Irresistible Force: Meet Immovable Object

Through the NFL's first five weeks, there have been some surprising starts--predominantly in the NFC. The Vikings, Falcons and Cowboys have all emerged as early conference powers. And the Pack will have faced all three before Halloween.

The second of the three, the Cowboys, come to Lambeau this Sunday, fresh off four straight wins, led by precocious rookies Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott.

The soap opera in Dallas will reach a crescendo during their bye week after this game. And the direction the plot takes will hinge, in large part, on Prescott's performance against the Pack. A win and the Romo bobos will be hard pressed to lobby for the return of their man. It would be difficult to justify pulling the rookie after a 5-1 start, but Jerry Jones loves him some Romo. A loss, and a mediocre showing, will make it easier for Jones to justify putting Romo back on the field after the bye.

Prescott's start has been remarkable under the tutelage of Scott Linehan. His next interception will be the first of his career--that's unbelievable through five games. You always hear folks marvel at his poise and he'll be tested by the noise at Lambeau. His other two road tests came in Washington and San Francisco. This is his first big game on a national stage. It will be interesting to see how he handles it.

The Pack will likely once again without both Sam Shields and Damarius Randall. The trio of Rollins, Gunter and Hyde held up well against the Giants and will be facing a team much more interested in running the ball this week. Most reports I've read out of Dallas say Dez Bryant will likely miss this game and then use the bye week to get ready for the Eagles.

Which brings us to Elliott, the former Buckeye and fourth overall pick. He's lived up to the hype and more and will have a chance to make a statement against the top ranked Packer run defense. That's where the irresistible force/immovable object part comes in. Some have downplayed the stats, mentioning the ordinary running backs the Packers have faced in Jacksonville, Detroit and New York--though they did completely stuff Adrian Peterson as well.

But there's no doubt that this week presents the ultimate challenge against Elliott and the league's top offensive line. While not playing one play in their base 3-4 defense last week against the three-wide Giants, the Pack will probably use it more than half the time on Sunday. It's a great week to get Mike Pennel back, to fortify the line play. We'll have a real good idea of what this defense really is after this matchup against the league's #2 offense.

There are plenty of question marks on the other side of the ball. Who will carry the ball for the Pack? Both Eddie Lacy and James Starks are listed as questionable. It sounds like Lacy will be good to go, despite the ankle injury. He does have a track record of playing well when going into a game with a lingering injury. It sounds like they'll need him, since Starks had a knee injury flare up on Tuesday and has been away from the team all week, dealing with a death in his family. You can run on the Cowboys--if Lacy is close to 100%, I'll feel a lot more confident about the Pack's chances.

There also continues to be questions about the Packers' passing attack, which has been under the microscope all week. We all saw the epic amount of time Aaron Rodgers had in the passing game last week, but he still had a hard time finding open receivers (against a marginal secondary) and was inaccurate when he found them. He should be afforded time again--Dallas is an average pass rushing team. their best rusher, DeMarcus Lawrence returned last week in a limited role; he should get his normal reps this week and could be a factor.

The Cowboys are much improved on the back end, led by former bust Morris Claiborne, who's become a very good corner. He'll likely match up with Jordy Nelson, who is coming off a lousy game with multiple drops. Randall Cobb was a full participant in practice on Friday and is not listed on the injury report--following that big hit to his neck on his final catch which sewed up the win. Looking forward to seeing how he builds on that breakout performance.

Special teams needs to improve for the Pack this week as well. Jacob Schum is a couple of bad games away from looking for work. With a mini-bye week coming up after the Bears game Thursday night, the Pack could bring in a couple of guys to take his job away. It would be nice to see him perform better because the Pack will have four of their next five on the road--two in prime time, and a shaky punter is the last thing we need.

The kickoff coverage unit was subpar last week, as was the punt return unit. I'll be watching both closely to see if they improve. A by-product of having the league's third youngest team is that many inexperienced players are asked to play special teams. We're noticing some growing pains. If Demetri Goodson is activated, that should go a long way in settling down those units.

So despite a lot of question marks, I've gotta come up with a prediction. I'm going to the game on Sunday and my recent track record is not good. I saw the Pack lose both times I was at Lambeau last year (Bears and Vikings). The Pack has won five straight over the Boys and in the last three home games in the regular season, they've outscored them 90-21. Rodgers is 4-1 against them, with nine touchdowns and no picks.

I think his record goes to 5-1, but it's the defense that wins it--with a late pick that seals the deal.

Packers 23 Cowboys 17

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