Key Battles for Packers vs Cowboys

The Green Bay Packwers welcome the Dallas Cowboys to Lambeau Field this weekend and Andrew Garda has some key battles for you to watch.

The Green Bay Packers look to make it three wins in a row as they welcome the Dallas Cowboys to Lambeau Field on Sunday for what should be one of the better games of the weekend.

The Cowboys have made it to a surprising 4-1 record and lead the NFC East, despute a shaky defense and no Tony Romo. That said, rookies Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott are playing exceedingly well and the Cowboys are able to overcome not justan injured Romo but an injured Dez Bryant as well.

With so many battles which one should Packers fans pay attention to?

Here's our thoughts.

Top Run Defense vs. Top Run Game

We mentioned Elliott above, but it's worth pointing out that this is a huge test for him. Statistically, the Packers have the best run defense in the NFL, and even looking from a metric point of view, they're up there.

Earlier this week I think I called it the immovable object versus the unstoppable force and it's a big deal. Part of the reason Prescott has had success, especially over the last few weeks, is the time bought by Elliott's ability. Yes, the offensive line —still the best in the league—helps, but not being able to ignore the run game and instead having to focus on it allows the passing offense room to work, especially since it's lacking one of its biggest weapons in Bryant.

Green Bay has allowed just 171 yards on the ground in four games this year, and not one running back has topped 100 yards against them. Elliott has had three straight games of over 130 yards.

Something has to give.

DeMarcus Lawrence vs the OL

I could say defensive line versus offensive line, but the only guy who is worth noting would be Lawrence. After serving his four game suspension, he came back against the Cincinnati Bengals and seemed to add some energy to the defense, even if he didn't notch anything much in the way of sacks.

He's a tough matchup for the Packers offensive line, specifically David Bakhtiari, who struggled last season against a similiar player in Greg Hardy. Lawrence may not quite have his sea legs yet, but his athleticism is going to cause issues for a guy who isn't a really tough blocker.

The Cowboys have to get after Aaron Rodgers, and Lawrence may be their best bet.

Packers receivers vs Cowboys "secondary"

That is in quotes for a reason—the secondary isn't all that good.

Dallas' pass defense is mediocre overall statistically (19th in the NFL, a little worse over at Football Outsiders ranked 25), but their nine touchdowns allowed are closer to the high side of the league. They can be scored on and for the most part Rodgers and his crew seem to be able to move the ball.

I'd really like to see Randall Cobb more involved, but he's struggled to really put together the type of game we used to see consistently. Part of that is coverage and Rodgers' propensity to look for Jordy Nelson, but some of it is Cobb struggling. Last week the clouds seemed to part as he caught 9 of 11 targets for 108 yards, but we need more from him. The better he plays, the harder it is for the opposition to take care of Nelson.

The Dallas secondary isn't good and Morris Claiborne, Brandon Carr and Orlando Scandrick aren't scaring anyone. If Rodgers has time - or buys it with his legs - there will be ample opportunities against this secondary. They just need to execute.

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One more point - and more of an internal battle than an external one - is the habit the Packers have of taking their foot off the gas in the second half when they have a lead. We've already seen it this season, and Mike McCarthy has to break the habit because it's going to cost the team a win sooner or later.

If the Packers have a lead in the second half, they need to keep up the pressure and bury the Cowboys. They cannot let Dallas hang around, as this is a team which fights hard. 

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Comments (28)

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jh9's picture

October 14, 2016 at 07:48 am

I couldn't agree more with your "One more point."

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Nick Perry's picture

October 14, 2016 at 08:00 am

2 Thumbs up!!! I miss those 42 - 7 halftime leads at Lambeau!

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GVPacker's picture

October 14, 2016 at 10:19 am

"One More Point" I totally agree with your analysis. Mike McCarthy needs to put his Big Boy Pants On. Take No Prisoners And Kick Some Ass! The Packers need to play 4 Quarters of Intense Football and DOMINATE!!!!

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Nick Perry's picture

October 14, 2016 at 07:58 am

As long as Cobb is okay after that shot by Collins, I think even McCarthy will continue to try and keep Cobb involved. Actually I expect Nelson, Adams, and Cobb to all have big games and Rodgers will finally throw for over 300 yards this week. Last week it was obvious MM wanted to get Cobb going early and it worked. I'd like to see some 4 receiver sets with Abby, NOT Davis and just take what they give you and move the chains. I hate those long passes 5 yards out of bounds to no one. If the Packers win the coin toss take the ball and get ahead. Keep your foot on the Cowboys throats all game long, don't let em breathe.

