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Scout's Eye: Packers' Defense Is Struggling, But Rodgers Makes Up For It

(Editor's Note: The staff of is breaking down all of the possible matchups the Cowboys could draw in the divisional round of the playoffs. With that in mind, we asked Bryan Broaddus to watch some film and help break down the opposition. Here's what he found, starting with Green Bay)

FRISCO, Texas – It's been almost three months since I watched any tape of the Green Bay Packers, dating back to the Cowboys' trip to Lambeau Field on Oct. 16.

With the possibility that the Cowboys host the Packers at AT&T Stadium next weekend, I decided to do some advance scouting. Just what has made the Packers so difficult these past six weeks, and how might the Cowboys once again gain the upper hand?

Green Bay Packers: Good Matchup

Not all has been rosy for the Green Bay Packers during their six-game winning streak. As good as their offense has been, it has been a struggle for their defense, and it just hasn't been in one area. In the previous eight games, they've allowed 29 points per game, which ranks them dead last in the league.

The Cowboys hung 30 points on the Packers earlier in the year on their way to a victory at Lambeau Field. Green Bay has really struggled playing defense on first down. Teams have had success throwing the ball on those early downs with a quarterback rating of 104.8, which ranks the Packers 30th in the league. For the Packers, on 60 percent of those snaps, they've allowed 4-or-more yards per attempt. The Cowboys are currently ninth in the league when it comes to getting 4-or-more yards on first down when passing the ball. This, along with their running game allows them to convert first downs a league best 40 percent of the time on second down, never getting into those critical third down situations.

The Packers have also struggled allowing the big play. As a unit they have allowed 35 plays of 20-plus yards in the last eight games -- which puts them near the bottom of the league. The Cowboys offensive plan is to have long drives that finish with points. This has been when the way they've won games all season, but we've seen the ball going down the field more with Dak Prescott's willingness to take those shots.

Green Bay Packers: Bad Matchup

There was a stretch this season where the Packers lost five of six games and the questions started flying about whether Aaron Rodgers had lost it as a quarterback. Following a loss in Washington, Rodgers boldly predicted that his Packers would run the table and get into the playoffs. Not only did the Packers deliver on his promise, but with a final victory in Detroit, they secured the NFC North title.

With Rodgers at quarterback, the Packers have been playing for their playoff lives these last six weeks -- which makes them a dangerous team. Their defense has tried to let them down, but Rodgers has put this team on his back and refused to let them fail.

When these two teams met in October, the Packers had no running game along with a receiving corps that was struggling to make those chunk plays that we are so accustomed to seeing. Rodgers wasn't at his best that day and that was due in large part to the way the Cowboys played him defensively. Since that previous meeting, Rodgers has been on a tear, but he has been getting help from his teammates. Ty Montgomery, a wide receiver, has taken over as the primary running back and looks legitimate in that role. Jordy Nelson is finally appearing healthy, as is Randall Cobb.

Rodgers is going back to what has made him so successful over the years, and that's spreading the ball around. The Cowboys have been outstanding the entire season in defending the big play, as they're sixth-best in the NFL in that regard.

But during this winning streak, the Packers are taking it to a whole new level thanks to Aaron Rodgers.       


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