Packers XLV

Rodgers' Calf Will Determine Whether Pack Can Rope Cowboys

Posted January 9th, 2015 @ 02:01pm

Has this not been the longest week in recent memory? Maybe having to wait 14 days for the Packers to take the field for their first playoff test has something to do with it, but we are closing in on the most anticipated game of divisional playoff weekend.

You know all the storylines: Ice Bowl II. 8-0 vs. 0-8. Aaron's torn calf muscle. Romo comes home. DeMarco Murray vs. the Pack's front seven. Green Bay's 1-3 playoff record in its last four at Lambeau. There are enough  to fill up the Internet.

But you know as well as I do that the one that matters most is the health of Rodgers' lower leg and even he doesn't know how he'll hold up. If he were 100%, the Packers would be about as healthy as a team could be and their home field swagger would practically dare the 'Boys to try to keep up with them on the scoreboard. After all, the Pack has been historically good at home this season--becoming the first team in history to score 23 first half points in six straight games.

But Rodgers' calf appears to be nowhere near 100% and it will change how Mike McCarthy calls this game. In a perfect world, he would test that 26th ranked pass defense early and then let Eddie Lacy run wild, once Dallas committed to the nickel and dime. He would let the maestro do what he does, move around, extend plays, take deep shots--all the things that makes the Pack's defense lethal.

Instead, we'll likely see a more conservative approach, at least early, to see how the calf is responding. Expect Rodgers to do most of his work from the pocket and expect Eddie Lacy to get a lot of touches early, though Dallas is tough against the run, ranked fifth in the league. The big question is whether longtime coaching foe Rod Marinelli goes against script and blitzes Rodgers to see just how nimble he is. The Lions chose not to test him that way in the second half--Rodgers is a notorious blitz-killer. But a gimpy Rodgers could be forced into rare mistakes if he faces some serious heat.

The Cowboys will no doubt rely heavily on Murray and his Pro Bowl-laden offensive line to try to control tempo and keep Rodgers and company hangin' out by the heaters on the sidelines. It remains to be seen how Murray handles the cold weather. He's had a bit of a fumbling problem--losing five this season, the most among non-QBs. He tends to get a bit careless with the ball and the Pack will no doubt test him all day.

The defense is as healthy as it's been all season, and after recent playoff meltdowns against the Niners, it's their time to step up and dominate. Or at least not let Murray, Romo and Dez dominate. The Lions were able to get pressure on Romo all day long--look for Dom Capers to show him some new wrinkles to keep him out of his comfort zone. He still relies heavily on tight end Jason Witten when he needs to convert a third down: the Pack needs to cover him like a blanket.

We know from recent memory that teams don't come in to Lambeau with any fear--the recent home playoff record attests to that. And this Dallas team went into Seattle this season and got a win (take away that one and the Philly win and their other six road victories came against teams that combined to go 26-70). They're road tested but not cold-tested. This group played no cold weather games this season and very few in recent years. While Romo, a Wisconsin boy, will likely feel at home, it remains to be seen how Murray, Dez and others handle it.

A healthy Rodgers would have me very optimistic and confident. A gimpy Rodgers has me concerned that we may have to rely on Matt Flynn in the second half. That worked out well the last times these teams met (the 37-36 comeback thriller in Dallas last season), but would unlikely provide a similar outcome this time around.

The way I see it, the Packers will get enough from Rodgers, Lacy and company to score points and the defense will be of the bend but don't break variety and take the ball away a couple of times. Ice Bowl II ends the way the Ice Bowl ended, with a Packers victory. Let's just hope we don't have to rely on a Rodgers sneak on the final play of the game.

Packers 27  Cowboys 20

Reminder: "Packer Preview" returns to its previous time slot this week: Sunday morning, 8am-9am on KFAN and kfan.com.

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Comments (6):

This is the most important playoff game the Packers have had since Super Bowl XLV. They've been eliminated in the divisional or wild card rounds the past 3 years but not since 2007 have things aligned for the postseason so much in the Pack's favor for a deep run. Unlike the Giants and 49ers of the past 3 seasons the Cowboys present a more favorable match-up and the Packers have elements on both offense and defense that are better now than they have been in years. To lose to this team in a playoff at Lambeau Field where they played the Ice Bowl would be a huge humiliation to the Green & Gold franchise.

on January 10th, 2015 at 07:15am

the thing that worries me some is lacy running out of the shotgun . he likes to get ahead of steam and run thru the holes, I really think we will not rush for more then 70-80 yards, but, I see our rb's catching 10-12 balls for 100 yds. that is how you beat the boys, the lions did it with ease. keep 12 up right, and we win 31-27

on January 10th, 2015 at 10:56am

Hey Dave you heard that "all about that bass" Green Bay Parody? Not bad, maybe not radio ready. I'm hoping Rodgers is healthier than they are letting on. We'll know he is if they put him under center at all. Peppers has got to step up and introduce himself to Romo if he ever wants to play another game as a Packer again. It is do or retire time for that man. As for the rest of the defense. Tackle. Tackle. Tackle. If they try punch to that ball out, Murray is likely to run away from them. Let's go get some Cowboys! Go Pack!

on January 9th, 2015 at 03:16pm

I'm feeling cautiously optimistic on this one. The defense is playing its best right now, and they should hold the 'Boys in check.

on January 9th, 2015 at 03:38pm

Well said Dave! The Pack will go as far as Arron takes us this year. I was hoping that he would be closer to 100% with two weeks off, but I am still happy to take our chances with a somewhat gimpy Rogers. I did join meetup and found a large group of Packers fans in the area. I'm meeting a group 10 and counting at a bar 3 miles from my new place. So no help is needed to find a place anymore. Only 48 hours and 45 minutes to kickoff . Prediction: Rogers beats the blitz for two long first half TD's Pack Win: 31-24 GO PACK!

on January 9th, 2015 at 10:22am

Dave--Can't wait for Sunday. How about playing "C Is For Cowboys" by the Happy Schnapps Combo to open the show on Sunday Morning. GO PACK GO!!!!!!!!!!

on January 9th, 2015 at 11:01am

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