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Green Bay Packers vs Dallas Cowboys: prediction, preview, pick to win

By The Sports Xchange


Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) has a 100.3 career postseason passer rating, making him one of four quarterbacks in NFL history to have a 100 rating (minimum 150 attempts). File Photo by Kevin Dietsch
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KICKOFF: Sunday, 4:40 p.m. ET, AT&T Stadium. TV: FOX, Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Erin Andrews, Chris Myers.
THE SERIES: 42nd meeting. Dallas leads 21-20, including 4-3 in the playoffs. Dallas won the earlier meeting this season, 30-16. Green Bay won the last playoff meeting, 26-21 in 2014. Dallas won the last playoff meeting in Dallas, 38-27 in 1996. The Cowboys are 4-1 against the Packers in the playoffs.
KEYS TO THE GAME:
The Cowboys led all teams in the NFC with a 13-3 record and have home-field advantage until the Super Bowl. But the Packers are peaking, having won seven straight.
Fresh off a 38-13 dismantling of the New York Giants in the wild-card round at Green Bay last weekend, the fourth-seeded Packers believe the continuity of playing every week can make a difference.
The Cowboys had a first-round bye. And, as Aaron Rodgers was quick to note, they rested several starters to end the season, a lackluster 27-13 loss at the Philadelphia Eagles on Jan. 1.
"They were off this last week, and they're hosting the game (Sunday), so there's extra pressure on them as the No. 1 seed to win," Rodgers said. "And, we're coming in with a lot of confidence and riding the streak. We're feeling good about the way we've been playing."
The Packers also are motivated to avenge a surprisingly lopsided 30-16 loss to the Cowboys in Green Bay three months ago.
Led by the rookie tandem of quarterback Dak Prescott and halfback Ezekiel Elliott, the Cowboys ran over and away from the Packers, who played from behind after giving up a touchdown in the game-opening series. Elliott accounted for 157 of Dallas' 191 rushing yards, and Prescott threw for three touchdowns.
The Packers are bracing for more of Elliott in the rematch. He led the NFL with 1,631 yards and 15 touchdowns on the ground, averaging a robust 5.1 yards per carry. The Cowboys ranked second in the league with an average of 149.8 rushing yards.
While the Packers can't bank on No. 1 receiver Jordy Nelson being able to play a week after he was knocked out of the first-round game with cracked ribs, coach Mike McCarthy is wary of Dallas' premier pass catcher. Dez Bryant didn't play in the first meeting Oct. 16 because of a knee injury.
"This is a complete offense," McCarthy said. "They attack you all over the field -- formation, personnel, scheme. And, the ability, really starting with that run game, moving the quarterback around, it creates one-on-one opportunities (on the outside), and Dez is a big challenge."
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
--Packers OLB Clay Matthews vs. Cowboys LT Tyron Smith. Matthews is the Packers' best pass rusher. He had a sack and forced fumble against the Giants in the wild-card round. Smith is the best left tackle in the league but has been slowed all season by a back injury and missed the season finale with a sprained knee. He will play but will have to be at his best to keep Matthews off quarterback Dak Prescott.
--Packers WR Randall Cobb vs. Cowboys CB Orlando Scandrick. Cobb caught five passes for 116 yards and three touchdowns in the wild-card playoff win over the Giants. His presence will be even more important with Jordy Nelson out with a rib injury. Cobb excels out of the slot, where he will draw Scandrick. Scandrick is playing his best football of the season after a slow start during which he battled hamstring injuries and plantar fasciitis. The key for Scandrick is limiting Cobb after the catch and getting him on the ground.
Sunday Injury Report:
GREEN BAY PACKERS
--Out: WR Jordy Nelson (ribs), CB Quinten Rollins (neck, concussion), RB James Starks (concussion), C J.C. Tretter (knee)
--Questionable: LB Jayrone Elliott (hand), WR Jeff Janis (quadricep)
DALLAS COWBOYS
--Questionable: CB Morris Claiborne (groin), DT Tyrone Crawford (shoulder), LB Justin Durant (elbow), DE Demarcus Lawrence (back), DT Terrell McClain (ankle), T Tyron Smith (knee), DT Cedric Thornton (ankle)
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT:
Packers CB LaDarius Gunter. In part because of attrition, Gunter has emerged as Green Bay's most dependable cornerback. The second-year pro primarily shadowed New York Giants standout Odell Beckham Jr. in the Packers' lopsided victory in the wild-card round last weekend. Beckham managed only four catches for 28 yards in 11 targets. Next up for Gunter is Dez Bryant. The Cowboys didn't have an injured Bryant available when they came to Green Bay in mid-October. That didn't matter because the Cowboys pulled away for a 30-16 win, thanks in part to a number of coverage breakdowns by Gunter.
FAST FACTS:
-- The Packers have won seven consecutive games, outscoring opponents 223-125.
-- Packers QB Aaron Rodgers passed for 362 yards and four touchdowns last week in a win over New York. He has a 100.3 career postseason passer rating, making him one of four quarterbacks in NFL history to have a 100 rating (minimum 150 attempts).
-- Green Bay WR Randall Cobb caught five passes for 116 yards and tied the NFL postseason single-game record with three touchdown catches.
-- The Packers had three players selected to the Pro Bowl: S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, OG T.J. Lang and Rodgers.
-- Dallas has qualified for the postseason 32 times, tied with the Packers and Giants for the most in league history.
-- Dallas is the only team in NFL history to have a rookie pass for 20 touchdowns (QB Dak Prescott, 23) and a rookie rush for 15 touchdowns (RB Ezekiel Elliott, 15) in the same season. Prescott's 13 wins are tied for the most by a rookie QB in NFL history, and his 104.9 passer rating is the highest by a rookie. Elliott led the NFL with 1,631 rushing yards, the third-most by a rookie.
-- The Cowboys had five players selected to the Pro Bowl: C Travis Frederick, OG Zack Martin, OT Tyron Smith, Prescott and Elliott.
PREDICTION:
Rodgers is right. The Packers are hot and the Cowboys haven't done anything notable for weeks. The Cowboys were swept this season by the Giants, who couldn't keep up with the Packers. That's all we need to know.
OUR PICK: Packers, 30-20.
--Chris Cluff
 
Green Bay Packers vs Dallas Cowboys: prediction, preview, pick to win Reviewed by Chidinma C Amadi on 7:40 PM Rating: 5

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