Skip to main content

X Factors

Presented by

X Factors: Difference-makers for Cowboys-Packers


The Cowboys and Packers in the playoffs. We've seen it before – both in recent years and historically as well. Two of the storied franchises in NFL history have met eight teams (4-4 series) overall but none of it seems to matter on Sunday.

Here are the 10 guys will likely be big difference-makers one way or another.

X – Rashan Gary – The Packers didn't have a Pro Bowler but Gary is likely one of the team's alternates as he led the team in sacks with 9.0, just short of his career high of 9.5. Gary is one of the players the Packers use to provide steady rush on opposing quarterbacks. Green Bay isn't afraid to move around to rush against either tackle.

IX – Jaire Alexander – An experienced cover corner, Alexander has battled through injuries this year and this is the first season he didn't record one interception. But he's still one of the best options the Packers to have try and contain the red-hot CeeDee Lamb.

VIII – Aaron Jones – Players want to be playing their best football at the end of the season and Jones couldn't have picked a better time to turn it on. The veteran running back has rushed for over 100 yards in three straight games. The combined 358 rushing yards is more than the 298 rushing yards he had in the previous eight games played this season.

VII – Jordan Love – This is Love's first season as the starter, taking over for Aaron Rodgers, and he finished second in the NFL in touchdown passes with 32, only behind Dak Prescott (36). This will be his first career playoff start. Ironically, it was seven seasons ago when Dak made his first career playoff start against the McCarthy-coached Packers at AT&T Stadium.

VI – Tony Pollard – When the Cowboys possess the ball for more than 35 minutes in a game, they are 6-0, and a healthy running game on Sunday afternoon will help the Cowboys do just that against the Packers. Tony Pollard has teetered on the edge of finally breaking through for a 100-yard game, and an opportunity exists against a Packers defense that's at the bottom of the NFL in allowing 10-plus yard carries.

V- Johnathan Hankins – Having veteran defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins back in the lineup against the Commanders provided a huge boost to defending the run, and the defense will need its interior big guy to play his role against a two-headed running back room with Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon. Jones is coming off three consecutive 100-plus yard performances and will look to make things difficult on the Dallas defense, but Hankins' presence could thwart that gameplan.

IV – CeeDee Lamb – It makes quite a bit of sense to feed one of the hottest players in all of the NFL now that the playoffs are here, and expect that to be the gameplan over the middle of the field to CeeDee Lamb on Sunday. Against Green Bay last season, Lamb hauled in 11 receptions for 150 yards and two touchdowns, and a repeat performance would be a big determining factor in getting a win.

III - Micah Parsons –He said it best following the decisive win over the Commanders to clinch the division and the No. 2 seed: Regular seasons are "cute", but postseason is where "legacy" is constructed, and he wants the Cowboys to "be phenomenal or be forgotten". Parsons' intensity will undoubtedly be ratcheted to the max against the Packers, and Jordan Love doesn't perform well when pressured — a recipe for the Lion to do what he does best: eat.

II - Jake Ferguson CeeDee Lamb will draw a hefty bit of the attention from the Packers' secondary and Brandin Cooks will be their other focus, and that likely makes Ferguson a massive wild card for the, er, um, Wild Card. The Packers don't do well in protecting the middle of the field, and Ferguson is a chain-mover of the highest regard, and YAC merchant as well, so there's little reason he shouldn't be one of the biggest deciding factors in this contest.

I - Dak Prescott – It was one of the best regular season campaigns of his career, if not the best, and it has him atop the conversation for league MVP honors in direct competition with Lamar Jackson. That said, it's also true that what happens next is what matters most. It's a one-week season from here on out, and Prescott craves a Super Bowl run. His first task will be to put down the Packers, the team that ended his playoff-run as a rookie QB, but this time Mike McCarthy is at his side and not across the field. The stage is set at AT&T Stadium for Prescott to light Green Bay on fire.

Related Content