The fourth and final Divisional Round game is a rematch of not only their Week 6 meeting but of 2014’s second-round playoff game. The Packers and Cowboys are two of the best teams in the NFL right now, both very deserving of making it to the Super Bowl. By Sunday night, though, only one of them will remain, advancing to take on the Falcons or Seahawks in the NFC title game.
Ahead of Sunday’s 4:40 p.m. ET kickoff on FOX, we break down the 11 players who will decide the outcome of this pivotal game. There are the obvious ones – Dak Prescott, Aaron Rodgers, Ezekiel Elliott – but a handful of role players will also impact this one.
Dez Bryant, WR, Cowboys
Bryant hasn’t been the dominant receiver he once was with Tony Romo a few years ago, but he’s still an integral part of the offense in Dallas. He draws double coverage fairly often, making the lives of Cole Beasley, Jason Witten and Terrance Williams a whole lot easier. And with the game on the line, there may not be a wide receiver you’d rather have on the outside in a 50-50 situation.
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Damarious Randall, CB, Packers
Randall headlines a secondary that’s been thin all season. He’ll likely see plenty of Dez Bryant in coverage, as will Ladarius Gunter – who shadowed Odell Beckham Jr. last week. Randall will need to have a strong game against Dallas’ dynamic receivers for the Packers to have a chance.
Ty Montgomery, RB, Packers
Montgomery has shared the backfield with Christine Michael, and it’s mostly worked with decent results. Michael is the more consistent back, but Montgomery brings an added element to the offense with his ability to play receiver, just as he did to begin his career. Montgomery can make big plays, which the Packers will need plenty of.
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Sean Lee, LB, Cowboys
The Packers aren’t much of a threat to run the ball, which does downplay Lee’s impact a bit. However, no linebacker aside from Luke Keuchly plays the pass better than Lee. His ability to read the offense and drop back in coverage while keeping his eyes on the quarterback is outstanding, and it should help eliminate passes over the middle. He also has the speed and instincts to match up with Ty Montgomery.
Tyron Smith, LT, Cowboys
Smith was battling an injury toward the end of the regular season, but he’s good to go for the Divisional Round. He’ll be tasked with limiting Clay Matthews on the left side of the line. Protecting Prescott and allowing him to feel comfortable in the pocket will be a key to getting him in a rhythm, and that begins with Smith – one of the best tackles in the league.
Cole Beasley, WR, Cowboys
Yes, Cole Beasley is more important than Dez Bryant in this one, as he has been all year. He gives Dak Prescott a reliable target in the middle of the field, which is an area where he loves to throw the ball on short and intermediate passes. With the Packers’ secondary being thin, Beasley can give them fits out of the slot by converting in third-down situations.
Clay Matthews, OLB, Packers
Matthews is finally healthy, and he can be a wrecking ball on the edge against the Cowboys. That’s only if he can beat Tyron Smith and Dallas’ offensive line, however. He and fellow edge rusher Nick Perry are a formidable duo, but the Cowboys’ pass blockers are outstanding and rarely surrender sacks. Playing the run might be more important than rushing Dak Prescott.
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Davante Adams, WR, Packers
With Jordy Nelson (ribs) likely to miss this one, Adams will have to step up. He’s been Green Bay’s second-best wide receiver all season, but he’ll need to be a No. 1 option for Rodgers on Sunday. Though Nelson’s absence will greatly hurt the Packers, they did OK against the Giants after he left with an injury – mainly because Adams and Randall Cobb stepped up.
Dak Prescott, QB, Cowboys
Rookie quarterbacks have not fared well in the postseason, but Prescott isn’t your average first-year QB. He’ll get his first taste of the playoffs, and his performance will greatly impact the outcome of this game. If he has a career-worst game, the Cowboys will be in trouble. If he protects the ball and plays the way he has all season, they’ll be in good shape.
Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers
The Packers’ recent hot streak has been the direct result of Rodgers’ play. He’s thrown 22 touchdown passes and zero interceptions in his last eight games, which is obviously remarkable. He’ll have to continue his otherworldly play in order for the Packers to have a chance. Jordy Nelson's likely absence won't make his task any easier.
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Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Cowboys
Just as he’s been all year, Elliott will be the Cowboys’ most important player in this game and will have more of an impact on the outcome than anyone else. In the first meeting, Elliott rushed for a career high 157 yards on 28 carries. The Cowboys won, 30-16, running the ball down the throats of the Packers. Expect them to try to do the same Sunday, and they should have success once again.