Sunday night can’t seem to get here fast enough. If your like me you love Sunday afternoons when you can sit back and watch the other games, follow your fantasy players, and know that the day wraps with a Sunday night under the lights Pack game. This week, that opponent is the reeling Dallas Cowboys and while on the surface it would seem the Packers have this all but won on paper, we all know that these Packers can’t seem to put anyone away this year.
Starting on the offensive side of the ball, the Packers have a choice to make. Run the ball, control the clock, and simply beat down the opposition, or throw the ball score points, and beat down the opposition. The Packers will have that choice simply because the Cowboys offense is not a productive unit these days.
Through the air:
The Cowboys rank 10th in the league in pass defense and Mike Jenkins is starting to show signs that he can become the talent that Jerry Jones thought he was drafting. He doesn’t have a ton of help on the other side though. Terence Newman is an up and down corner and teams have been able to throw on him. With Donald Driver sidelined this week, the task will fall to James Jones who, as we wrote about yesterday, needs to improve his consistency.
Aaron Rodgers should be able to find the soft seams for rookie TE Andrew Quarles and I actually think that statistically he could have a better day than the GB WR’s. Maybe not yardage alone but receptions, and I think he may score a couple of touchdowns as well.
The Cowboys give an average of 205 yards per game through the air, with 15 TD’s allowed and only 5 takeaways, it may be in Rodgers best interest to exploit those weaknesses.
On the ground:
It’s easy to say, “so throw the ball” when you realize that the Cowboys weakness in the pass defense sets up nicely for the Packers but when you realize that “Da Boyz'” are way down at 24 in rushing defense, you understand a little more clearly that Brandon Jackson should have his best day as a pro. Averaging over 120 yards per game, the Cowboys have not been able to stop opposing rushers, which of course is why they have only won one game this year.
The Packers offense can move the ball on this defense. Whether it be through the air or on the ground. Mike McCarthy needs to open up the game in the air and build a quick lead then pound it out the rest of the way and get out of Lambeau. The Cowboys don’t pose a huge threat outside of DeMarcus Ware but Ware is a beast that the team will have to account for. A quick lead in the air will open the running lanes and that controls the clock. It also will demoralize a Cowboys unit that is teetering on a massive meltdown, if it hasn’t already.
On the D:
The Packer defense can be a Jekyll and Hyde unit. One week they are giving up 30 to Detroit and a few weeks later laying an egg on the Jets. While the Cowboys don’t pose a significant test, they do have weapons on their roster. Miles Austin has emerged as one of the best WR’s in the league and despite the fact that Tony Romo is out for the next 6 weeks, John Kitna still tosses the rock his way. Rookie Dez Bryant had his best day as a pro last week when he hauled in 81 yards worth of passes.
Throw in Roy Williams and TE Jason Witten and the Dallas offense has a team that can put points on the board, even with a back-up aged QB.
The problem with Dallas lies on the offensive line. This line is horrible. While they have only yielded 12 sacks on the year, they have only allowed their running backs an average of 80 yards a game. Two touchdowns on the ground the entire season. The line play has been so bad that Marion Barber and Felix Jones are afterthoughts.
Which brings me to Tashard Choice. Choice has not played significantly since early September. Barber and Jones are banged up and while both are expected to play, it’s Choice that I may find myself watching for. Choice has top notch speed and can get outside quick which would take some of the pressure off the line to make up-field push for guard – tackle runs. Choice isn’t going to win the game for Dallas or be a difference maker, but he could be a key to making 2nd and long and 3rd and shorts into first downs.
When the game is over late Sunday night, the Packers should have no issues looking at the standings and knowing they are in first place, perhaps even by two games should Chicago drop. This game sets up for a win but the Packers can’t over estimate the team and they need to take an early lead to keep the Cowboys fighting with themselves on the sidelines rather than the Packers on the field.
Prediction: Green Bay 38 – Dallas 17