All eyes will be on Green Bay Sunday when Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys come to town for a rematch of 2014’s Divisional round meeting. This time, it won’t be Tony Romo at quarterback, and Dez Bryant isn’t certain to play.
However, despite those two factors, the Cowboys will still keep it rolling and run their winning streak to an impressive five games. The Packers are somewhat depleted on defense and Aaron Rodgers is struggling, but Prescott will be the decisive component when this one gets under way.
Here are five reasons he and the Cowboys will continue to roll against the Packers on Sunday.
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Dak Prescott succeeded against Cincinnati's superior pass defense
Prescott played one of his best games on Sunday against the Bengals, completing 75 percent of his passes for 227 yards and a touchdown. His passer rating was 117.9 and rarely did he look uncomfortable in the pocket. That was against a defensive line that features Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap, both of whom would be starters on Green Bay’s defense.
In the secondary, Cincinnati has been statistically better than Green Bay. The Bengals have allowed just 225 passing yards per game to the Packers’ 275 yards per game. Cincinnati has also picked off four passes and is allowing just 60.3 percent of passes to be completed against their defense. If Prescott can carve up the Bengals’ defense, he’ll likely have more success against Green Bay’s.
Dallas’ offensive line will negate Green Bay’s pass rush
One area where the Packers do succeed is rushing the passer. They’ve brought down the quarterback 14 times (fifth most) despite playing just four games. Nick Perry and Clay Matthews have been dynamic edge rushers, recording 7 1/2 sacks between them. Unfortunately for Green Bay, their pass rush is running into the best offensive line in football.
Prescott has seen outstanding production as he’s only been sacked seven times. Those seven sacks are the second fewest in the league, and it’s a big reason he’s seeing the field so well. Rarely does Prescott have to escape the pocket to avoid pressure, which allows him to keep his eyes downfield and make proper reads. As long as Tyron Smith plays in this one – and even if Chaz Green has to replace him – the Packers’ pass rush will struggle to pressure Prescott.
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Green Bay doesn’t force turnovers
The best aspect of Dak Prescott’s game this season has been his ability to protect the football. He has just one turnover in five games and has yet to throw a single interception. Conversely, the biggest downside to Green Bay’s mostly solid defense is that it doesn’t force turnovers.
The Packers have taken the ball away just four times this season, which is the second fewest in the league. They’ve picked off two passes and recovered two fumbles, neither of which are particularly promising numbers. Prescott will once again protect the football and avoid making significant mistakes against the Packers, which will be the difference in this one.
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The Packers will likely be without Sam Shields again
Speaking of Green Bay’s secondary, it will likely be without its top cornerback, Sam Shields, once again. Shields, who has a history of concussions, has missed the past three games due to a concussion. He missed practice on Wednesday and will sit out again on Thursday, making the likelihood that he plays very slim. The secondary played well against the Giants without Shields and Damarious Randall, but they can’t count on that again this week.
The Cowboys have a variety of weapons on offense, from Cole Beasley in the slot to Jason Witten in the middle to Terrance Williams on the outside. And if Dez Bryant is able to play, it will only compound Green Bay’s matchup problems on the outside. Prescott won’t have much trouble throwing against a secondary that’s likely to be without its top cornerback, and possibly its No. 2.
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Ezekiel Elliott will take pressure off of Prescott
When the Cowboys and Packers line up on Sunday, it will be a clash of powerhouses up front. The Cowboys have the best running game in football (155.2 yards per game), while the Packers boast the best run defense by a wide margin (42.8 yards per game). Something’s gotta give in this situation, and it will likely be Ezekiel Elliott and the Cowboys’ ground game coming out on top.
They haven’t faced a running back like Zeke this season and have been fortunate to play against teams with depleted backfields. Jacksonville was without Chris Ivory in Week 1, Adrian Peterson got hurt in Week 2, the Lions didn’t have Ameer Abdullah in Week 3, and both Rashad Jennings and Shane Vereen were out in Week 4. See the common trend there?
That’s not to say Green Bay’s defense isn’t legit, but they’ve been lucky to face teams that weren’t at full strength. The Cowboys will be, and it will allow Elliott to take pressure off of Prescott and the aerial attack. They won’t have to press nearly as much as Green Bay’s past opponents have.