed to Lambeau Field to take on the Green Bay Packers. This is the only game in Week 3 between two 2-0 teams. Because The Landry Hat has accused me of blatant homerism, I have decided to divide this blog up into two sections: the down-to-earth, level-headed section (although nothing is ever level-headed with the Cowboys) and the mildly homeristic section. Enjoy it.
The Level-Headed Section:
Both teams, as stated before, are 2-0. The Cowboys have achieved their record by dispatching the Cleveland Browns 28-10 on opening weekend before winning a 41-37 shootout over the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday night. The Packers have taken a slightly easier road to 2-0, defeating a highly touted Minnesota Vikings team on the Monday Night Football opener, 24-19, although the lead was not safe until a timely Tarvaris Jackson interception in the final minutes, and a 48-25 win over the Detroit Lions in which the Packers squandered a 24-9 lead in the second half before pulling away thanks to the defense.
The Cowboys are currently the class of the NFC according to many sources (I mostly agree), and they have played like it, despite the scare on Monday night. The Packers were picked by most prognosticators to finish 8-8 or 9-7, due to the loss of longtime quarterback Brett Favre, traded to the New York Jets. However, fourth-year man Aaron Rodgers has stepped up admirably in his first two starts as the Packers quarterback. After a cautious Week 1, Mike McCarthy loosened the leash on Rodgers a bit, and Rodgers responded with three touchdown passes in the first half. McCarthy left the pass in the second half, which allowed the Lions to get back into the game. Rodgers is not stranger to playing against the Cowboys on the big stage either; last November, Rodgers relieved an injured Favre and led the Packers on a comeback before losing to the Cowboys, 37-27.
The two main keys for the Packers in this game is the secondary and the running game. The secondary in the 2007 game was severely depleted with Charles Woodson out with a toe injury. Woodson broke another toe in the Minnesota game, but saved the game against Detroit, playing through pain with two interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown. It looked like the Packers passing defense would be back at full strength this week, but starting safety Atari Bigby is out with a hamstring injury, meaning that second-year man Aaron Rouse will probably get the start opposite Nick Collins. Bigby had more of an impact in the running game, but his big-hitter presence in the backfield will be missed. Also a cause for concern was Calvin Johnson‘s play last weekend. The Lions star wide receiver took two nearly identical slant patterns for touchdowns last week. You have to bet that Jason Garrett, Tony Romo, and Terrell Owens were looking at that one. On the other side of the ball, the Packers need running back Ryan Grant to be at full strength to be successful. He has been nursing a hamstring injury for some time, and was definitely hobbled by it on Sunday, rushing for only 20 yards on 15 carries. Brandon Jackson looked at least fifty times better against the Lions than he did against the Vikings, chewing up over 60 yards on seven carries and scoring the clinching touchdown in the fourth quarter. Hopefully he will be able to perform at that level against a tough Cowboys defense.
The Cowboys are a tough defense. Their secondary will provide a stiff test for the Packers wide receiving corps. Terence Newman, Anthony Henry, Adam Jones, and safety Ken Hamlin will be busy with Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, and James Jones, but something has to give. It will depend on whether or not Rodgers can get the ball out quickly to the wide receivers. In last year’s game, Favre held the ball too long, giving the Cowboys time to get the receivers covered and giving the Cowboys pass rush time to get extra hits on him as well. If Rodgers stays composed, he can be successful. If he doesn’t, well, he won’t be successful. He already has one national TV appearance under his belt, so the pressure of that should not get to him.
In August, I picked the Cowboys to win this one, 38-24. However, things change. Like the score. That being said, my level-headedness is picking the Cowboys, 38-34.
Tony Romo. Seriously. Can this guy win a big game? He almost blew it for the Cowboys on Monday night against the Eagles. He’s basically screwed the Cowboys up in the playoffs the last two years. National television isn’t totally kind to him. The easiest way for the Packers to win is to make Romo make mistakes. If Romo makes one more mistake than Rodgers does, the Packers have the win. Romo will make that mistake too. He’ll sail one too high on Owens. He’ll hold the ball too long in the pocket and get swallowed up by Aaron Kampman. Something will happen that will give the Packers a chance to win. Being the opportunists they are, they will take advantage of that and turn it into a win. Woodson is hungry after his two interceptions last week. Al Harris is out to prove he is still a shut down corner after being humiliated last year by Owens and in the NFC Championship Game by Plaxico Burress. The Packers are obviously really hungry this year. They were supposed to cede the division crown to the Vikings. They weren’t supposed to get anywhere with their quarterback. They want to prove the doubters wrong. The Packers will prevail. 34-27.
Is Jessica going to be at this game?
Also, what’s the over/under for how many times John Madden and Al Michaels mention Favre? I’m saying 27 before halftime. And I’m taking over 40 for the game.
Topics: Aaron Kampman, Aaron Rodgers, Aaron Rouse, Adam Jones, Al Harris, Al Michaels, Anthony Henry, Atari Bigby, Brandon Jackson, Brett Favre, Calvin Johnson, Charles Woodson, Cleveland Browns, Dallas Cowboys, Detroit Lions, Donald Driver, Green Bay Packers, Greg Jennings, James Jones, Jason Garrett, John Madden, Ken Hamlin, Mike McCarthy, Minnesota Vikings, New York Jets, Nick Collins, Philadelphia Eagles, Plaxico Burress, Ryan Grant, Tarvaris Jackson, Terence Newman, Terrell Owens, Tony Romo