When the week started all signs pointed to a victory for Dallas this week. Over the course of the last few days there has been nonstop news and controversy coming out of Green Bay. The Packers held a players meeting to get themselves back on track. The coach has been accused of having a stadium employee fired. The fan base has become restless about the performance of the Packers. It feels like the Packers are backed into a corner. This has turned into the biggest game of the season for the Packers. Beat the Cowboys and they can turn things around. Lose and it would appear that they will fold up shop for the season as they fade into obscurity.
I initially had a great feeling after the great road victory against the Eagles. Now I have an uneasy feeling the if the Cowboys don't bring their "A game" they will be in for a tough fight. Road games are never easy. The home field advantage the Packers usually have is the cold weather. While it will be cold compared to Dallas, the forecast is for a high of 47 on Sunday and a low of 31. Cold but not anything that should impact either team. So my uneasy feeling is purely based on the vibes coming out of Green Bay that this is the defining point of the season.
The Cowboys will have to come out quickly to keep the Packers from getting too much confidence early in the game. I've said this before, but the key when you are the better team is to show them early so they don't start believing that they can win. Start out quickly and the crowd might just turn on their beloved Packers. Who knows, the Packers might implode before our eyes if the Cowboys jump out early.
Turnovers are always a big deal and the Cowboys will obviously need to limit them again. But more importantly, I think they need to force some turnovers. Aaron Rodgers is expected to throw more quick passes this week to limit the number of sacks he has been taking. If the Cowboys can pick one or two off early in the game then it will force the Packers back to the deep ball approach. That puts the advantage back in the corner of the Cowboys because they'll be able to get to Rodgers if he holds the ball.
I think this is the week that the running game gets back on track. The Cowboys have been doing a good job taking what the opposing defenses are giving up. The Cowboys have been heavy on the pass over the last few weeks and I have to believe that the Packers are going to try to prevent the big pass plays. That means leaving safeties deep which opens up the running game. I expect a heavy dose of Marion Barber, Felix Jones, and Tashard Choice. Of course the Packers may believe that Charles Woodson and Al Harris can shut down the outside receivers with their tough bump-and-run (aka defensive holding) so the Cowboys may have to hit a few passes to loosen them up for the run. I just hope we don't have the type of officials who let Al Harris hold all game long without throwing a flag.
One of the biggest helps to the defense has been the ability of the special teams units to make the opposition drive the length of the field. That will need to continue this week. If the Packers are forced to drive the length of the field then the Cowboys can afford to give up some quick passes without surrendering points.
For some reason it feels like this is going to be a close game. I expect the Cowboys to win but not like most people seem to believe. My pick is a 27-24 victory for the Cowboys in a tight, hard fought game.