Cory's Corner: High expectations for Dallas rookies

The Dallas Cowboys have been the NFL’s biggest surprise this year.

They’ve got two MVP candidates in Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott — and perhaps for the first time in the history of the league, both are rookies.

To say that Prescott was overlooked is an understatement. The 49ers and Browns, two teams that have been desperate for quarterback talent, passed 11 times on Prescott — who set 38 Mississippi State records. He has a strong arm and can process information quickly, which is why he set the rookie record for passer rating with 104.9. But the thing that has stood out for me has been his poise in dealing with the Cowboys’ 11-game winning streak and ultimately ending Tony Romo’s career in Dallas.

Elliott is completely different. Only three teams passed on the Ohio State product that finished No. 2 in Buckeyes history in career rushing. He’s a three-down back that flourished behind the NFL’s best offensive line, which is why he finished third on the all-time single season rookie rushing list.

All those things are nice, but neither of those two has experienced playoff football. It’s a different season now and to expect Prescott to be as precise or to expect Elliott to see and read every hole is unlikely.

Of course it doesn’t help when you’re matched up against the best passer in the league. Aaron Rodgers has been on a tear that is amazing even for him. Over his last eight games, he has 22 touchdowns, zero interceptions and a passer rating of 120.7. He’s so dialed in that he completed a 42-yard Hail Mary, which killed any positivity the Giants still had.

Obviously it would help if Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers could pull another rabbit out of his hat. If he can somehow generate pressure against a Fort Knox offensive line, that would be great to help out a beleaguered secondary. Prescott doesn’t have to get sacked, but he must be taken off his line and given a level of discomfort.

This game will be determined by rookies. Two rookies that have had great seasons, but alas, still rookies. So the 45 combined total touchdowns by Prescott and Elliott don’t mean a thing. How will Prescott handle losing early? Can Elliott stay the course if his holes don’t open as early and as often?

Veterans know how to respond to both circumstances. Rodgers has been down many times in his career and has proven that with him healthy and playing well, you better put the Packers away.

Rodgers has 15 playoff games under his belt. I don’t care how big and bad your offensive line is. If you lean so heavily on two rookies, it’s only a matter of time before they melt.

Even with Jordy Nelson not being able to make a Willis Reed return, the Packers can win this game because it holds the superior advantage at the game’s most important position. The 2012 Indianapolis Colts and 2012 Washington Redskins had rookies as their leading rusher and leading passer and both lost their first playoff game.

Dallas hasn’t gotten a win in the NFC Divisional Playoffs since 1995 and asking two rookies to change history by putting a team on their backs is a lot to ask. 

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Cory Jennerjohn is a graduate from UW-Oshkosh and has been in sports media for over 15 years. He was a co-host on "Clubhouse Live" and has also done various radio and TV work as well. He has written for newspapers, magazines and websites. He currently is a columnist for CHTV and also does various podcasts. He recently earned his Masters degree from the University of Iowa. He can be found on Twitter: @Coryjennerjohn

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Comments (9)

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Nick Perry's picture

January 14, 2017 at 08:37 am

The Packers are plus 16 in the TO margin since Thanksgiving. The Cowboys on the other hand have created just 20 TO's all season with 4 of those coming against the Packers earlier in the year. That's 20% of the Cowboys TO's for the entire season.
The Packers don't turnover the ball much and really haven't since Rodgers took over as starter. Like most games this game will come down to TO's. The Packers have been creating a lot of TO's the last 7 weeks, the Cowboys haven't.
The Packers have been decent at making other teams pay when they create the TO. Look at the Giants game or better yet, look at SB45 for example when another team was favored by most to beat the Packers. The Packers turned 3 TO's into 21 points.

Dak and Zak have been remarkable this year. But they HAVE to stay remarkable in their first playoff game of their young careers. I think the Packers win the TO battle by at least 2 and win the game as a result.

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RocsCave's picture

January 14, 2017 at 09:37 am

" Dak and Zak have been remarkable this year. But they HAVE to stay remarkable in their first playoff game of their young careers."

I see this thinking a lot and I agree to a lesser value than you and perhaps others. I cannot help but feel this logic would be more easily accepting of this pressure, hinging on their performance, if this game was in Green Bay.
I don't know how each will perform, whether to regular season levels witnessed, or lower due to playoff demand, but they will, imo, give us enough to not easily put the icing on the cake to soon.

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RocsCave's picture

January 14, 2017 at 09:41 am

Let me add the playing remarkably is not a high need against this defense as lesser offenses have shown.

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dobber's picture

January 14, 2017 at 10:05 am

The Packers have essentially been playing elimination games for 7 weeks now, and have beaten 4 playoff teams in that stretch (and have played more games against playoff teams this season than any other team...so much for that soft schedule we remarked about last spring). They need to be sharp and continue to build on the previous week, and jump on Dallas early while the Doughboys "ramp up".

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jeremyjjbrown's picture

January 14, 2017 at 10:31 am

"so much for that soft schedule"

I never realy believe in this for the current season. They are this years teams not last years. It's fine to look at historically I guess but I actually think playing better teams makes you better not worse.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

January 14, 2017 at 05:04 pm

Those rookie QBs had fairly bad days for Indy and Washington: RGIII and Luck didn't do much. The rookie RBs (Vick Ballard - a 5th rounder - and Alfred Morris - a 6th rounder) both had nice productive days. Ballard average over 4 yds per carry, and Morris had 16 carries for 80 yards, a 5.0 yard average. The QBs did play Baltimore and Seattle, two teams with really good defenses, IIRC.

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ironman3169's picture

January 15, 2017 at 05:54 am

I just get the feeling that all of this rookie playoff failure talk is just wishful thinking. I'm pretty sure they're going to play every bit as well as they did in the regular season. It's up to our offense to either take an early lead or keep up until the defense makes a stop. Green Bay needs a mistake free game (thanks captain obvious) for victory.

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Doug_In_Sandpoint's picture

January 15, 2017 at 08:55 am

Dak and Elliot are concerning, but I predict that I will be more frustrated by our inability to cover Witten and Beasley. Still, Cowboys fans will be made apoplectic by Adams, Monty, Cobb, Geronimo, Rip, And Cook. I bet Rodgers and Perillo catch one each as well.

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Lphill's picture

January 15, 2017 at 12:31 pm

Well it all comes down to if Dom Capers can slow the run and confuse Dak , this would be the formula for victory.

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