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Science Lab: Poetic justice awaits Cowboys, Packers


FRISCO, Texas — Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December, and each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor. It was a two-game losing streak for the Dallas Cowboys, one that included an embarrassing loss to the Buffalo Bills, and the division crown became more distant — the No. 2 seed seemingly headed out of town to Philadelphia.

Eagerly I wished the morrow, wondering if the Cowboys would use the Detroit Lions as the catapult back to the NFC East title and a top seed in the NFC bracket, or if they'd allow their illustrious 15-game win streak at home and go tumbling backward into the No. 5 spot.

They found a way to win a bar fight against Dan Campbell and then, with destiny within their reach, took the Washington Commanders out back and beat them to within an inch of their lives.

Division crown acquired. Home field advantage secured.

But, at least for now, only this and nothing more.

Enter the Green Bay Packers, the first matchup in this year's playoffs, and the former team of Mike McCarthy who, as only the finest NFL script writers would have it, helped end the Cowboys' playoff hopes on more than one occasion in his time there; but who now will lead those very Cowboys into battle with the goal of ruining the 2023 dreams of a town that has a street named after him.

The stage is set for a Sunday afternoon in January in Arlington, one that will feature sub-freezing temperatures outside but, hopefully for the Cowboys, an equator-hot display inside of Dallas' offensive and defensive powers inside AT&T Stadium.

It's a matchup that wildly and unabashedly favors the Cowboys, but all it takes is one bad day at the office in the playoffs for the season to come to a crashing halt.

And here's what they'll be up against — the good, the bad and the downright ugly.

[advanced metrics per Next Gen Stats]

Tough Love?

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing, and then I remembered one simple, yet gargantuan fact: Aaron Rodgers isn't stepping off of that Packers' charter flight.

Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer.

It's the Jordan Love Show in Green Bay nowadays. Let me be very clear in my belief that Love is a very good quarterback, and definitely a starting caliber one in the NFL, but it's also true that his youth and inexperience make for a rancid recipe in this matchup, if you're the Packers, because the things the Cowboys' defense excel at are nightmare fuel when charting Love's film, trends and tendencies in 2023.

First, let's compare both quarterbacks in this matchup, generally speaking, and I'm going to spend a good bit of time on comparing these two because, ultimately, they will decide the outcome of this game.

Jordan Love (2023 overall) -

  • Passing yards: 4,159
  • Passing touchdowns: 32
  • Interceptions: 11
  • Passer rating (overall): 96.1

Dak Prescott (2023 overall) -

  • Passing yards: 4,516
  • Passing touchdowns: 36
  • Interceptions: 9
  • Passer rating (overall): 105.9

As I said, Love is a very capable quarterback and it's evident when comparing his overall stats to that of Prescott, who is a top-2 frontrunner for league MVP this season. But now you're wondering, after seeing that side-by-side, why Prescott is the toast of the NFC while Love has never sniffed the same planetary air as the three-time Pro Bowler in Dallas.

That's a fair question, so let's dive deeper, even more so than the fact Prescott has 12 wins while Love is only one game above .500 with nine wins on the year.

Jordan Love vs. Pressure -

  • Passing yards: 993
  • Passing touchdowns: 4
  • Interceptions: 3
  • Completion % Above Expectation: -2.3% (51% overall)
  • Passer rating: 72.5

Dak Prescott vs. Pressure -

  • Passing yards: 3,351
  • Passing touchdowns: 27
  • Interceptions: 8
  • Completion % Above Expectation: +3.3% (71.8% overall)
  • Passer rating: 105.5

This is where you begin to see a canyon of separation between the two and what they can do to an opposing defense. Prescott continues to excel when pressured, and in spite of it, while Love's youth and inexperience lead to mistakes and an unsettled level of play. Prescott threw more than three times more touchdowns than interceptions when his protection broke down this season, but Love very nearly had a 1:1 ratio in TDs to INTs when he's made uncomfortable.

For an opportunistic team such as the Cowboys, there's a meal to be had here, but it's not simply about pressuring Love. Not so fast, my friend. It's about how the pressure is created.

