You’ve heard it before and you’ll hear it again: Sunday’s game between the Green Bay Packers and Dallas Cowboys is not just a rematch of their Week 6 meeting, but it’s also a repeat of the Divisional Round game two years ago when Dez Bryant’s non-catch sent shockwaves through the NFL. However, a lot has changed since both of those games. The Cowboys enter as the better team this time around, while also playing at home. Oh, and Tony Romo isn’t heading Dallas on Sunday – it’ll be Dak Prescott doing that just as he did in the 30-16 win in Week 6.
There’s of course a trip to the NFC title game on the line, and rather than the Packers making it two appearances in three years, it’ll be the Cowboys advancing. Here are three reasons that’ll happen on Sunday at 4:40 p.m. on FOX.
Associated PressMatt Ludtke
Dez Bryant will exploit Green Bay’s secondary
The biggest difference between Week 6’s meeting and Sunday’s is Dez Bryant. He wasn’t healthy for the first matchup, and while the Cowboys didn’t appear to miss him, he’s a game-changing player for Dallas. The Packers like to play man coverage, which Bryant thrives against. When he sees a cornerback lined up across from him and one safety deep in the middle of the field, he knows it’s one-on-one and Dak Prescott will recognize that, too. Prescott and Bryant improved their chemistry in recent weeks, which will help them in this one.
The Packers will be put in a bind defensively with Bryant on the field. Do they shade a safety his way to take him away? Or do they keep a safety in the box to stop the run, thus giving Bryant open looks? Either way, the Cowboys will have an advantage at one of the spots. Bryant’s mere presence on the field will change the way Green Bay plays defense.
The Cowboys are deep in the secondary
The Cowboys are getting healthy at just the right moment. Morris Claiborne is back after missing the majority of the season, while Orlando Scandrick is beginning to look like himself. They give the Cowboys four solid cornerbacks to go along with Brandon Carr and impressive rookie Anthony Brown. And at safety, Byron Jones is a versatile weapon while Barry Church is a sure tackler. There’s a reason Pro Football Focus ranked the Cowboys’ secondary as the best in the NFL this season, and it’s because they can do it all.
The Packers have playmakers on offense, but Dallas’ secondary is so deep and talented enough to match up with Green Bay’s weapons. And with Jones, Church and J.J. Wilcox patrolling the middle of the field, breaking big plays will be tough for the Packers – unlike their Divisional Matchup two years ago when missed tackles were an issue. Dallas’ secondary will have a huge impact on this game, and Claiborne’s return might just be the difference.
Ezekiel Elliott will run wild again
The first time these two teams met, Ezekiel Elliott went off. He had a career day, rushing for 157 yards on 28 carries, helping the Cowboys to a 14-point win. The Packers entered that game as the No. 1 run defense, but they haven’t improved since then. In fact, they’ve gotten worse. Their inside linebackers, Jake Ryan and Blake Martinez, are susceptible against the run, and that’s exactly where the Cowboys should attack the Packers. Elliott thrives between the tackles, particularly when Dallas pulls its guards and gets them to the second level.
Elliott will set the tone early in this one, establishing that the Cowboys can and will once again run the ball against the Packers. Green Bay won’t have an answer for him and the Cowboys’ offensive line, and it would put them in a bind. Elliott’s consistency will keep the chains moving, which also keeps Aaron Rodgers on the sidelines. If the Cowboys can do that, they will absolutely win this game.