Cowboys at Packers: Rants & Raves

The Green Bay Packers are spending their third straight week at home and host the Dallas Cowboys this Sunday.  This game is one of the hotter match up's this week, featuring two teams in the NFC who figure to be in the conversation for one of the best in the conference.  It's the third straight times these teams are meeting in Green Bay, including the divisional playoff game in 2014.

Let's take a look at the storylines and trends heading into this tilt.

Rants

Takeaways

The feature image of this piece is from last week's win over the New York Giants, Kenny Clark after recovering a fumble.  I took a quick look at how the Packers are faring so far this season in giveaways and takeaways.  They're -1 overall with just four takeaway and five giveaways.  The hallmark of Dom Capers' defenses has been turnovers but as well as the defense has been this season, they're not taking it away.  They have just two interceptions, one of which was really a ball that Damarious Randall stripped from the ball carrier after the catch.  The first interception they got came on the very first series of the season in Jacksonville.  That, to me, is a drought and one that frankly needs to end this week.  

Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott hasn't thrown his first NFL interception yet so the Packers would become a footnote in his history with the first pick of the young signal caller's career.  Prescott has set a new record for the most passing attempts without an interception to begin his career.  It currently sits at 135.

Special Teams

Here we are again.  The field position game is so critical and as the season wears on and the weather gets tougher, this aspect becomes even more important.  Punter Jake Schum continues to under whelm with an average near 35 yards.  That won't flip the field nor keep any advantage the Packers have at the time.  Many have been calling for Schum's head but judging by what the Packers coaching staff is saying and a lack of other players brought in for workouts, the team seems content to stick with the preseason castaway from Tampa Bay.

On the coverage side, the Packers need to improve in kickoff coverage.  Too many missed tackles, too many players out of their lanes.  It all leads to poor starting field position for the defense and too easy for opponents to put points on the board.

Run Game

Eddie Lacy is still questionable with his ankle injury, although head coach Mike McCarthy said he's "improving" when asked throughout the week for an update.  James Starks is also listed as questionable with a knee injury and has been away from the team dealing with a personal matter.  With their two top backs both dealing with injuries and little practice time, the Packers game plan will have to get more creative in the run game.  We'll likely see more of Randall Cobb and Ty Montgomery in the backfield, although both of them have yet to show any signs of promise in that role.

Any lack of ability to run and keep the Dallas defense on its toes hurts on many fronts.  The Packers then can't control the clock and will struggle more to throw with the Cowboys sitting comfortably back in coverage.  I haven't mentioned fullback Aaron Ripkowski but I think we are all hoping Green Bay's plan doesn't include giving the big guy 20 carries on Sunday.

Drops

Can't have them this week.  Jordy Nelson had more than he's had in a long long while last week and Richard Rodgers had one that would have been a touchdown.  Some of quarterback Aaron Rodgers' throws have been off the mark but if the ball hits both hands, the receivers have to catch it.  They got away with one last week in still being able to get the win over the Giants but against much better teams, those blunders will prove very costly.

Raves

The Trenches

Two of the league's best offensive lines will be featured on the field in this game.  Dallas has long had one of the best and their reputation precedes them.  Green Bay has held their own as well and all with the major change at left guard that really doesn't need to be mentioned anymore.  Lane Taylor has done an admirable job so far and the rest of the line is keeping the pocket clean for Rodgers and opening up lanes for the running backs.  Left tackle David Bakhtiari is already earning that big contract extension he recently signed.  With Lacy and Starks banged up, the line is going to have to work a little overtime to spring those guys to a productive day.

On the defensive side, they continue to gobble up opposing running backs.  Ezekiel Elliott comes in as one of the top running backs in the league and he'll test the Green Bay run defense that has been dominant so far.  If they can hold Elliott to a modest day in a winning effort, this run defense has to be deemed 'for real'.  Mike Daniels doesn't have the gaudy stats but he's clogging up the middle and garnering a lot of attention in pass protection.  This is opening up many any opportunity for the linebackers, who are practically living in the back field.

The old adage that games are won and lost up front will certainly hold true this week.

Mason Crosby

Crosby is officially an unsung hero of this Packers team.  He's essentially automatic inside of 50 yards and deserves more credit than he's getting for getting the Packers on the board when drives stall.  If the kick coverage can't get it together, Crosby needs to start aiming for the fifth row of the stands and boot every ball out of the end zone.