Confused? No worries. I'm here with you. Pour some wine or grab a beer.

Let's talk this one through..

Jordan Love vs. Blitz -

  • Passing yards: 1,389
  • Passing touchdowns: 11
  • Interceptions: 1
  • Completion % Above Expectation: -3.4%
  • Passer rating: 98.0

Dak Prescott vs. Blitz -

  • Passing yards: 1,389
  • Passing touchdowns:15
  • Interceptions: 2
  • Completion % Above Expectation: +6.5%
  • Passer rating: 120.7

What immediately jumps out here is that, first and foremost, Prescott is an animal off of the leash when he's blitzed; and both his CPOE and passer rating actually increase when teams send more than four defenders at him. Love is deceiving though, especially when you put this metric and his film up against his struggles versus generic pressure, and that's the key phrase here: generic pressure.

Yes, his CPOE drops when blitzed, but his passer rating goes up and his interception percentage falls off of a cliff (a positive thing for QBs), with 11 of his 32 passing touchdowns having occurred against the blitz while only one of his 11 interceptions occurred with more than four defenders barreling toward him.

So what gives?

'Love', Hate Relationship

Fact is, the secret sauce is to not blitz Love, but to instead generate as much pressure as possible with Dallas' front four only, and that's because Love appreciates it when you take a defender out of coverage — making it easier for him to find an open receiver and, considering he doesn't have an alpha wideout for the Cowboys to key in on, the open WR could literally be anyone at any time and anywhere on the field.

For that reason, it's paramount that the Cowboys force Love to deal with pressure from their front four only while still, simultaneously, trying to navigate seven defenders in coverage instead of six, or five, etc.; as it's been evidenced he tends to panic when this is the case.

The best team in the league at generating pressure from their front four alone is, guess who, the Cowboys and they do it in the shortest amount of time as well, which leads to another point of mine: time to pressure versus time to throw.

Time to pressure is the amount of time that passes from snap to the quarterback being disrupted by the pass rush, and time to throw is exactly what it sounds like, and here's how both Love and Prescott match up against the other side on Sunday.

Time to Pressure -

  • Cowboys defense: 2.44 seconds
  • Packers defense: 2.77 seconds

Time to Throw -

  • Jordan Love: 2.77 seconds
  • Dak Prescott - 2.69 seconds

You see what I see, don't you? Ah, yes, the math is mathing.

If things hold true to the tendencies of the Cowboys, who'll have their full complement of starting offensive linemen this weekend, Prescott should be able to comfortably get the ball out before the Packers' pass rush reaches him (more often than not) without being disrupted or sped up.

Love, contrarily, has no choice but to speed up his processing post-snap, and bit quite a bit, because his comfort window to make throws is more than one-fourth of a second slower than it usually takes Micah Parsons and the Cowboys' defense to get into the backfield.

Speeding up a young, first-year starter at quarterback is more than ideal. It's the recipe for good eats and tasty treats, is what it is.

Need a restroom break? I know that wine or beer will kick in eventually, and that's forgivable. I mean, seriously, we've all been there, amirite?

I'll wait.

Welcome back. I hope you washed your hands, for the culture (get it, culture?).

Now, where were we? Oh yes, we're discussing what happens when you pressure Love, and in how it's more about how you pressure him and not simply about the pressure itself, and how he performs against different pressure looks; and now I'll show you his Achilles heel.

Make him throw on the run, Cowboys. If you can't get him to the ground for a sack, there's still success to be had, because this isn't Aaron Rodgers, where the party truly begins once he escapes the sack and looks to throw on the run. The opposite is true of Love, whose abilities tailspin when he's asked to make decisions and throws while mobile.

