Sunday, January 15th, 2017, it is the Divisional Round of the NFL Playoffs. NFL fans will be treated to a Packers vs Cowboys rematch of week six. In their week six match-up, the Dallas Cowboys knocked off the red-hot Green Bay Packers 30-16.
The Dallas Cowboys had a first round bye in the NFL Playoffs after going 13-3 in the regular season. The Green Bay Packers defeated the New York Giants last week. That win earned the team the right to continue in the NFL Playoffs, and the right for America to get to see the Packers vs Cowboys rematch. This is the second time in the past three years that the Dallas Cowboys and the Green Bay Packers have faced each other in the Divisional Round of the NFL Playoffs. The last time was in 2014. That was the week of great controversy for many fans. Many fans saw Dez Bryant catch a long pass down the sideline, on fourth down, and dove to the end-zone, falling short on the one yard line. The play was ruled a catch and everything was fine. Upon further review, the ball hit the ground as he dove toward the goal-line, causing the ball to move, and the refs to change their decision on the field of a completed pass, to an incomplete pass. The controversy was over whether or not he was going to the ground from being tackled, or diving for the end-zone. That detail makes all the difference between a catch or not. Dez took three steps and seemingly lunged toward the end-zone, ball stretched out. NFL officials saw those three steps as him stumbling and falling toward the end-zone, meaning he would have to maintain complete control of the ball and not let it move. Being it did, it was officially ruled an incomplete pass.
In week six of 2016, the Dallas Cowboys were without their talented wide receiver, Dez Bryant. That didn’t slow down the Dallas Cowboys in week six however. Wide receivers Terrance Williams and Cole Beasley both had very nice days. Terrance caught 4 balls for 75 yards. Beasley caught 6 balls for 58 yards and two touchdowns. On the second touchdown, Beasley torched the Packers defender by feigning a block, acting like he was taking a play off, then quickly darting the opposite direction, leaving the Packers defender behind for an easy score.
Packers linebacker Clay Matthews was turned into a non factor during the game, only recording two tackles on the stat sheet. The Packers entered the day as the top rushing defense, only averaging 1.99 yards per carry given up to opposing running backs. This didn’t phase Dallas running back and rookie sensation Ezekiel Elliot however. He carried the ball 28 times for 157 yards and caught another two for 17 additional yards. He averaged 5.6 yards per carry on the day. In 2016, teams that have run for over 100 yards on Green Bay, generally find themselves in the win column at the end of the day.
The Green Bay defense was able to double cover Odell Beckham Jr. for a good portion of the afternoon last week to limit his success. They may try that method vs Cowboys WR Dez Bryant, but not as often. Look for Green Bay to try to drop a safety into the box in order to help in run support. Stopping Elliot will be Green Bay’s number one priority.
The other rookie sensation for the Dallas Cowboys, quarterback Dak Prescott, was able to carve the Packers defense for 247 yards and 3 touchdowns. He did finally show that he was human however. After breaking Tom Brady’s record for most passes without a completion to start a career. Brady’s record was 162, and Prescott now holds that record as his own with 176 passes without an interception to start a career.
The Packers will be without their star wide receiver Jordy Nelson. He suffered a couple fractured ribs in the win over the Giants. He has already been ruled out for the game.
Aaron Rodgers on the other hand, is playing his best football of the season. After getting off to a rough start, the quarterback told the team and fans that they were going to run the table in order to make the Playoffs. That is exactly what they proceeded to do. They won the rest of the games of the regular season to make the Playoffs, then the first round game in the Playoffs.
Rodgers has carried the Packers team during this seven game win streak. During the last seven weeks, Rodgers has completed an average of 69.8% of his passes, and thrown for 19 touchdown with zero interceptions. He has maintained an average quarterback rating of 121.6 over the past seven games. That is incredible numbers.
With Rodgers having a hot hand, the Dallas defense will need another big game like they had in week 6. In week 6, the Dallas defense forced 5 fumbles and recorded a rare Aaron Rodgers interception at Lambeau Field. Cowboys linebacker, Justin Durant, sacked Aaron Rodgers twice, although neither counted due to penalties.
In this Packers for Cowboys rematch, for Dallas to move past Green Bay, the Dallas offense will need to be better on third downs than they were in week 6. In that game, the Dallas offense only converted 3 of 11 attempts on third down (27%). Therefore, I expect the Cowboys tight end, Jason Witten, and shifty wide receiver, Cole Beasley, to have a big game. Look for Dallas to look for those two early and often on third downs.
My prediction is that the Dallas Cowboys prevail over the Green Bay Packers in a close game, 34-31.
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