IRVING, Texas – A look at my two biggest keys to this matchup between the Packers and the Cowboys.
Cowboys Win If:
All you need to know is that when opponents have had their troubles with the Packers this season, especially at Lambeau Field, a large part of those struggles have been because they have fallen behind them early by large margins.
The Packers averaged an incredible 27 points a game just in the first half of their home games this season. What these leads have done is force opponents to have to throw the ball more in order just to get back into the game.
Where the Packers have struggled defensively this season is when they have had to play out of their base defense. They just are not as consistent with A.J. Hawk on the field as they are playing out of their nickel and dime packages. When opponents have to go to their passing games, it takes the Packers out of that mode where they have to worry about defending the run and they can get their best players on the field that cover and tackle the best.
Where the Cowboys will win this game is if, defensively, they can weather the Packers' first half storm on offense and help their offense not have to deal with the Packers' nickel and dime packages. If they can keep the game close and allow their offense to get a little rhythm, it will put a great deal of pressure on this Packers defense to have to make stops and there have been times this season where that has been an issue.
Packers Win If:
For the Packers to win this game, it will come down to how well they handle the Cowboys' running game. In the last three home games the Packers have allowed an average of 80 rushing yards a game and for the season that average is 101 yards.
The Cowboys are second in the league when it comes to rushing attempts on the road with 33 a game, while opponents at Lambeau rush the ball an average of 26 times a game. The Packers during the first half of the season really struggled defending the run, but that changed after the bye week when defensive coordinator Dom Capers made several adjustments to his front seven. One of those adjustments was by moving Clay Matthews from outside to the inside linebacker spot which put him in a better position to make plays on the ball.
The Packers have to believe that the Cowboys are going to come into this game attempting to control the game by running the ball to keep Aaron Rodgers and this Packers offense off the field. The Cowboys had trouble running the ball last week against the Lions, but the Packers do not have that type of front.
They will have to commit extra personnel down in the box to help and that should expose them to other weapons the Cowboys have -- but this is where the Packers are different. They are willing to defend the pass, where in the last three games quarterbacks have completed less than 50 percent of their attempts for an average of just 145 yards.