Jordan Love (8+ MPH) -

  • Passing yards: 356
  • Passing touchdowns: 4
  • Passing yards per attempt: 5.7
  • Interceptions: 1
  • Completion % above expectation: -5.4%
  • Passer rating: 79.8

Dak Prescott (8+ MPH) -

  • Passing yards:: 885
  • Passing touchdowns: 5
  • Passing yards per attempt: 8.8
  • Interceptions: 1
  • Completion % above expectation: +7.7%
  • Passer rating: 109.6

Don't let the lack of interceptions from Love in this metric fool you, because while it's true Prescott has had some potential INTs dropped, so has Love, and more of those were on the run than not, but it's also true that most of his bad throws made on the run sailed beyond a catchable radius by both the receiver and the defender.

Jordan Love -

  • Bad throws: 98 of 579 attempts (17.5%)

Dak Prescott -

  • Bad throws: 68 of 590 (11.7% - career low)

[excludes throwaways and spikes]

When it comes to Prescott, his passer rating, yards per attempt, CPOE and completion percentage as a whole all improve when he's on the run. It's really MVP-level stuff. For Love, however, his passer rating, yards per attempt, CPOE (nearly a five-point decline!) and completion percentage as a whole all decline when on the run.

And so it goes that Love's ability to produce when organically pressured and, subsequently, forced to [also] throw when on the run, is torpedoes and that leaves his ability to move the chains with his legs as the *only* real concern when he does escape, because he's averaging nearly nine yards per scramble on 24 scrambles, which surpasses Prescott's average of just under seven yards per carry on 28 scrambles.

Love also has twice as many rushing touchdowns (4) than does Prescott (2), and that matters, but evidence shows you only have to worry about that portion of his escapability and not, as it was with Rodgers, the fact he could still make all the throws if you crashed down on him to keep his scrambles short.

Trust me, that helps, and you know this if you've experienced the same trauma in watching what Rodgers would do to the Cowboys on a regular basis throughout his career.

Seeing Red

Another thing that grabbed me by the retinas when dissecting Packers' film was their weaknesses in the red zone. This is a team that can move the ball well between the 20s, but they mirror the early-2023 Cowboys in how they struggle to punch it in when they get to the red zone.

For this, I'll start to expand outward from Love and mix in the rushing attack for both teams as well, to paint a more clear, concise and contextual picture for you.

First, the RZ passing offense for each.

Jordan Love -

  • Dropbacks: 102
  • Passing yards: 338
  • Passing touchdowns: 22
  • Interceptions: 3
  • Passer rating: 89.5
  • Air yards per attempt: 7.5
  • Completion % Above Expectation: -1.3%
  • Success Rate: 37.3%
  • Pressure Rate: 33.3%
  • Sacked: 8 times

Dak Prescott -

  • Dropbacks: 107
  • Passing yards: 442
  • Passing touchdowns: 23
  • Interceptions: 2
  • Passer rating: 101.9
  • Air yards per attempt: 7.8
  • Completion % Above Expectation: 4.6%
  • Success Rate: 42.1%
  • Pressure Rate: 27.1%
  • Sacked: 5 times

And now, a look at how the rushing attack for each team fairs once they hit the 20-yard line.

Packers RBs (Combined) -

  • Attempts: 77
  • Rushing yards: 244
  • Rushing touchdowns: 3
  • Rushing yards per carry: 3.2
  • Rushing yards over expectation: -58
  • Rush EPA: -9.0
  • Success %: 33.8

Cowboys RBs (Combined) -

  • Attempts: 89
  • Yards: 348
  • Touchdowns: 6
  • Yards per carry: 3.9
  • Rushing yards over expectation: -6
  • Rush EPA: +6.7
  • Success %: 46.1

*[EPA: expected points added per rushing attempt] *

Presently, my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer.

You mean to tell me that while the narrative is that Tony Pollard and Rico Dowdle have been very poor at finishing drives on the ground, they're actually not that bad at all, and the Packers are the ones in this matchup who are actually borderline abysmal?

*gasps in Technicolor*

For as impactful as the Packers' offense can be between the 20s, they hit a brick wall once they get inside of the red zone. It's a major reason they average only 22.5 points per game, and that's good enough for 12th-best in the league but, for contrast, the Cowboys are averaging an eye-popping 29.5 points per game (1st in the NFL) and even accounting for some of the defensive touchdowns, the offense still sits atop the league.

