Dallas, TX (CBS DFW)- Arguably the biggest game of the Week 5 NFL schedule is set for Arlington on Sunday afternoon.
The 3-1 Cowboys meet the 3-1 Green Bay Packers, in the latest edition of a long-standing NFC rivalry. The matchup is an interesting one, because the teams have traveled similar roads to this point. Each started the season 3-0, riding a wave of positive vibes before faltering last week.
For the Packers, it was wins over the Bears, Vikings and Broncos before a loss to the Eagles last Thursday night. For the ‘Boys, they blew past the Giants, Redskins and Dolphins before stalling out against the Saints last Sunday. Aside from wanting to rebound from tough losses, each team, of course, wants the win in this game to further pad their NFC record and potential playoff tiebreaker implications down the line.
There is plenty of history between the two sides, with the Packers taking the win in four of the last five meetings, including two straight wins over the Cowboys at Jerry World. Those are just two of the recent trends that point in the Pack’s favor as SportsLine senior analyst Larry Hartstein notes, “Underdogs are 5-1 in the last six meetings. Green Bay has covered in six of the last eight times versus Dallas.”
While the trends may favor the road team, there is one big factor pointing in the Cowboys favor entering Sunday. The Packers’ run defense, or as Hartstein accurately notes, perhaps lack thereof, “Green Bay is giving up 5 yards per rush. That is 30th in the NFL facing a Dallas team that is looking to establish the run after not getting going in New Orleans. That has to scare you if you’re a Packers fan.”
The Packers gave up 176 yards and two touchdowns on the ground last week in front of their home fans at Lambeau Field, as they lost to the Eagles. While Philadelphia’s rushing attack was expected to be good, it is not of the same level as the Cowboys with running back Ezekiel Elliott. Offensive coordinator, Kellen Moore, has balanced the offense nicely so far this season, not over-taxing Elliott. But, this game presents a perfect opportunity to ride the workhorse back, because while the Packers haven’t stopped the run well, they have been menaces with their pass-rushing combo of Preston and Za’Darius Smith.
Green Bay ranks sixth in the league in sacks with 12 so far this year, though they were held without one by the Eagles last week. Philly used a combination of quick passes and tight ends chipping the pass rushers in order to keep Carson Wentz clean, and it worked. The Cowboys could do the same and may have to help more with tight ends considering the injury to left tackle Tyron Smith. But the injury to Smith is not the one that Hartstein is most focused on heading into this game.
“Davante Adams did not practice again on Thursday. This is a game that is going to fall on Aaron Rodgers,” said Hartstein. “If he doesn’t have his top wide out in Dallas, there is no way you can get me to bet Green Bay. Even getting more than a field goal. Watch Davante Adams’ status all the way up until kickoff.”
Adams being out would be good news for the Cowboys defense, which has just been league average against the pass this year, according to Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric. Rodgers has found ways to kill the Dallas defense each of the last two times the teams faced, and he is still plenty dangerous. But, considering Elliott has averaged over 132 yards rushing in three career games against the Packers, this feels like a game in which the Cowboys may be uniquely suited to exploiting the Packers’ weaknesses.
Kickoff between the Cowboys and Packers from AT&T Stadium is set for 3:25 p.m. Central Time.