Headed into this weekend’s game, I only have one question: is the Cowboys’ defense worse than the Packers’ defense?
Technically, the stats say the Cowboys are actually worse, but with that said, they have a much easier task. Barring an unforeseen recovery by Aaron Rodgers, Dallas will only have to slow down the noodle-armed Matt Flynn, the Thrower of A Thousand Out Routes (or TATOR, as he shall henceforth be known). The Packers, on the other hand, must defend Tony Romo, who’s playing about as well as he ever has.
But on the other hand, the Packers have been running the ball much better this year, and even with Eddie Lacy hobbled by an ankle injury, they should be able to take advantage of a Dallas run defense who’s surrendering a very generous 4.8 yards per carry. One would think Lacy, James Starks, or even Kahlil Bell could make something happen with a defense that permissive.
One would also have thought a lot of different things about this game had the Packers injury situation played out a little differently this year, but one can’t make those sort of predictions before they happen.
One should just get on with the countdown now.
5 - Career yards per carry average for DeMarco Murray, the Cowboys’ unusual running back. Murray is very productive, but looking at his game logs for this year, it seems like he’s been really boom or bust. He’s rushed for more than 140 yards twice, including a 176 yard performance in Week 3. But he’s also been held to 50 or fewer yards four times, including three games with 31 yards or less.
4 - Sacks by defensive tackle turned defensive end turned outside linebacker Mike Neal. If you thought Mike Neal would have four sacks as a stand-up pass rusher in 2013, raise your hand. Now put it down, you liar. We’re totally not friends any more. Seriously, though. Neal’s switch to linebacker has to be characterized as a success, I think. He’s shown an ability to push the pocket and get into the backfield from a totally foreign position, even if he has looked a little stiff and lost sometimes. Neal is a good enough athlete that continuing to play him at linebacker seems to be a very justifiable decision, and I’m excited to see what he does from here.
3 - Passing touchdowns by Tony Romo in Monday night’s loss to the Bears. Monday had to be the least impactful three touchdown passing game anybody has had in a long time. The Cowboys looked totally outclassed, and other than the three scores, Romo was a virtual non-factor, only compiling 104 yards on 20 passes. If the Packers can hold him to similar numbers on Sunday, that would be a good first step towards a win.
2 - Catches by Jarret Boykin in last week’s win over Atlanta. The Packers made a conscious decision to go with more quick out routes and let their receivers try to make plays which was great, but that makes it difficult for a guy like Boykin to make plays, at least from my layman’s perspective. Boykin is big, but he’s not especially quick, making it potentially difficult to work in short spaces like the Packers did last week. That said, his size and long arms could also be an advantage, so if the offense goes with a similar strategy this week, perhaps he’ll have more success.
1 - Rushing attempts, for one total yard, by Dez Bryant this season. Clearly, Bryant is an absolute non-factor on the running game, so the Packers shouldn’t worry about him there. He does, however, have 70 catches for 908 yards and 10 touchdowns, so clearly there’s some reason for concern.
Last Time – Packers: 45 Cowboys: 7 – Sunday, November 7, 2010
Meet a Cowboy – Dez Bryant – 6’2″, 222 lbs – WR – 4th NFL Season
Playing the role of diva receiver, Dez Bryant, ladies and gentlemen! Though he’s obviously not a running threat (and I hope you realized my un-funny joke was tongue in cheek), Bryant is several things: he’s big, he’s fast, and he can be explosive. Given the Packers woes in the secondary and the Cowboys’ explosive offense, Bryant might be that close to blowing up this Sunday.
The Cowboys will win if…
…they play to their talent level. Much like the Lions a couple weeks back, the Cowboys are almost certainly a better team than the Packers. They have fewer injuries, explosive offensive talent, and could be a huge problem for the Packers if they get rolling. The only question is whether or not they’ll execute to their potential.
The Packers will win if…
…they can force Tony Romo to be Bad Tony Romo. Romo has a well deserved reputation for being…generous…with the football. IN a lot of ways, he’s a 21st century Brett Favre: excellent physical gifts, huge potential, extremely boneheaded at times. Statistically, Romo is one of the most efficient quarterbacks ever, but there is that penchant for the ridiculous turnover that will leave yous cratching your head. If the Packers can bring out Bad Tony, they have a chance.
The Pick: Cowboys: 28 Packers: 20
I don’t think the Packers have the defensive firepower to slow the Cowboys down, but I thought the same thing last week. Can lightning strike twice? I’m betting no, but who really knows?
Tweet of the Week
T.J. Lang does not appreciate social media impostors.