Granted, most of that explosiveness occurs at home for the Cowboys, but guess where they're playing this weekend, and next weekend should they win on the Sunday to come?

Aha! At home.

By the way, the Cowboys need to keep an eye on Aaron Jones as a receiver out of the backfield inside of the red zone, because the Packers' inability to get traction on the ground in that area lends to them using him to leak out on screens, bubbles and flat routes as quasi-run plays that help their offensive spacing for him to potentially gain, say it with me: YAC.

Oh, it's all coming together now, isn't it? So let's see how the red zone defenses fare against what I've just shown you above from the respective offenses.

Packers (RZ passing defense) -

  • Man coverage: 37.8%
  • Zone coverage: 62.2%
  • Attempts: 64
  • Completions allowed: 38
  • Passing yards allowed: 276
  • Passing touchdowns allowed: 13
  • Passer rating: 109.1
  • Sacks: 8 (7 from four-man rush, no blitz)
  • Interceptions: 0

Cowboys (RZ passing defense) -

  • Man coverage: 58.9%
  • Zone coverage: 41.1%
  • Attempts: 51
  • Completions allowed: 39
  • Passing yards allowed: 208
  • Passing touchdowns allowed: 9
  • Passer rating: 100.1
  • Sacks: 3
  • Interceptions: 0

This is really where things become a bit even, and it's where the Cowboys will have to improve because they'll not be able to keep the Packers out of the red zone for the entirety of 60 minutes of football. And especially if Green Bay is allowed to get going on the ground and Love isn't forced to play mobile football.

For the Packers, it's all about success from a four-man rush that fuels their decision to lean so heavily on zone coverage. Pass protection from the front five in Dallas will be the key here, because zone coverage with no pass rush is a death sentence against Prescott, Lamb, Cooks, Ferguson and others.

For the Cowboys, a man-heavy coverage team, it'll be about disrupting the timing of the routes at the line of scrimmage to lengthen the time to throw by Love and to allow their own pass rush to be successful; and more so than they've been able to do to this point in the season.

They're severely lacking in sacks, but not in pressure. They have some pass break ups in the red zone, but zero interceptions from a team that boasts the league-leader in that category and several other ballhawks on defense is not the standard here.

Not by a long shot.

On to the run defense for each club, but first, I see you over there doing the "bathroom boogie" in your chair, so go ahead and take a moment to give back to nature and, on your way back, grab both of us a drink — our reward for loving football so much that we're still here talking about the minutiae of it 3,706 words later.

Welcome back, now where were we? Oh yeah, the run defense in the red zone and, fair warning, this one is another myth-buster.

Packers (RZ run defense) -

  • Carries against: 71
  • Yards per carry: 3.5
  • Rushing touchdowns allowed: 8

Cowboys (RZ run defense) -

  • Carries against: 66
  • Yards per carry: 3.0
  • Rushing touchdowns allowed: 3

No, the Cowboys aren't bad in defending the run when it matters most. Actually, it's quite the contrary, because they've excelled at keeping opposing teams out of the end zone on the ground when it matters most. You can thank DeMarcus Lawrence for leading that charge, and others like Micah Parsons, Osa Odighizuwa, Johnathan Hankins and more (e.g., Neville Gallimore, Chauncey Golston) for slamming the door shut near the goal line.

However, the Packers? Well, the fact they've allowed five more rushing touchdowns in the red zone on only five more attempts tells you all you need to know about this comparison.

It should also tell you that this could be a game wherein Tony Pollard, Rico Dowdle and Hunter Luepke (also CeeDee Lamb The Running Back) give the Packers fits on the ground, particularly in the red zone, where this game will be won. All in all, including the passing defense, the Cowboys need only do well at stopping a four-man pass rush and, if they do, they'll find little resistance from Green Bay inside of the 20s.

And that brings me to the overall run defense.

Walk with me, or rather, run with me.

