FRISCO, Texas – Same teams, but an entirely different set of matchups.
Having watched tape of both Dallas and Green Bay down the home stretch of the season, these are the two matchups I think will say the most about who exits AT&T Stadium with a win.
Dallas Cowboys OT Tyron Smith vs. Green Bay Packers LB Clay Matthews
A classic matchup of two former USC Trojans, Tyron Smith and Clay Matthews once again lock up. Over the years, Smith has gotten the better of the dangerous Matthews and will look to carry that forward in this meeting.
Matthews was his normal disruptive self, attacking the New York Giants and Eli Manning last week in the wildcard game. He presents a wide variety of issues for Smith when it comes to this matchup. Smith will once again have to be ready for the relentless nature in which Matthews goes about his job.
There is no quit or give up to his game. It rare that he gives up on a play – he is always working to get to the ball, even when he appears blocked. Matthews' football intelligence is off the charts. He is rarely fooled on a play, and when he is, he has the athletic ability to make up for his mistakes.
He is a reactionary player in every sense of the word. He plays with a lateral quickness and change of direction ability that few defensive players in this league can match. Where Matthews has had his problems in his career is when he has to deal with a blocker that can hook him up with power. There have been snaps where Smith has simply washed him out of the play in the running game or just sat down on him when he rushed the passer.
For Matthews to have success against Smith, he is going to do what he does best and that is stay on the move. If he doesn't accomplish that, Clay Matthews will be no factor in the game and that will be bad for this Packers defense.
Dallas Cowboys CB Morris Claiborne vs. Green Bay Packers WR Davante Adams
With the likelihood of no Jordy Nelson in this matchup, the focus will then turn to Randall Cobb and Davante Adams, who are two capable weapons in their own right. How the Cowboys handle these two will be critical.
A great way to accomplish that would be using Morris Claiborne in the nickel packages. Before he was injured, Claiborne was having the type of season that fans had been expecting from him since he was drafted. In Claiborne's place, Orlando Scandrick and Anthony Brown have been sharing time in the base as well as the nickel. Both Scandrick and Brown having been playing well, but Claiborne brings a different dynamic to the position.
To play any of these Packers receivers, you have to be willing to be physical with them in the route, making them fight for space. Claiborne is equipped to play that style of coverage. I don't believe you will see a rusty player when Claiborne lines up across from Adams - I actually get the feeling that you will see the opposite. Off the field, Morris Claiborne works extremely hard in his physical preparation -- and that includes conditioning. However many snaps Claiborne plays in this game, he will be ready to go.
Davante Adams will be a huge test for Claiborne to have to carry -- even if he had been playing all year. Aaron Rodgers is going to work hard to get Adams involved often and likely all over the field. The Cowboys need Morris Claiborne to be great Sunday against Davante Adams for them to have a chance to slow this Green Bay Packers offense down.