IRVING, Texas – Here is my look at what I believe are the top two matchups heading into this game against the Packers.
As you might expect, one of them focuses around how the Cowboys can put pressure on Aaron Rodgers – who will make them pay if he has time. On the other side of things, I think Jason Witten just might be the biggest asset the Dallas passing game has to controlling the clock.
Cowboys DT Tyrone Crawford against Packers OG T.J. Lang
When studying the Detroit Lions tape last week, one of the games that I got to watch was their game against the Green Bay Packers. I was interested in how this Packers offensive line was blocking the Lions -- and especially Ndamukong Suh.
After my breakdown, I commented on several media outlets how impressed that I was in the job that Packers guard T.J. Lang did in dealing with the powerful Lions defensive tackle, and it was actually encouraging which led me to believe that Zack Martin could have similar success after watching Lang play.
My belief coming into this game is that with the calf injury to Aaron Rodgers, the Packers are concerned about his mobility and how much they really want him venturing outside of the pocket. This is why I feel that Rodgers will be taking the majority of his snaps in the shotgun to put the least amount of strain possible on that calf. If that's the case, Rodgers will now become a pocket passer, and while he is standing there he needs to feel pressure. Rodgers wants to get rid of the ball quickly, and if he is comfortable doing that, then there are going to be problems defensively for the Cowboys.
In looking at Crawford and Lang, there is nothing pretty in the way that each of them play, but both are effective in their jobs. Lang is going to hold Crawford every snap, but his quickness can prevent from Lang from doing that. Crawford has been outstanding all season, but he is going to need to do what Suh couldn't do and that win one-on-one battles with Lang.
Cowboys TE Jason Witten against Packers S Morgan Burnett S
The Packers want to get in the nickel package as quickly as possible in this game, which would take A.J. Hawk off the field. The Packers are much better when they can play this way, so the gameplan for the Cowboys is to try and get them to stay in this base defense as long as possible.
They can do this with their "12" personnel, which means that Morgan Burnett would most likely have to cover Jason Witten instead of say Micah Hyde being on the field in the nickel. The Packers might decide to treat Witten like a receiver and bring Hyde into the game to match him or even use Casey Hayward, who is a bigger option. Last season when these two teams met, it was Witten that beat Burnett for a touchdown in a play that I broke down for you on DallasCowboys.com. The Packers want to put Burnett down to play the run and keep Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix deep in the secondary. Putting Clinton-Dix on Witten is not a good option for the Packers, either.
With the Cowboys wanting to play keep away from the Packers, running the ball will no doubt be a huge key, but using Jason Witten in some a safe-simple passing game is always a great option much like we saw last week against the Lions. Defensive coordinator Dom Capers is not going to allow Jason Witten to beat him in this game, but the question is does he have the players to not allow that to happen? I am betting on Witten.