Did Dez Bryant catch the ball or not? The debate defined last January's 32nd all-time meeting between the Cowboys and Packers. Everyone knows the result – Bryant's big play was ruled incomplete late in the divisional round classic, and Green Bay moved on to the NFC Championship game, 26-21.
Much has changed since. Tony Romo is recovering from a second collarbone fracture since September, and backup quarterback Matt Cassel is again trying to keep the Cowboys (4-8) in the NFC East race, currently one game behind the rest of the division. Green Bay (8-4) had lost four of five games leading into last week, but Aaron Rodgers' Hail Mary touchdown pass against Detroit has given the Packers a narrow NFC North lead.
DallasCowboys.com staff writers David Helman, Bryan Broaddus, Rob Phillips and Nick Eatman give their gut feelings for the Cowboys' return trip to Lambeau Field this Sunday.
David Helman: I'm well aware that the Packers have struggled in recent weeks, but I just can't bring myself to pick against Aaron Rodgers playing at home. Rodgers has thrown three interceptions at Lambeau Field this season, and those are his first picks at home since December 2012. Factor in Rodgers' own efficiency with the Cowboys' inability to get takeaways this season, and it's a bad combination. As has usually been the case, I also worry about how the Cowboys are going to score points. The Packers' rush defense isn't overly impressive, but neither was Washington's last week – and the Redskins stymied Darren McFadden. Green Bay's secondary has proven that it's susceptible, considering the Packers allow 245 passing yards per game. But I don't trust Matt Cassel to take advantage of it, given that he has thrown just four touchdowns in five starts this season. If there's one thing we can say about the Cowboys, it's that they fight – and I think they will this week. It'll be a one-possession game when the fourth quarter starts, thanks to the defense and a big play by Terrance Williams. Rodgers will take control, though, and guide Green Bay to a two-possession win – something like 24-13.
Bryan Broaddus: Sean Lee and Rolando McClain are starting to get on a roll playing together. They have done a nice job of controlling the opponents' rushing attacks as well as being outstanding in nickel coverage. The Packers are banged up along their offensive line and will start a backup center in this game. My gut feeling is that this Dallas defense with Lee and McClain do play well and hold them in this game as they have all season, but their lack of a difference maker at quarterback isn't enough to get them over the hump. Green Bay 20, Dallas 13.
Rob Phillips: Based on what we've seen without Tony Romo, the most plausible prediction is Matt Cassel and the Cowboys' offense can't score enough points to get past Aaron Rodgers. But I'm well past trying to apply logic to this season. Takeaways aside, the Cowboys' defense is playing well enough to give the team a chance at Lambeau. The Packers' offense hasn't scored at last year's league-leading pace – they've scored less than 20 points four times this season (including three of the last six games) which matches their total in the last two seasons combined. It's hard to believe they were a Hail Mary away last week from losing five of six. If the Cowboys can't do better than a 25-percent touchdown conversion rate inside the red zone again, forget about it. But my gut feeling is a fairly low-scoring game with a couple huge plays from Dez Bryant that make the difference – say, 21-20 Cowboys.
Nick Eatman: My logic here comes down to the quarterbacks. There have been many picks where I've gone with the Cowboys because I thought Romo was simply better than Sam Bradford or Ryan Tannehill or Matthew Stafford or whoever. Well, if that's ever happened in the past it has to be applied here with Aaron Rodgers taking on Matt Cassel. I know it's not always that simple. Tom Brady lost to Bradford at home this last week. But, in this case, it comes down to scoring points and I don't see the Cowboys keeping up. I do see a little more production out of Cole Beasley and again, I'm expecting big things from Dez Bryant. But this running game has issues and I don't see it getting better. Field goals won't win this game like it did last week. On defense, I'm going to predict an interception by Morris Claiborne, but nothing real significant after that. Give me the Packers to pull away in the third quarter and win 24-13.