FRISCO, Texas – As is tradition, here are my two biggest keys to deciding this game against Green Bay on Sunday afternoon.
The Dallas Cowboys Win If:
The more I study, the more I come the realization that this game is going to hinge on one simple word: discipline.
Do the Cowboys have the discipline to face Aaron Rodgers and get enough stops in this game to allow their offense to go to work on this Packers defense? Player for player, the Cowboys are just as good or better than the Packers. Where the Packers have an advantage -- and this is no disrespect to Dak Prescott -- but Aaron Rodgers elevates the level of his teammates, and that's the biggest difference.
To defeat Rodgers you need to play with discipline, which means you can't drop a coverage in the secondary, miss an assignment or be caught on the field with 12 men switching personnel. Rodgers forces you to play a perfect game with his ability and quarterback savvy. He's at his absolute best playing the chess game. He's thinking plays ahead while you're trying to keep up.
Where opponents have had success against him is making him throw from the pocket and not on the edge. He is similar to Prescott in that regard. When on the move, he will make you pay. His throws from the pocket are generally quick ones or over the top. Dallas will need to squeeze him from the outside and make him step up into the rush. When he feels that type of pressure, he will generally go to the ground.
Affect his eye level and you affect his game.
The Green Bay Packers Win If:
Aaron Rodgers is the great equalizer, and with him under center it always gives the Packers a great opportunity to get a win. As outstanding as Rodgers has been throughout his career, there have been times where his teammates have let him down.
The Packers have had games where, defensively, they've just not been good enough and put him in too big of a hole to mount a comeback. The Cowboys had offensive success in the previous two meetings with the Packers, and that should weigh on the mind of Dom Capers as he prepares for this game. Dallas is struggling to run the football with any consistency, but when he studies the tape, he will likely see it is more about the opponents than the Cowboys' personnel. Capers remembers all too well that his defense came into the first meeting with the top run unit in the league and left battered and beaten.
Capers' group once again has been up to the task, only allowing opponents to rush the ball for 4-plus yards a carry on 38 percent of snaps. There is no question that Scott Linehan is going to run the ball and test where Capers' front is at when comes to defending the run. Call it predictability, but with the success the Cowboys had last season and the Packers employing similar personnel, there is no reason not to try.
The Packers will look at the previous losses the Cowboys have suffered and feel that if you can choke their running game and put the ball in Dak Prescott's hands, you have a chance to make stops and ultimately win the game.