Packers (overall run defense) -

  • Carries against: 493
  • Rushing yards allowed: 2,181
  • Rushing yards per game allowed: 128
  • Rushing yards per carry allowed: 4.4
  • Rushing yards before contact allowed: 1.4
  • Rushing yards after contact allowed: 3.4
  • Number of 10+ yard runs allowed: 57 (11.6% of runs)
  • Stuff percentage: 19.3%
  • Contact behind line of scrimmage: 40.6%
  • Rushing touchdowns allowed: 15

Cowboys (overall run defense) -

  • Carries against: 459
  • Rushing yards allowed: 1,910
  • Rushing yards per game allowed: 112
  • Rushing yards per carry allowed: 4.2
  • Rushing yards before contact allowed: 1.5
  • Rushing yards after contact allowed: 2.8
  • Number of 10+ yard runs: 48 (10.5% of runs)
  • Stuff percentage: 21.6%
  • Contact behind line of scrimmage: 35.5%
  • Rushing touchdowns allowed: 14

I'm not so focused on overall yards allowed this season in this comparison because the Packers had more attempts against them, but take a look at the yards allowed per game and, especially, per carry to tie in with yards before and after contact to allow yourself to be more accurate in how you view the effectiveness or lack thereof of each team's overall run defense.

This is nearly a split decision, but the Packers are worse than the Cowboys in yards per game allowed, yards per carry allowed, yards after contact allowed, stuff percentage and, most importantly, the percentage of 10+ yard runs allowed.

Might Pollard and/or Dowdle hit a home run against Green Bay? They'll have the chance.

Advanced metrics support this point, and then some.


  • 1st downs allowed: 122
  • FDOE (1st downs allowed over expected): -9
  • Rushing yards allowed over expected (5+ yards): 43
  • Rushing yards allowed over expected (10+ yards): 19
  • Percentage of positive runs over expected: 35.3%
  • Defensive success: 57.6%

Cowboys -

  • 1st downs allowed: 109
  • FDOE (1st downs allowed over expected): -10
  • Rushing yards allowed over expected (5+ yards): 40
  • Rushing yards allowed over expected (10+): 11
  • Percentage of positive runs over expected: 34.3%
  • Defensive success: 56.4%

In these deeper dives, the Cowboys clear the Packers in every single category except for defensive success, and that's only a 1.2 percent differential — nearly a wash there. And I want you to remember some of the names they've bottled up this year.

James Cook went ballistic, yes, but did Saquon Barkley? No. James Conner had a day (against the Eagles, too), yes, but did DeAndre Swift (in either game)? No. I could go on and on, and throwing in names like Raheem Mostert, Devon Achane, David Montgomery and Jahmyr Gibbs as additional names of A+ running backs who couldn't get out of the starting blocks against the Cowboys would drive my point home like Tiger Woods off of the tee in 2000.

You get my point, though.

And with Hankins back in action, the run defense in Dallas has that much more of a shot at slowing down Aaron Jones — someone who's typically had good days against the Cowboys — though the last time they met was only Hankins' second game in the Quinn outfit.

That's relevant in this discussion, just as it is that Leighton Vander Esch isn't walking through the door to help the run defense, but that Markquese Bell is; and the Cowboys allowed 3.7 more rushing yards per carry in Week 18 when Bell was getting a breather, for example.

Bell has been potent against the run, as has defensive backs Jourdan Lewis and Donovan Wilson, so it'll truly be about execution against Jones and not a mismatch of talent.

Just get'er done.

Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning.

Return of the Jedi

By now, you've gathered that these two teams, while near each other in some categories, are as different as Jupiter and Pluto, and it's not difficult to ascertain which team belongs to which planet. Can the Packers be dangerous, sure, but not if the Cowboys execute and eliminate self-inflicted wounds like untimely penalties (remember what I've said time and again: penalties are about timing and type).

If they do those two things, and force the game onto Jordan Love by either forcefully negating Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon or using the scoreboard to do it for them — i.e., Dak Prescott and Dallas' offense gets off to a hot start and a two-possession lead that forces Green Bay to become one-dimensional — there's little reason they should run away with this one.

