FRISCO, Texas — Playoff time is nearing as the Dallas Cowboys put their finishing touches on prepping for a Super Wild Card matchup with the Green Bay Packers at AT&T Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
It's the ninth time that the two teams have faced off in the playoffs, and each team will be looking to break the 4-4 tie with a win on Sunday afternoon.
There are a lot of headlines in this one. Mike McCarthy facing off against his former team in the playoffs. The Cowboys looking to finally vanquish their most prominent playoff demon of the past decade. Dak Prescott looking to put the Cowboys back in the NFC Championship Game and/or the Super Bowl for the first time since 1995.
A few matchups will determine how the game goes for each side. Here are the key matchups to keep an eye on.
CeeDee Lamb vs. Jaire Alexander
After a career-year that saw him earn an NFL AP All-Pro first-team honor on Friday morning, CeeDee Lamb will start his 2023 postseason run against one of the bigger trash-talkers in the league and one of the more intriguing cover cornerbacks in Jaire Alexander.
Alexander has battled injury and was suspended for one game late in the season resulting in only seven games played all year, but his two career second-team All-Pro nominations only reveal the surface of his ability as a sticky player in coverage and a physical player off the line.
In the loss at Lambeau Field last season, Lamb exploded for 11 receptions for 150 yards and two touchdowns with 4 receptions, 23 yards and one touchdown coming in the 12 snaps he played against Alexander.
As per usual with the Dallas offense, Lamb won't see Alexander on every snap. But when the two line up, expect a primetime event.
DaRon Bland vs. Christian Watson
The memory of Christian Watson exploding for four receptions for 107 yards and three touchdowns against the Cowboys last season still lingers in the mind of the Dallas secondary, and even though DaRon Bland is one of the more even-keeled, mild-mannered players on the roster, an opportunity to get a second chance against a fellow draft class member in a playoff game will get the juices going.
Bland is also coming off notching his first NFL AP All-Pro first-team honor on Friday morning, and he'll look to prove that recognition against a Green Bay receiving corps that is completely composed of rookies and second-year players.
The two won't line up on every snap, but Bland and Watson will certainly clash on the boundary throughout the game, as Bland will look to bring his improved physicality to the field to take down the bigger Watson in coverage.
Terence Steele vs. Rashan Gary
Green Bay enters Sunday afternoon without a pass rusher that will put fear into the offense, but the challenge in defending Rashan Gary still looms large for right tackle Terence Steele.
Gary led the Packers with nine sacks in 2023, as he has been schemed to attack the weaker edge week-after-week by the Green Bay coaching staff. As a result, expect Steele to take on the task of limiting him after finishing the season on a strong run that saw him allow just two sacks in his final nine games.
However, the bigger importance for Steele will be keeping Gary out of the run game against a defense that is at the bottom of the league in allowing rushing plays of 10 yards or more. If that can be accomplished, look for Tony Pollard and Packers linebacker Quay Walker to meet quite a bit in the second level.