Secondary

This unit came up big in a game where they were without their top two players.  Sam Shields won't play in this game and Randall is still listed as questionable with a groin injury.  Last week against the Giants and Odell Beckham, Jr and Co., the Packers young corners got the job done.  If Dez Bryant plays (and if he actually hangs onto the ball) the youngsters will face another big test.  Cole Beasley is still a slippery slot receiver who can't be ignored and the old man, tight end Jason Witten is still dangerous until further notice.  If the Cowboys can establish the run, the secondary is going to have much less room for error.  With young players, that's a big ask, but the Packers have no choice if they're going to keep the Dallas passing game in check.

Jake & Blake

These two young inside linebackers are playing well as individuals but more importantly, as a tandem.  Quick to the ball and cleaning up the play, Martinez has been all over the place and Ryan is taking that second year jump good players do after their rookie season.  These young guys are fun to watch and if they improve in coverage, they're going to give the Packers defense an element that will cause offenses a lot of problems.  

Obviously, these two are going to be key in the effort to stop Elliott.  Their discipline and ability to stave off the first level will be on full display this weekend.  If it's a successful day defending the run, chances are Ryan and Martinez both had very good days.

-------------------

Jason is a freelance writer on staff since 2012 and also co-hosts Cheesehead TV Live, Pulse of the Pack and Pack A Day podcasts.  You can follow him on Twitter here

0 points

Comments (7)

Fan-Friendly This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.
ray nichkee's picture

October 15, 2016 at 05:57 pm

That about sums it up. The middle of the field is what will kill the packers. I heard from a guy covering the cowboys dez bryant most likley will be out. Beasley and witten are the focus along with zeke.

0 points
0
0
Spock's picture

October 15, 2016 at 07:03 pm

I agree with most of what you've posted except for the " I haven't mentioned fullback Aaron Ripkowski but I think we are all hoping Green Bay's plan doesn't include giving the big guy 20 carries on Sunday." If it's a choice of the Cobb and Montgomery backfield or Rip, I would prefer the "big guy". I know he's barely carried the ball in his career, but when he does he goes forward!

0 points
0
0
stockholder's picture

October 15, 2016 at 07:27 pm

I would run a few draws to rip. It's time he steps up. He can establish himself for years to come, with this game. I also would put in Rodgers and Perrillo as TEs. Not WR. This game is Abbeys chance to prove he belongs. I believe MM uses Cobb more in the backfield on screens. It's time to see if the depth can really contribute. This game will show the true value of TTs drafting. The Key to the trenches is keeping the defense fresh. I for one do not want a shoot out. Short passes will eat the clock, Build confidence, and show this team is more than a Flash.

0 points
0
0
NickPerry's picture

October 16, 2016 at 06:17 am

We've already watched Abby run correct routes, get open, AND catch the ball yet we never see him, not a single snap on Offense last week. Get ABBY on the field, you have one of the worst rated passing games in the NFL, could it hurt?

Monty has been seen a little more but not much. Some of the creative stuff we saw last year with Montgomery seems to have been removed from McCarthy's play calling card. Use Monty is the backfield, run him more than once before you sit him, and try some screens with him. Obviously if he's back there the Cowboys will know he won't be there to pass block, but he should be able to beat ANY linebacker in coverage the Cowboys have for some decent plays. I keep having visions of Montgomery against Seattle last season. Not only did he catch the ball and give the Packers a spark when needed, the guy can block for his fellow WR's.

Can someone explain to me why the Packers don't have a viable RB on the PS? You know one they could at least use when the perfect storm hits with your 2 man crew. Who in the hell ever went into a season with 2 RB and no one on the PS??????????

0 points
0
0
dschwalm's picture

October 16, 2016 at 02:01 pm

Yes, I would like an explanation for why they have only two RBs on the roster. TT looks foolish when we had so many exciting RBs in camp.

0 points
0
0
badaxed's picture

October 16, 2016 at 07:07 am

TT is a genius .not. Keep Callahan. No extra running backs. Let Callahan go. No extra running backs. Keep 7 receivers . Make them running backs. Braid
Dead or rocket scientist. To be determined.

0 points
0
0
Savage57's picture

October 16, 2016 at 08:18 am

Running backs? We don't need no stinking running backs.

0 points
0
0