Packers/Cowboys Preview

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  • Huge game and not just because it’s well…a huge game. The Packers have been iffy in the playoffs in recent years. Yes they won a Super Bowl in 2010 but they have simply not delivered in the face of postseason pressure since. This is a big game for the team and the organization overall as it will help us gain a solid understanding of the true direction of the franchise going forward. That may sound a bit dramatic…I suppose because it is.
  • This is a legit team in Dallas. Outside of having a running game that very much concerns me, I think Romo is playing better than he has played at any point in his career this year. I have long been in the camp that believes Romo is quite a bit better than his reputation would indicate. He has moments when he flashes a scary kind of talent level and when he’s thinking right, he has instincts for the game that rival some of the great QBs historically. And the Dallas defense this year has surprised a lot of people, including me. I don’t want to go overboard here (especially because I think it will be the Dallas defense that ultimately does them in today), but the defense at least has a chance to make this game difficult for us. In the end, those picking an upset here aren’t being ridiculous. Dallas could win this game.
  • However, I think this Packers team will be hungrier today and here’s why. Like I mentioned before, the Packers have had a relatively embarrassing collective showing in the playoffs over the last 4 years. After winning the Super Bowl, the Packers record in the playoffs has been bad. From our defense not holding anyone, to losing home playoff games, the team has just not looked good in the postseason. And perhaps most concerning, the team hasn’t looked as good as it has during the regular seasons of those years. If MM is smart they will show a highlight film of some of the more embarrassing moments of the last few playoff games with the simple accompanying message of: this year will be different. I am guessing the team comes out today VERY fired up and ready to take it to Dallas – making sure that the tone of the game is set early and set by the Packers, not the Cowboys.
  • I do have concerns about Rodgers health and how effective he’ll be. While he’s an amazing QB who is still better than 90% of the rest of the QBs when limited, one of my concerns is that Rodgers and MM will dial things back so much that it could make the offense too vanilla. They still need to roll him out some even if he can barely walk, go to no huddle, work screens in there, offer up a trick play or two (perhaps a fake punt or FG!). Even with an injured leg, the Packers are definitely the better team here.
  • Look for moments in this game when Jason Garrett makes the wrong, overly conservative decision. While he may be feeling a bit more secure about his job now that they’ve finally won a playoff game, I’m guessing he won’t be able to shed his true identity: which is a coach who gets tight in big moments/big games and plays it too safe (really in defiance even of statistics and probability).
  • Also, look for Garrett to drop the running game if/when the Packers take a lead. He has historically been WAY TOO QUICK to abandon the run and it’s often super costly for the Cowboys. It would be especially costly if that happened today given how good Murray is and how inconsistent the Packers D has been defending the run.
  • It is absolutely critical that the Packers get an early lead today. As great as it was to watch Rodgers pull off the Miami win earlier this year, I don’t want to play from behind. Rodgers and the Packers are WAY better than most teams when playing with the lead. It ultimately, really intimidates opponents.
  • One reason the team needs to get the lead early is that our defense has become a fairly opportunistic one over the second half of the season. Between sacks, forced fumbles and picks, this defense woke up in the second half of the season. And they seem to be especially wide awake after the Packers take the lead. It’s likely that the play of the Packers defense ends up being one of the main story lines after the game. I think this defense has felt slighted and perhaps a bit frustrated that they don’t get much attention.
  • I see Dallas having several turnovers. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a Murray fumble, a Romo sack/fumble or two, and a pick. I also think Dallas special teams could turn it over.
  • This is one of the rare games when I think special teams could be a factor. While I don’t think their returner Harris is THAT good, I do think that Hyde could be a factor. Whenever a guy has a big time return TD like Hyde did against Detroit, it can plant a seed of “oh crap, we can’t let that happen” which psychologically can make the players tense up. Ok, I’m getting a bit ridiculous here – but I still think Hyde and our special teams help out today. (And by the way, it would be nice to see DuJuan Harris do something with a kickoff return. I loved that guy as a RB – great story – but he has been a serious disappointment as a kick return guy.)
  • Ultimately, I think this game is decided by coaching and Aaron Rodgers. We should be somewhat nervous as Dallas is a good team, but I’d take McCarthy any day over Jason Garrett and despite Romo’s year, I just don’t think Dallas will be able to stop Rodgers.
  • Packers 38, Dallas 19.

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