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NFC Divisional Preview: Cowboys vs. Packers
By Matt Horkman

For the first time since the 1967 NFL Championship, the Dallas Cowboys are playing a postseason game at Lambeau Field. The Cowboys take a red-hot team (winners of their last five games) into the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field for a date with the 12-4 Packers.

Home and Away

Sunday marks the first time in playoff history that an 8-0 home team faces a road team with the same record.

Dallas averages a league-best 34 points per game away from AT&T Stadium. They scored less than 30 just once, and that was in their road opener at Tennessee back in September.

Establishing the run is a big reason for their road success. Running back DeMarco Murray rushed for at least 100 yards in seven road games. His finest performance came at Seattle in week 6 when he ran for 115 yards and a touchdown. Exploiting Green Bay’s run defense will be one of the keys to victory for the Cowboys, who have won in Lambeau just once (2008) in the history of their franchise.

As good as Dallas plays on the road, Green Bay is even better at home. Behind the arm of quarterback Aaron Rodgers, the Packers put up monstrous numbers in 2014. They average nearly 40 points per game at Lambeau, where Rodgers hasn’t thrown an interception since week 13 of 2012. This year alone, he’s averaging about 292 yards and three touchdowns per home game. In fact, the Patriots are the only team to hold him to less than three touchdowns in Lambeau.

Aaron Rodgers

Despite their regular-season success, Green Bay still needs to re-establish their home dominance in the postseason. They’re just 4-5 in home playoff games since the turn of the century. Recent losses include the 2011 NFC Divisional to the N.Y. Giants and the 2013 NFC Wild Card to the San Francisco 49ers.

Both teams were able to outmuscle the Packers at the line of scrimmage, something the Cowboys have done to their opponents all year with their offensive line. 

Offensive Juggernauts

Efficient quarterbacks, explosive receivers, bell cow running backs, and tough offensive lines. If you love offense, this game is for you.

Dallas quarterback Tony Romo completed a league-best 69.9 percent of his passes for 3,705 yards and 34 touchdowns. Not to be outdone, Rodgers threw for 38 touchdowns, 4,381 yards, and just 5 interceptions.

Both have a plethora of talent surrounding them. Dallas receiver Dez Bryant caught a league-best 16 touchdowns, and Murray won the NFL rushing title with 1,845 yards. Ball control will be important for the Cowboys, as their defense faces issues matching up against the Packers. 

Eddie Lacy, who has totaled 100 yards in nine consecutive games, rushed for 1,139 yards and had 13 total touchdowns this season. He’s the first Packers running back since Ahman Green to score double-digit touchdowns in back-to-back seasons. He’s also fresh. Mike McCarthy did a fine job of monitoring his carries in September and October, knowing he’d be a big part of any playoff run.

Lacy carried the ball just 246 times this season. He’s gone over 20 carries just three times, all three coming in November and December. This is in stark contrast with Murray, who carried the ball less than 20 times in four of 17 games. He enters this weekend with a league-high 411 carries.

As if dealing with Lacy’s fresh legs isn’t hard enough, the Cowboys will have to deal with arguably the league’s top receiver tandem. Green Bay’s Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb combined for 189 catches, 2,806 receiving yards, and 25 touchdowns. Nelson scored nine of his 13 touchdowns at home this season, with eight of them being 40 yards or more. Dallas finished 26th in the NFL against the pass.

Last week, they allowed 323 yards to Matthew Stafford and the Lions.

And the Winner is...

The left calf of Rodgers is a major story heading into this weekend’s game. We learned this week he has a slight tear in his calf to go along with a strain, but the Packers seem confident it won’t be a problem.

Mobility is a big part of Rodgers' arsenal. Many of Green Bay’s explosive pass plays occur when he’s outside the pocket. As he demonstrated against Detroit, though, he has no problem carving up a secondary from within the pocket. A persistent pass rush will give him issues because of his calf. Unfortunately, for Dallas, they have no such pass rush. They also don't have a good secondary. As a result, they'll struggle to defend Green Bay's passing attack. Their defense, which lives and dies by forcing turnovers, is going up against a team that doesn’t turn the ball over (plus-14), especially at home. Many expect the offensive line to dominate Green Bay’s front seven, but the Cowboys have struggled against blitzing teams. Washington exploited this in week 8, and Detroit did last Sunday. The Packers blitz about as much as any team in football, giving them another advantage. 

Dallas probably fares better playing in Seattle this weekend than in Green Bay. Going to Seattle won’t be in the cards for Jerry Jones, however. The Packers and Seahawks are the two best teams in the NFC, and next weekend, they will meet in Seattle to determine the NFC champion.

Packers 38 Cowboys 28

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