Bakhtiari is playing great, the whole O-Line is playing great, especially pass blocking, #1.

I honestly think the Packers Run Defense is as good as advertised. I don't give a damn who they've played to this point, their shutting down the running game. Period. At home, prime time, just shut up the skeptics!

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dobber's picture

October 14, 2016 at 07:58 am

"The Dallas secondary isn't good and Morris Claiborne, Brandon Carr and Orlando Scandrick aren't scaring anyone."

They aren't as bad as they've been in recent years, but they aren't exposed as much due to the offense dominating TOP. Still, the Dallas practice reports have Scandrick as a DNP on Wed and Thurs (hamstrings), and that Claiborne was limited both days (ankle). That would be cause for optimism, but the Packers couldn't get much going through the air consistently against a shorthanded Giants defense. So not sure what to think.

Tyron Smith, maybe their top OL, missed Thursday with a back issue after being limited on Wed. I think his not playing would be pretty significant.

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pacman's picture

October 14, 2016 at 08:07 am

Might as well start now on MM. I just read his response to a question about the offense - “We had 400 yards of offense so I don’t know why the hell I’ve got to come in here and answer questions about the things you think went wrong.”

I'm pretty sure if the Packers had an regular owner, MM would be called in to explain things to him. He just doesn't get it. Everyone knows something's wrong and he doesn't even want to be asked about it. Looks like the Packers management is just a good ol' boys club. It would be a real shame if the club finally puts together a great defense and we can't bring home a SB.

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Nick Perry's picture

October 14, 2016 at 08:08 am

Off Topic... Has anyone else been paying attention to Hunter Henry this season. Many thought he wasn't worth the 27th pick in the draft, not 1st round worthy. I think without a doubt he was worth it, he's going to be great... Oh the possibilities.

BUT, Clark has looked good during the time he's played. I think he's got a chance to be a good one.

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chugwater's picture

October 14, 2016 at 08:51 am

Was surprised with Hunter Henry too. I wouldn't trade picks though. Clark has been a great addition, and he's so young with a frame that can add more mass. I think he'll be a high performing staple on the D line for years to come.

I'm more bummed about Jared Cook. Really thought he and AR would perfect another weapon on the offense that could confound defenses as the season wore on. Unfortunately, those reps won't happen until late due to his injury. :/

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dobber's picture

October 14, 2016 at 09:08 am

It's amazing how TEs play in offenses that actually feature them, yes...what's that like?

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

October 14, 2016 at 09:27 am

Yup, Dobber (I don't follow SD but they know what to do with a TE having had Gates for so long). Henry's stats are really good: 19 recs, 16.3 yd average, 73% catch rate. Maybe he can't block (he he). I didn't think he was worth a 1st round pick either. He went 35th in the draft. Oh, well, time will tell. Thanks Nick for pointing this out.

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RCPackerFan's picture

October 14, 2016 at 09:23 am

The guy I wanted in the draft more then anyone was Jatavis Brown... Did you watch the game last night?

In a 2 play span he had a big sack and the next he forced a fumble. As much as I like the Packers ILB's, I still would have loved to have had him.

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egbertsouse's picture

October 14, 2016 at 08:22 am

MM only has to keep TT happy to keep his job. And, as long as the wallet is full, the Tightwad is happy.

I heard they cut the Munchkin yesterday. Is that true?

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staffordsneckfat's picture

October 14, 2016 at 08:37 am

Does anyone know when the potential waiver claim on Callahan would happen?

Sure would like to see him on the practice squad.

If for nothing else, he makes preseason watchable...

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

October 14, 2016 at 09:28 am

Takes 24 hours for a player to clear waivers. Then he is a FA, and can sign with any team, PS or 53 man roster.

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RCPackerFan's picture

October 14, 2016 at 09:44 am

always on the ball.. Great job TGR.

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Hematite's picture

October 14, 2016 at 05:53 pm

He signed with the Saints.

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Nick Perry's picture

October 14, 2016 at 09:50 pm

Really??? Dang!

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Tundraboy's picture

October 14, 2016 at 08:38 am

Time to make a statement, and with the run D playing this way, who better to make it against than the Cowboys. Wake up MM. All hands on deck and no let up. Perfect opportunity to shut up all the whiners about the Dez catch, to boot.

