In probably the most anticipated game of the weekend, the Dallas Cowboys will head to Green Bay to take on the Packers. Two of the most historic franchises in NFL history will battle for the right to play in the NFC Championship game. I don’t have to tell you, this is a game you will not want to miss.
1. Aaron Rodgers health
Reports have surfaced that Aaron Rodgers has a slightly torn calf muscle. The injury will not prevent him from playing, but it’s one that may limit his mobility and effectiveness, especially in the harsh weather conditions expected in Green Bay over the weekend. Rodgers, 31, is coming off another MVP-caliber season, where he threw a ridiculous 38 touchdowns compared to only five interceptions. He is truly one of the best quarterbacks of this generation and is the heart and soul of the Packers. The momentum would heavily shift in favor of Dallas if Rodgers isn’t close to his normal self.
2. Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb vs Cowboys secondary
Arguably the top wide receiver tandem in the game today, Nelson and Cobb will look to keep things rolling this Sunday against a porous Cowboys secondary that allowed 174 yards to Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate last week. The duo was also the only set of wide outs in the entire NFL to have over 1,200 yards and at least 12 touchdowns this season. Brandon Carr and company will certainly have their hands full this week, especially if Aaron Rodgers is feeling like himself.
3. Dez Bryant and DeMarco Murray vs Packers defense
One can argue that the Cowboys have both the best wide receiver and running back in all of football. Murray lapped the field this season, finishing with a ridiculous 2,261 scrimmage yards and 13 total touchdowns. He presents a matchup nightmare every time he touches the ball. The Packers ranked 23rd in rush yards allowed per game this season with 119.9. In a game that will be dictated by weather, the Cowboys will look to establish the run early and often, thus creating problems for Green Bay’s front seven.
Dez Bryant will have a slightly more difficult matchup Sunday, as he will be lined up against Packers top cover corner Sam Shields. Let’s get something straight, there is nobody on planet earth that can guard Bryant one-on-one, he’s just too big and strong. This means that the Packers will likely double Bryant all game, leaving room for Terrance Williams to have a big day.
4. What kind of factor will the weather play?
Right now the scheduled high in Green Bay for Sunday is 22 degrees. When you factor in the windchill, it could easily feel like single-digits outside. Normally you would say the Packers have the advantage considering that they play in this kind of weather all year, but now the game has changed. Aaron Rodgers’ calf injury combined with the bitter cold is not a strong recipe for success if you’re a Packers fan. We will see a heavy dose of Eddie Lacy this week. He could actually approach 30 touches. One would think that Mike McCarthy would also dial up some jet sweeps and end-around plays for Randall Cobb. He will definitely get creative against this mediocre Cowboys defense.
5. Can Tony Romo shut all the detractors up?
Tony Romo had a phenomenal season for the Cowboys this year. He amassed over 3,700 passing yards and threw 34 touchdowns compared to just nine interceptions. Many believe he should be the MVP of the league. He also led the Cowboys to a 12-4 season, including a ridiculous 8-0 road record. After beating the Lions last week, Romo won just his second career playoff game, a number that’s haunted him (and fueled his haters) for many years now.
There may never be a better scenario for Romo to get to a Super Bowl. The offense is clicking on all cylinders, the defense is playing just well enough not to embarrass itself. And More than that, the Cowboys are playing with a certain swagger about them. Most of all, Romo and the Cowboys believe that they aren’t the accident waiting to happen that we have seen in previous seasons.
Photo: USA Today