DALLAS — When you think about the greatest rivalries in the NFC, few are as long and as memorable as the Dallas Cowboys versus the Green Bay Packers.
It’s rare that two teams that aren’t even in the same division can impact each other throughout history to such a degree. But each team has been a playoff roadblock to glory for the other at different times throughout the years.
In terms of storied histories, few teams can match these two.
It makes sense that the most successful coaches from each of these franchises were once on the same staff. Tom Landry was the defensive coordinator for the Giants and Vince Lombardi was the offensive coordinator in New York.
Each branched out to make names for themselves as the head coach of the Cowboys and Packers, respectively, ushering in two of the most successful eras for any one franchise in any sport.
This marks the 37th meeting between these two teams, and the 29th in the regular season. The Packers own the all-time series 19-17, the Cowboys haven’t beat Green Bay at home since 2007.
With that in mind, here’s a look at how Dallas can break that streak with a matchup on Sunday afternoon.
Managing Key Injuries
Both teams are coming into the contest having lost their previous game after starting the season unbeaten. The Philadelphia Eagles beat Green Bay at Lambeau Field 34-27, while Dallas fell to the New Orleans Saints at the Superdome 12-10.
The first big key to victory for Dallas on Sunday is going to be whether or not they can succeed at overcoming their injuries by showing superior depth over an also banged up Green Bay.
The Packers have a mild advantage having last played on September 26, giving them a full 10 days of recovery after playing a Thursday night game against the Eagles in Week 4. However, they will still likely be without receiver Davante Adams, who had a huge game against Philadelphia.
Can Aaron Rodgers and crew put enough pressure on Dallas in the passing game without their top target?
Dallas has their own issues with injuries, the big one surrounding All-Pro left tackle Tyron Smith. The Cowboys will need to establish the run and protect their quarterback without Smith, who will miss the game with a high ankle sprain he suffered in the waning moments in New Orleans.
The former first-round selection and multi-time All Pro hasn’t played a full 16-game season since 2015 and this year will be no different. Dallas has gone 3-3 over the past two seasons without Smith. After going 0-3 in 2017 when the offense could only muster 21 points total in those three losses, they fared better in 2018 with three wins and an average of 27 points per contest.
The Cowboys will be relying on veteran Cameron Fleming to hold down the fort until Smith can make a recovery, just as they did last season.
Getting Back To Scoring
The Cowboys averaged over 30 points per game in the first three weeks, before petering out with only 10 points in a two-point loss at New Orleans.
Dallas likely can’t afford another showing like that and will need to score in bunches to stay ahead of Rodgers and a Packers team that has scored at least 20 points in every game since a 10-point game in a Week 1 win over Chicago.
Help could be on the way, however, as this game could mark the return of Michael Gallup, who practiced all week after missing the last two games following arthroscopic surgery on his knee from an injury suffered in Week 2.
It was clear the Cowboys missed his presence, especially in their last game against the Saints.
The Cowboys also need to dial up more passes on first down to keep defenses honest overall, something Gallup can certainly assist with if he’s able to take the field.
In addition, unlike their plan against New Orleans, Dallas needs to incorporate more run-pass options. The Cowboys offense is more dynamic when they deploy a creative scheme. Quarterback Dak Prescott has shown his ability to beat aggressive defenses with both his legs and his arm. The RPO play calling could be just what the doctor ordered in this matchup.
Create and Sustain Pressure
It sounds so simple. Put pressure on Aaron Rodgers and make life difficult for the two-time league MVP until he makes a mistake. In practice – for Dallas at least – it’s rarely ever that easy when it comes to challenging Rodgers.
However, this year, they may have found the personnel along the defensive line to pull it off.
Robert Quinn and DeMarcus Lawrence have sacked the quarterback five times combined over the last few weeks. Quinn has really thrived early on since his return from a two-game suspension to begin the season.
The sample size is quite small so the jury is still out on whether or not he is truly back to his All-Pro form of 2013, or if he is just a beneficiary of teams focusing on Tank Lawrence. Either way, if the production keeps coming, it’s a boon for Dallas.
They will need his motor to help contain Rodgers on Sunday.
The Cowboys could also have defensive linemen Tyrone Crawford and Antwaun Woods back from injuries, which would give Dallas a couple more bodies who can get after the quarterback and plug up running lanes.
Along with Kerry Hyder, Dorance Armstrong, and Maliek Collins, there are plenty of talented linemen who can pressure Rodgers and limit the Green Bay passing attack. As always, they just have to actually do it.
The Cowboys bounce back from the 10-point blip in New Orleans and get back on the winning side of football with a 31-27 victory over Green Bay to pin a career-first loss at AT&T Stadium on Aaron Rodgers.
The X-factor for this one looks to be how well fill-in left tackle Cameron Fleming will be able to hold up against the Packers defense. If Fleming gives Dak Prescott the time to make plays like he did in 2018, the Cowboys should be able to score points and start the season 4-1 for the first time since Dak’s rookie season.
Do you think the Cowboys can bounce back to beat the Packers and pick up their fourth win of the season? Make your predictions to Patrick on Twitter @DraftCowboys.