10 Reasons the Green Bay Packers Will Beat the Dallas Cowboys
Published on January 12, 2017
The Green Bay Packers have turned into one of the NFL’s darlings in 2016, as Aaron Rodgers and co. went from a 4-6 team on the brink of missing the playoffs to a legit Super Bowl contender.
That was their status before the season even started, but once they got #1 wide receiver Jordy Nelson back, the Packers looked like they could make that “super run”. A slow start out of the gates quieted that Super Bowl talk and it even delivered a hit to their Super Bowl odds, but A-Rod stormed back with a six-game winning streak to close out the regular season.
After a slow start against the New York Giants, Rodgers continued his MVP-caliber play by firing in four passing touchdowns and once again leading the green and gold to a huge win – their seventh in a row.
Rodgers once suggested the Packers had to “run the table” to get into the playoffs, and even though he wasn’t insinuating that his team would run all the way to Super Bowl 51, they’re starting to look like they could.
Even with all of that momentum, of course, the Packers are 4-point underdogs as they prepare for the Dallas Cowboys this week. Are they destined to lose a road playoff game to the ‘Boys yet again, or can Rodgers piece together yet another gem performance and keep this wild ride going? We’ve got 10 good reasons that support the latter notion:
Literally no one is playing better than Aaron Rodgers is right now. Matt Ryan and Tom Brady are possibly ahead of him in the NFL MVP race, but they probably shouldn’t be. During Green Bay’s 7-game winning streak, Rodgers has been flat out slaying, putting up 19 touchdowns against 0 interceptions.
Dallas is at home and the favorite, but if Rodgers continues his amazing play, it could be quite difficult to count the Packers out.
Rodgers aside, the Packers are on fire these days. Obviously they ran the table to win their division and make the playoffs, but they didn’t do it solely because of their star quarterback.
Rodgers is a huge piece to Green Bay’s puzzle, but they’ve also sprinkled in an improved running game and really picked up some slack defensively. Green Bay was the worst defense in the league for a four-game stretch, but during their winning streak, they’ve been more than passable.
The Packers still have a leaky pass defense and have given up some points, but they held firm last week (Giants scored just 13 points) and have given up more than 14 points just three times during their hot run. Dallas could be argued as the better team, but momentum can be huge in the playoffs.
Sticking with that momentum thought, the Packers are pretty unlikely to come out flat in a game where they have little pressure on them as underdogs. Its Dallas that should be feeling the heat, as they’re at home and supposed to win. Doing so could become more difficult if they come out flat or rusty after enjoying the last week off.
The Dallas starters really haven’t played even longer than a week, too, as most of their key players were limited in their regular season finale. If continuity means anything in the NFL playoffs, the Cowboys could have some troubles here.
One big annoying stat is the lack of playoff success for the Cowboys in recent years. They have a great record and looked good all year, but we’ve seen this song and dance before.
Dallas has been having serious issues in the playoffs for quite some time now, as they’ve made it to postseason play 8 times since winning the Super Bowl back in 1996, but have just one win to show for it. If Dallas can’t put their playoff demons behind them, they could have some issues this weekend.
We touched on it before, but we can’t ignore the serious improvement out of Green Bay’s defense. The Packers were actually pretty solid all year against the run for the most pat (8th in the league) and they do a terrific job getting after the quarterback (6th with 40 sacks) and forcing turnovers (tied for 2nd in the league with 17 interceptions).
Dallas has been great at taking care of the football (Dak Prescott has thrown 4 interceptions all season), but that could change against a team that has done a much better job at creating havoc in the second half of the year.
Dallas sports an elite run defense (5th in the NFL), but the one way they can be beaten is through the air. That is obviously Green Bay’s main strength with the hot tear Aaron Rodgers is on, but the proof is also in the pudding for the Cowboys defense, which ranks just 26th against the pass.
Dallas has a strong pass rush (36 sacks), but if A-Rod is protected and has time to throw, the Cowboys could have a serious problem on their hands.
A major problem for the green and gold this weekend figures to be the absence of top wide receiver Jordy Nelson (ribs), who is not a good bet to suit up for the Divisional Round:
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) January 9, 2017
Nelson’s absence is obviously a huge deal with a tough road game on hand, but the Packers have the depth and talent to overcome his loss. Unlike last year, when Green Bay had no real reinforcements, they have seen Geronimo Allison come through numerous times, they have healthy options in Randall Cobb and Davante Adams and tight end Jared Cook has even stepped up his game.
And if the Packers really need it, they can shift former wide receiver Ty Montgomery into the slot or use him as a receiver out of the backfield. Not having Jordy Nelson wouldn’t be ideal, but Green Bay has the depth to make it less of an issue that some might suspect.
Easily one of the biggest drawbacks for this Cowboys team is the lack of experience at two key offensive positions. Rookies Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott have been largely why the Cowboys have been so good, but they also could easily end up being why this team unravels.
The harsh reality is rookies don’t know what they’re getting into until the moment hits them, so it’s entirely possible that this playoff game is too big for one (or both) of these guys. It’s likely to be the case for Prescott, who has exhibited signs of folding late in the year and could be ready for his first truly bad game as a pro. With the immense pressure of the NFC title game ahead of him and star backup quarterback Tony Romo breathing down his neck, how Prescott handles this situation could be huge for the Cowboys.
It’s also fair to note that no rookie quarterback has ever won a Super Bowl and we’ve also seen a team with a running back that paced the league in rushing (like Zeke has) win it all just once.
Another huge factor that could help Green Bay is they just demolished the only team that really knew how to beat the Cowboys. By exorcising their own demons against a Giants team that had previously had their number in past playoff games, the Packers may also have figured out how to stop the Cowboys.
New York knew how to beat the Cowboys, as they effectively used blitzes and a conservative offense to sweep their divisional rivals during the regular season. That doesn’t mean Green Bay will put the same pressure on Prescott or find a way to bottle up Zeke, but their sack numbers and run defense numbers suggest they can.
Green Bay also saw the Cowboys earlier this year and can learn from their own mistakes from that first meeting. Beating the same team more than once is never easy, and the Packers could see that as a distinct advantage for them in this situation.
Last, but certainly not least, is the fact that the Packers have the unmistakeable feel of a team of destiny. You can certainly suggest that for any team that is still alive in the playoffs, but Green Bay’s path to this point is pretty unprecedented and they could be set up to truly “run the table” all the way to Super Bowl 51.
We’ve seen other teams like this in the past, as a few wild card teams have gotten hot at just the right time and at least made it all the way. The Cardinals, Steelers and Giants all come to mind, while these very Packers won it all back in 2010 as a – you guessed it – wild card team.
There is a lot of evidence that supports the Packers earning an upset win over the Cowboys. Dallas is still a team to fear, as they went 13-3 during the regular season, beat the Packers fairly easily on the road and really only lost to the Giants (rested key players in season finale).
Dallas is probably the more complete team and they have a very dangerous running game, but betting against the Packers right now almost feels silly. Green Bay was just 4-4 on the road during the regular season, but their offense is red hot and they haven’t lost in seven weeks. Betting on that hot run to continue against a team that could potentially be rusty and will be leaning hard on two rookies at two of the most offensive positions isn’t a bad play. We’ll for sure at least take the points in what should be a close game, and we’re not afraid of rolling with the Packers as a fun upset play this weekend, either.
Pick: Green Bay Packers 30, Cowboys 27