Cowboys Blitz staff writers Bobby Belt and Cami Griffin take a minute to discuss pressing questions leading up to the divisional round playoff matchup between the Cowboys and Packers along with bold predictions.
All we’ve heard for several weeks is how impressive quarterback Aaron Rodgers has performed throughout their seven-game win streak. But now that Rodgers will be without one of his primary receivers in Jordy Nelson, which playmaker on that side of the ball for Green Bay do you see having the best chance to exploit this Dallas defense on Sunday?
Bobby: The obvious answer is Davante Adams, a guy who caught 12 touchdowns this season and has really been key to Aaron Rodgers’ surge over the last two months or so. But I think there’s a bigger concern out there for the Cowboys this week, and that would be veteran tight end Jared Cook. This is Cook’s first season in Green Bay, and while he doesn’t have gaudy numbers, he’s been a consistent performer for the last six years, and a steady contributor since returning from injury on November 20th. Cook is the exact sort of player Dallas struggled to stop in the final three weeks of the year. Tight ends for the Buccaneers, Lions, and Eagles averaged 9 receptions, 102 yards, and a touchdown against the Cowboys over the season’s final three games. The Cowboys appear to be catching a break with Jordy Nelson likely out for Sunday’s game, but Nelson’s absence will mean little if the Cowboys allow Jared Cook to exploit their defense in the same manner that players like Cameron Brate, Eric Ebron, and Zach Ertz did to close the season.
Sporting News published a rather critical article about Jason Garrett this week that reads in part, “Garrett should be one of the coaches in this round who can be trusted the least to make all the right moves, to avoid all the wrong ones, and to not cost his team a chance to advance.” How much trust should Cowboys Nation have in Garrett to maneuver the team to its first title in more than 20 years?
Cami: Great question. Much like Tony Romo’s bobbled snap in Seattle several years ago, the label on Garrett that he’s a ‘puppet’ or untrustworthy in big moments is unbelievable. Sure, there were moments a few seasons ago where I was seriously pondering whether or not he was the right man for the job, but consistency is key in the coaching business and Dallas is currently experiencing the reward from that. Something special is happening with the entire organization this season, and that starts with the staff Garrett has put together. Every coach struggles with clock management at some point, but there haven’t been too many decisions this season where I seriously asked myself “why did he just do that?” I’ll be the first to tell you that I’ve always thought Garrett was way too conservative, but he’s improved on that aspect this season as well. There have been several times this season where he’s successfully gone for it on fourth down in crucial moments, a successful fake punt with Chris Jones, a touchdown pass thrown by Dez Bryant, etc. He’s putting everything on the table to win, and I’d expect that to continue into the playoffs.
I’ve been pretty bold this week in stating that this divisional round matchup could actually be a lopsided outcome in Dallas’ favor due to Green Bay’s personnel on the defensive side of the ball. So let’s have some fun and keep it going. What are your two bold predictions for Sunday?
Oh goodness. This is always a tough one for me because I feel like bold predictions are often stated with such little actual conviction. But let me see if I can give this a shot. First, I think there is going to be a lot of space in the middle of the field for Cole Beasley and Jason Witten to do work. Because of that, I think you’ll see quite a bit of Dak Prescott-to-Cole Beasley. So my first bold prediction is that Cole Beasley goes over 100 yards receiving for only the second time in 75 career games. My second bold prediction relates to Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers has gone an astonishing 285 consecutive attempts without throwing a pick, and the Cowboys defense finished near the bottom of the league in interceptions this season. The combination of those two would make it seem unlikely that Rodgers’ streak would be snapped this weekend, but I think it happens. I think Morris Claiborne, in his triumphant return to the field, makes a big interception in the fourth quarter of a close game.
Alright Cami, I’m going to turn your question around on you! You’re pretty brave with your prediction of an 11-point victory for the Cowboys, so give me your bold predictions for this weekend to help explain that margin of victory!
Cami: This Dallas defense has flown under the radar a bit this season, but they’ve come up big when they’ve needed to. I think the Cowboys will be able to create pressure on Rodgers from inside, and continue the dominant run defense that ended the regular season ranked No.1 in the league. But the primary reason I believe this could be a bit more lopsided than people assume is the fact Green Bay’s defense just doesn’t worry me, nor do I believe they’ll be able to pressure Prescott. Ezekiel Elliott should rush for around 150 yards, meaning Dallas would likely be controlling the clock at that point, which more importantly keeps Rodgers off the field. If Dallas can close out a few time-consuming drives with touchdowns, it’ll likely force Rodgers into mistakes by playing ‘catch up’ the majority of the game, resulting in two interceptions. I don’t see many big or flashy plays from Linehan in this matchup, it should be an old school pound the rock type of game plan.