IRVING, Texas – Despite falling to 7-6 and losing a share of the division lead, the Cowboys can still guarantee a spot in the playoffs by winning out, beginning with a home matchup against the Packers.
Once again, the Cowboys will face a team without their starting quarterback. But the Cowboys will also be without linebacker Sean Lee, among others.
Here are the gut feelings for staff writers Nick Eatman, Rowan Kavner and David Helman.
Nick: I think the Cowboys beat the Packers. I didn't need to wait on Aaron Rodgers' status (although it does help my confidence with this pick). This is the kind of season on which the Cowboys have played close to the .500 mark all year so it'd be easy to say they lose, but at home, and with an average team coming in, give me the Cowboys. I think the defense bounces back in a big way - maybe not in terms of shutting down the Packers offense but in turnovers - I predict at least three for the defense. Miles Austin has always had good games against the Packers so I see him with a long catch and I think the Cowboys get a much-needed win that ties them for first place again. Cowboys 31-16.
Rowan: The Packers are 1-4-1 since Aaron Rodgers went out. If he were playing, my answer would probably change. But he's not, and for that reason the Cowboys shouldn't lose this game. They should beat a Packers team whose only win since their star quarterback went out was a one-point victory against the three-win Falcons. Much like the Cowboys, the Packers' defense has also been struggling, though Green Bay still has offensive firepower in Jordy Nelson and Eddie Lacy, if he plays. I think both teams stick to an effective running attack early on in a relatively low-scoring first half before the points start pouring on and the teams start airing it out in the second half. Both teams reach the 30s in points, Dez Bryant goes for 100 yards for the first time in seven games, both team's running backs reach the end zone and the Cowboys get three sacks in a four-point win.
David: Having had a few days to mull over the loss to Chicago, I feel better about the Cowboys' chances of a win against Green Bay. You can't overstate Aaron Rodgers' absence, which improves the chances of a Dallas win about tenfold, even if Eddie Lacy plays. The Cowboys have also played incredibly well at AT&T Stadium this year. They're 5-1 on the season, and the one loss was a heartbreaker to one of the best teams in the league. My guess is Jordy Nelson will be the latest receiver to give the Dallas secondary fits, as he goes for 120 or so and a touchdown. But the secondary matches up much better as a whole against this depleted Green Bay receiving corps, and I think the Cowboys will finally generate enough of a pass rush to cause some turnovers. Cowboys win by six.