DALLAS – The Packers and Cowboys are meeting for the third time in the last 12 months.
Here’s a quick rundown of the big issues.
The 2016 NFL rushing champ was a tough customer against Green Bay last year, rushing for 282 yards on 50 carries in the two contests, a robust 5.6 average. He did a lot of damage in the second half of both games. The Packers are hoping to get DT Mike Daniels back from injury to help with the run defense, which is facing its biggest test of the season’s first half. 1. Packers’ run defense vs. Ezekiel Elliott:
2. Packers’ pass protection vs. DeMarcus Lawrence: The NFL’s current sack leader is Lawrence, and with 7½ sacks through four games, he’s on pace for a 30-sack season, which would obliterate the league record. Dallas also will get David Irving back from a suspension, and Irving had a sack and forced three fumbles against the Packers in the regular-season meeting last year. Starting tackles David Bakhtiari and Bryan Bulaga remain questionable and haven’t played a game together yet this season. Now would be as good a time as any.
3. Big-play production: In the playoff game last January, Packers QB Aaron Rodgers completed a pass of 25 yards or more to five different targets on his way to a 356-yard day. Conversely, Dallas WR Dez Bryant was QB Dak Prescott’s lone big-play producer, but he proved he can strike in a hurry with back-to-back catches covering 61 yards for a quick touchdown after Green Bay had taken a 21-3 lead. This is a game that could swing emotionally with big plays on both sides.
4. Establishing “road warrior” mentality: The Packers lost their first road test of 2017, at defending NFC champion Atlanta, but that was just the start of a difficult road slate to this season. Next week is a trip to Minnesota, and later on are excursions to Pittsburgh, Carolina and Detroit. A .500 road record, which is a standard goal for playoff contenders, could be tough to come by, especially if the Packers fall to 0-2 on the road this week.
For a franchise that lost its last nine visits to old Texas Stadium, from 1993-2007, it’s amazing what the Packers have done since the Cowboys opened their new venue. Green Bay is 3-0 there, winning Super Bowl XLV over Pittsburgh to conclude the 2010 season, coming back from a 26-3 halftime deficit with backup QB Matt Flynn to win in 2013, and knocking the Cowboys out of the playoffs last season, 34-31, on Mason Crosby’s walk-off field goal. 5. Packers’ success at AT&T Stadium: