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Key Battles, Week 5 Edition: Green Bay at Dallas

Before the season started, the Green Bay at Dallas matchup appeared to be one of the stiffest tests on the schedule. After all, Dallas posted an NFC-best 13-3 record and, barring a legendary Aaron Rodgers to Jared Cook heave and Mason Crosby field goal, would have played host to the conference championship. 
But a lot can change in just a month, and with the Packers surviving the injury bug en route to a 3-1 start, the pressure is on the 2-2 Cowboys not to sink. 

Trench battle key on both sides of ball 

Let me be Madden-ingaly obvious on this one: The battles at the line of scrimmage could well decide the outcome Sunday. Isn’t that most football games? Yes, but the importance of the trench battles against the Cowboys is accentuated. A year ago Dallas’ offensive line was the best in the NFL. This season, if the Cowboys are indeed still elite, they’ve yet to prove it. The Cowboys’ run game has sputtered. Should Ezekiel Elliott get things back on track, it wouldn’t shock if it came against a Packers team that under Dom Capers has struggled to slow the Dallas rushing attack. 
Green Bay would like something to say about that, though, with the return of Mike Daniels, who hasn’t played since a career game in Week 1 in which he utterly dominated Seattle’s offensive line. If the expectation is that the Packers will trot out their base defense, like they did effectively against run-heavy Chicago last week, remember that the same approach failed at home last season against the Cowboys. In January, by contrast, the Packers had more success against the Cowboys’ run when employing Nickel. This year’s Nitro package could be even better with an active Josh Jones in the box.
The Packers’ offensive line, meanwhile, needs to look like the improved unit they should be if tackles David Bakhtiari and Bryan Bulaga return. Dallas rusher DeMarcus Lawrence has been the Cowboys’ best player on defense and must be accounted for. 

Freshness will play a factor

Green Bay is still unquestionably more banged up, but they’re on the mend and have the benefit of a mini-bye. The Cowboys, meanwhile, are tasked with facing a team coming off 10-day rest for the second straight week. Against the Rams last week, Dallas was running on fumes in the second half. The Packers might be without more overall players, but those asked to play will be better rested. 
For the Packers, Bulaga, Bakhtiari, Daniel and cornerback Davon House could all return. While the Cowboys could get a few back, including from suspension, it looks like they’ll be without Sean Lee in the heart of their defense. 

Psychological factors at work

If Packer fans are at all worried about the Cowboys, take solace in the fact that Cowboys fans harbor far greater fear. Aaron Rodgers is true boogeyman for Dallas, his 5-2 career record marked by the same absurd numbers he holds against most teams. For the Cowboys, Rodgers has worked his magic in ways that leave deep psychological scars. There’s last year’s playoff classic, and also in 2014 in Lambeau Field. 
Coming off a loss last week and playing much the part of a team taking a step back, the Cowboys will be highly motivated to exorcise their Green Bay demons. But make no mistake the pressure is on Dallas, and a rock-and-a-hard-place isn’t ideal for a team bordering on desperation. 
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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (5) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

CAG123's picture

Adams cleared concussion protocol I get the feeling he’s about to go off in this game. Jourdan Lewis has been awful (and to think he was mocked to GB in some drafts) Heath is even worse and without Sean Lee the middle of the field is looking real squishy so look out for Marty B. I don’t know about a blowout but I can see the Packers out Cowboying the Cowboys with efficient offense and opportunistic defense my final score Packers 28 Cowboys 17

dobber's picture

Wow. I didn't think Adams would make it back this week. I honestly worry about his susceptibility to another concussion at this stage.

CAG123's picture

Yeah especially after bouncing back so quickly last time but here we are

Spock's picture

Adams seems like a "fast healer" from concussions; that's a GOOD thing! I expect him to be wanting to be fed the ball this game and I think Rodgers will oblige! If Bahk and Bulaga are playing and Daniels (Diesel says he's ready!!!) are good to go the Pack should win this one. In my opinion, Dallas has regressed and if we can key on Dak and their runner we will win this one! Rodgers has the Cowboys number in their stadium and with a (few) healthier bodies this team is ready to make a statement!

Since '61's picture

Key battle: Packer front 7 versus Dallas OL. If the Packers can win that battle it's game over. The only advantage Dallas has over the Packers are their OL and Zeke Elliott. Packers have the better QB, better WRs and TEs and a better overall defense. Go Pack Go! Thanks, Since '61

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