Strong is The Force within Prescott in 2023, and wield it he must.

When Love is forced to pass, without the support of the run, his youth and inexperience will show up more often than not, as I've pointed out earlier, particularly considering what the Cowboys' pass defense has been able to achieve on a regular basis.

This is the same team that, for much of the season, allowed neither a 100-yard receiver nor a 100-yard rusher in a contest.

Packers (overall pass defense) -

  • Attempts against: 509
  • Passing yards allowed: 3,803
  • Passing yards allowed per game: 224
  • Passing touchdowns allowed: 21
  • Interceptions: 7
  • Passer rating allowed: 94.7

Packers (advanced pass defense) -

  • Tight window: 12.4%
  • Open window percentage: 48.4%
  • Wide Open percentage (5+ yards): 25.8%
  • Target separation (yards): 3.7
  • YAC allowed per game: 110

Cowboys (overall pass defense) -

  • Attempts against: 503
  • Passing yards allowed: 3,481
  • Passing yards allowed per game: 205
  • Passing touchdowns allowed: 21
  • Interceptions: 17
  • Rating allowed: 80.8

Cowboys (advanced pass defense) -

  • Tight window: 12.8%
  • Open window percentage: 43.6%
  • Wide Open percentage (5+ yards): 21.4%
  • Target separation (yards): 3.3
  • YAC allowed per game: 108.8

These numbers bear out what the film shows for each team's secondary.

There are things the Cowboys' defensive backfield need to improve upon, such as tight window percentage, but they're top-10 in so many categories it almost feels a bit unfair to compare them to just how poorly the Packers have performed in the same areas.

I said almost, though, because football isn't fair.

The tight window percentage of the Packers is lower than even the Cowboys', and Green Bay also struggles with allowing open windows, wide open windows, receiver separation, touchdowns allowed and interceptions tallied.

They statistically average a ranking of 21st in the league in success rate in coverage across the spectrum of Cover 1 (24th), Cover 2 (26th), Cover 3 (21st), Cover 4 (24th) and Cover 6 (12th) — the route each of their sets is most vulnerable being post, deep out, in route, slant and quick outs, respectively.

This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing.

These are all routes Lamb thrives in running, as does Cooks. And they have a tendency, the Packers do, to sacrifice the coverage in the middle of the field to try and help the boundary corners, who have a difficult time matching talent with higher end receivers in the league.

They'll be facing some of the best wideouts in football [history] come Sunday.

Packers (Tendencies in pass coverage) -

  • Man coverage: 27.6%
  • Zone coverage: 72.4%
  • QB pressures percentage: 39.9%
  • Time to pressure: 2.73 seconds
  • QB pressure on 4-man rush: 37.5%
  • Sacks: 46 (28 on 4-man rush)
  • Explosive plays allowed (16+ yards): 5.3 per game
  • Blitz percentage: 33.3%
  • Blitz splits: 1st down - 39.2%, 2nd down - 38.5%, 3rd down - 22.3%

Cowboys (tendencies in pass coverage) -

  • Man coverage: 45.2%
  • Zone coverage: 54.8%
  • QB pressure: 42.5%
  • Time to pressure: 2.44 seconds
  • QB pressure on 4-man rush: 41.5%
  • Sacks: 46 (27 on 4-man rush)
  • Explosive plays allowed (16+ yards): 4.3 per game
  • Blitz percentage: 33.5%
  • Blitz splits: 1st down - 28.6%, 2nd down - 35.3%, 3rd down - 33.5%

In comes a zone-heavy defense, and not just in the red zone, but overall; and against an MVP frontrunner who can dissect just as easily as he does man coverage. A good pressure team indeed, is the Packers, but it takes more time to develop than Prescott needs to get the ball away and against a secondary that allows more than five explosive plays per game — on a field where the Cowboys' passing attack is the most explosive.

But wait, there's more.

