(Editor’s Note: The start of the 2017 season is still a few months away, but it’s never too early to prepare. The Cowboys face a daunting schedule this year, highlighted by the AFC West and NFC West, as well as their traditional rivalries in the NFC East. Over the next two weeks, Bryan Broaddus will preview what to expect from all 13 of their upcoming opponents. The series continues with Week 5 and the Green Bay Packers).
Opponent:Green Bay Packers
Series Record:Packers lead, 18-17
This Year’s Matchup:Oct. 8, AT&T Stadium
Best Draft Pick:I really do like what the Packers did in their secondary with Kevin King and Josh Jones. Both players give them size and athletic ability to match up well scheme wise. The pick I like the most is running back Jamaal Williams. Williams surprisingly lasted to the fourth round and in my view is a steal. The Packers were fortunate that Ty Montgomery displayed the ability to play the position the way that he did or they would have been in trouble after the front office gambled by going short at the position on the roster. The plan appears to go with Montgomery as the starter but keep an eye out for Williams. This is a player that has those traits you love your running back to have. He is a competitive runner, catches the ball well and shows toughness as a blocker. I saw a DeMarco Murray type of player when I studied his game tape. Not going to hit home runs with this guy, but he will never come off the field. Played in a cold climate and protected the ball.
Best Free Agency Move:The Packers are generally not big players in free agency, but I do like the addition of Martellus Bennett to the offensive mix. It has been a long, strange journey for Bennett during his career but he’s played with some outstanding quarterbacks: Tony Romo, Eli Manning, Tom Brady and now Aaron Rodgers. This fit is good for Bennett, much like it was in New England, due to the fact that the Packers like to feature the tight end in several of their scheme packages. I expect Martellus Bennett to have a big year numbers wise with the Packers.
Most Troublesome Matchup:As long as Aaron Rodgers is lined up behind center, this is going to be a troublesome matchup for the Cowboys. Rodgers played poorly in the regular season meeting between these two clubs during the regular season but when the playoff spotlight was on, it was a different story. There are few quarterbacks that could have made the throw that Rodgers made on third-and-20 to put Mason Crosby in winning field goal range in the playoffs. In watching Rodgers’ career, I have never felt like defenses stop him. When he’s on there is nothing you can do, but when bad that’s your best hope.** Most Favorable Matchup: *If Kevin King starts as a rookie, you might want to take your shots at him early because he’s only going to get better. Like King, Damarious Randall was a first-round selection in 2015 but has really struggled to stay healthy. Randall has only managed to start 18 games the previous two seasons due to injury. When Randall has been healthy enough to play, he’s recorded six interceptions which is outstanding. Randall was a cornerback/safety in college and when drafted, I thought the Packers were going to play him at safety but that hasn’t been the case. With this matchup coming in Week 5 it will be interesting to see where his health is at this point in the season.
Unsung Storyline:There was a great deal of pressure on Packers head coach Mike McCarthy after a 42-24 blowout loss in Washington. The team was out of the playoff hunt and going nowhere, but the Packers reeled off six straight victories and two in the playoffs to get to the NFC Championship game before bowing out to the Atlanta Falcons. As good as that run was, there are still those questions whether McCarthy has the support of Aaron Rodgers but more importantly, general manager Ted Thompson. Thompson is not likely to fire McCarthy during the season, but if they start out poorly and there is no eight-game winning streak, the winningest coach in Packers history might be coaching his final season in Green Bay.