Friday, December 13, 2013

Preview: Packers at Cowboys

A week after getting to play against the Falcons' woeful defense, ranked No. 29 overall by Football Outsiders, QB Matt Flynn will get another chance against an awful one; the Cowboys and their 30th ranked defense. On the flip side, QB Tony Romo will go up against the 31st ranked Packers' defense. But here's some good news:
I know ESPN has banned the word, but the Packers have sucked without Rodgers and they still could control their playoff chances by next week. The Lions are hosting the Ravens on Monday night. While the Ravens' have the worst running back tandem in recent history, they've won four of their last five games and are hanging onto the final playoff spot in the AFC. The Lions are favored by 6 points but they'll have a tough game on their hands.

Here are the Packers and Cowboys rankings from Football Outsiders:
Team Pass Offense Run Offense Pass Defense Run Defense
Green Bay 14 5 30 27
Dallas 10 6 28 30
I've been avoiding these rankings in recent weeks because they've been so meaningless for the Packers. With Rodgers, the pass offense was a Top 5 unit and since then they've been falling like a rock. That 14th ranked pass offense is loaded with Rodgers' Top 5 goodness and dragged down by all the sadness that comes from Flynn/Tolzien/Wallace. However, the run offense has been a Top 5 unit for most of the season.

The main point here is that both defenses are equally awful. If you watched last Monday night's game, you saw a Cowboys defense in collapse. The Bears ran it straight down their throat and threw at will. It also looks like they'll be without LB Sean Lee again this week after he left the Bears game with an injury. Their secondary is in bad shape but their front seven looks decimated.

On the other hand, the Packers defense showed some signs of life against the Falcons. LB Clay Matthews was quiet against them, but LB Nick Perry played well again and both players have returned to provide a legitimate outside pass rush. The Packers will probably play a lot of nickel defense against Romo, so the Cowboys will gain yards on the ground, but the key will be to tackle and prevent any big plays. However, that's something they've struggled with all season.

The Cowboys are favored by 7 points because Dallas has a real NFL QB while the Packers are crossing their fingers with Flynn. The Cowboys should win because of their passing attack, but the Packers could pull off the upset if a few things go their way; Lacy and Starks have to take charge on the ground, the Packers defense has to play like they did last week against the Falcons, and the Cowboys' defense has to continue playing awful like they did last week against the Bears.

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