Pressure Points

Most of the Packers' sacks, again, come on the four-man rush because they don't like to blitz but, when they do, expect it to happen more on first down than on any other, and they rarely send an extra man on third down for fear of exposing an already questionable secondary, plus when your four-man rush is that good, you don't need to send an extra guy at the QB.

The goal is for the Cowboys' offensive line to be so effective that it forces the Packers into sending help, which takes someone out of coverage (as noted), and Prescott will do the rest.

The Cowboys have lately been a bit more zone but that's deceiving, because they're much more inclined to lean on man coverage and they have the talent to do it. And they not only lead the league in amount of pressure they routinely get but, unlike the Packers, they're also the fastest in how long it takes them to reach the quarterback.

And they also excel at the four-man rush, but the Packers' offensive line is a liability at the edges and that presents the opportunity for a high pass rush success rate without the need for blitzing, but count on the Cowboys contemplating doing so more often on second and third down but rarely on first.

It'll be interesting to see how Matt LaFleur tries to attack that outside of the obvious, which is to run Aaron Jones early and often in this game and until/unless the Cowboys' defense or the Cowboys' offense can stop him (by way of the scoreboard).

Defensive points allowed per game -

  • Packers: 20.6
  • Cowboys: 18.5

It's a bend but don't break policy for the Packers and, at times, for the Cowboys as well, so it feels like the team with the most red zone success will win this game, and/or the one with the most explosive plays that end in touchdowns.

Advantage Cowboys on the latter point, because though the Packers have begun figuring out some things offensively to drive their points total higher, they were also held to only 17 points by the Chicago Bears in a Week 18 matchup they needed to stamp their ticket to meet Dallas.

The blueprint is there, given by the Detroit Lions as well, and Dan Quinn has the weapons to scheme it up, so all that's left is … you guessed it … execution and self-discipline.

It also pays to know that Love and the Packers' passing offense depends largely on the ability for his receivers to get yards after the catch (YAC), with 47.9 percent (yes, nearly half of their entire passing production) to be gained after the catch is made. That means you can expect a lot of throws underneath, with the occasional test downfield to try and keep the Cowboys honest.

Tackling will be paramount here.

Don't play hero ball. Just keep it fundamental by making the read, close at the right angle, break down and tackle through the receiver and, of course, punch at the ball while he's being taken down. It's something I've seen Dallas well more often than not this season, it's just that when they're having a bad day of it, it's really, really bad.

So let's not anymore this season, shall we?


It's yet unknown if Love will have his full complement of wideouts, but it doesn't matter, because of how he spreads the ball around. His favorite receiver is whoever is open, period.

Defend that accordingly, and don't let the fact they run pre-snap motion 55 percent of the time throw you off, considering you practice against an offensive unit in Dallas that's run it 66 percent of the time in 2023.

One last thing on Love: despite the effectiveness of Aaron Jones and the rushing attack, he only utilizes play-action on 27.8 percent of his passes, which plays into the hands of a pass rush in Dallas that averages a faster time to pressure than Love's average time to throw.

They run nearly as much shotgun (64.1%) as do the Cowboys' offense (66.4%), though, but that doesn't have to be a wash when defenders like Parsons can get off of the ball with lightning-quick speed. You just have to wonder if this will be the first game since October that he'll be rewarded with a holding call, but control what you can control, and the officials don't fall into that category.

I dream big though, I know.

In the end, to ensure this battle will not be, the Cowboys must follow the science in front of them and not ignore the proverbial raven leading them to the truth of how to push through this wild card fight by not playing down to their competition, but instead using them as a tool to sharpen their ax for the NFC Divisional Round against whomever the opponent might be.

It's Super Bowl or bust in Dallas, especially with so much speculation surrounding the future of Dan Quinn and the defensive coaching staff as it's currently structured.

The Packers are, indeed, just another team in the way of the Ultimate Goal, and their karma at the hands of the Cowboys is long, long past due.

And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor shall be lifted, and the 28-year long Super Bowl drought shall be one step closer to living nevermore.


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