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chugwater's picture

October 14, 2016 at 10:44 am

I'll push back on the 'step on the gas' note. What do you want MM to do differently? Much of the issues are execution based (dropped passes, penalties) than lack of aggressiveness. The closest critique is using multiple personnel groupings vs uptempo, but I think that is mainly execution too.

The team that wins time of possession wins this game. That means keeping Dak, Zeke, and the DAL O line on the bench. It also means 6-8 minute TD drives using Lacey and Rip. That's not stepping on the gas. That's grinding steadily and methodically.

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chugwater's picture

October 14, 2016 at 08:55 am

So if we're up by 10 in the middle of the 3rd quarter with a 2nd and 7 on our own 32, I don't mind a Lacey run for three yards to keep 3rd down manageable and the clock ticking. It's better than 'stepping on the gas' by running the play action rollout, deep throw to Jordy that falls incomplete.

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RobinsonDavis's picture

October 14, 2016 at 04:54 pm

Although I agree in principle & would love to see this happen, I don't think it will. First we really do not know what the game situation will dictate to start, but the Pack has done best lately working a balanced attack while intermixing schemes and personnel in an uptempo game plan....as you state. Dallas wants to grind on their O, and if we can jump on them early and often, while limiting their running game, it will force them out of their comfort zone.

2nd, It will be interesting to see what Dallas' d-sheme is to start the game. Rodgers has chewed-up defenses in the 1st half the last two games. If I were Dallas, I might think about a consistent stunt and blitz scheme with a spy attached to AROD, to try to disrupt his rythm and/or gain some TFLs in the run game. This is risky though and opens up the opportunity for big-plays which I hope the Pack convert. if they present. Point is, I believe we will have some early opportunities.

Last, it may be too much to ask from an O with 2 injured linemen and 2 injured RBs to "grind it out" in the running game. Thus, our short passing game better be at high efficiency, for this is the way we may have to grind. Looking for more out of our TEs and #3 &4 WRs! Go Pack!!

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Tarynfor12's picture

October 14, 2016 at 09:29 am

What will be said if Dallas runs over us and our receivers are still wearing velcro against this assumed poor secondary....wait....it was a great half of a game.

Dallas covers if not wins when the Packers become stagnant in the second half on offense.

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PaulRosik's picture

October 14, 2016 at 11:02 am

If they are wearing Velcro isn't that good for catching?

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Since '61's picture

October 14, 2016 at 04:26 pm

Based on my re-watch of our games so far this season I can't accuse our receivers of wearing Velcro. On some plays, yes, they have failed to get separation but on about 2/3 of our pass plays Rodgers has had at least one open receiver and sometimes 2 even 3 receivers open. I have even seen about 6-7 plays where he looked at an open receiver and then looked away from him or began his dancing and bobbing around. These are passes that he would have completed easily in prior seasons, especially before last season's bye. There have also been far too many occasions where he would have thrown and completed passes into tight coverage which he is not doing anymore. Also when he does throw and even complete a pass he is throwing the ball high or behind his receiver causing them to adjust rather than catch it in stride and run for YAC. I remain a huge supporter of Aaron Rodgers and I believe that he is an all-time great QB, however he has been off and our coaches should have figured this out and helped him by now. Something is wrong up there and I don't see why it is not being corrected after all this time. Thanks, Since '61

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guzzi2000's picture

October 14, 2016 at 11:15 am

Football, like other sports is about being able to adapt to what your opponent is doing. If what you're doing is working then you keep playing that way. Nothing wrong with scoring more points and the opportunity to use reserve players in a scheme that has been successful.

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RCPackerFan's picture

October 14, 2016 at 11:42 am

Exactly right... Belichek is the master of that. He finds a weakness and doesn't stop attacking it.

The other part of great coaching is you also have to adapt your schemes to what your players skills are.

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Since '61's picture

October 14, 2016 at 04:49 pm

As I see this game our OL can dominate just as well as Dallas' and maybe even better if our D continues to shut down the run game. We need Aaron Rodgers to play better especially if Lacy is a no go. Our WRs need to catch the passes that hit their hands. This would be a great game for Jared Cook if he were available. Our D needs to get penetration and wrap up Eliott because he can break away and score from anywhere. MM needs to let the offense keep scoring because Dallas can score and comeback quick with Eliott. No let up, no prisoners and Go Pack Go! Thanks, Since '61

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Flow49's picture

October 14, 2016 at 05:25 pm

Daniels vs Frederick should be an epic battle. Daniels needs to win it as well, although Fredrick will definitely get help.

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