Game preview: Dallas Cowboys vs. Green Bay Packers

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Ron Jenkins/AP/Shutterstock (13435805no) Dallas Cowboys wide receiver CeeDee Lamb (88) carries the ball against the Washington Commanders during an NFL football game in Arlington, Texas Commanders Cowboys Football, Arlington, United States – 02 Oct 2022

Game preview: Dallas Cowboys vs. Green Bay Packers


Dallas Cowboys (6-2) at Green Bay (3-6)

Game Time: Sunday, 3:25 p.m. CST

TV/Radio: FOX / SiriusXM, 105.3 The Fan, KVMK 107.5 La Grande

What’s at stake: The Cowboys cannot afford to be caught by the proverbial ‘trap game,’ and this one certainly fits the criteria. They come into Sunday’s game off a bye week, facing an opponent that has created a lot of its own misery this season. Add to that a Hall of Fame-level quarterback, and a slow start by the Cowboys could be fatal. No matter how bad the Packers have played, with Aaron Rodgers taking snaps, they can beat anybody. If that is not enough to worry about, the Cowboys cannot get caught looking ahead to next week’s game against Minnesota – one of only two teams in the NFC with a better record than Dallas. With a chance to go 7-2, the Packers should have their full attention.

When the Cowboys have the ball: Another game removed from his thumb injury can only be a good thing for Dak Prescott and the Cowboys offense. If Ezekiel Elliott can return to the lineup, then Prescott will have a full complement of weapons to throw at an average Green Bay defense that ranks 28th against the run. If Elliott cannot go, then Tony Pollard will make his second straight start and get a chance to put up back-to-back 100-plus yard games. Either way, the Cowboys will need to establish the run if they want to be successful through the air. The Packers’ pass defense ranks third in completions allowed and fourth in yards allowed, which will be a challenge for a Cowboys passing game that ranks just 28th in the NFL.

When the Packers have the ball: It is Aaron Rodgers, Aaron Jones, and not much else for the Packers on offense these days, proven by the fact they are averaging just 17.1 points per game this season. But because of the two Aarons, they still produce, averaging 361.1 yards per game, despite having to rely on a few healthy wide receivers in Christian Watkins and Samori Toure, as well as a trio that has been banged up in Allen Lazard, Sammy Watkins, and Romeo Doubs. Along with Jones, the Packers have A.J. Dillon leading their ground attack, together averaging over 100 yards per game this season. If Rodgers, who has been sacked 18 times in nine games, has enough to time to get the air attack going, then the Cowboys will be in for a tough 60 minutes.

Key Cowboys to watch:

DT Carlos Watkins – After spending five of the first six weeks of the season injured, Watkins has slowly started to find his legs, playing 38 snaps combined in weeks seven and eight. He recorded three tackles in both wins over the Lions and Bears as he worked his way back into the defensive line rotation that goes 11 deep on what is statistically the third-best defense in the NFL. At 6-foot-3, 305 pounds, Watkins gives the Cowboys four guys that check in at over 300-pounds anchoring the middle of the defensive line.

WR CeeDee Lamb – Lamb, came into the season with the responsibility of being the No. 1 receiver on the roster, and it has been mixed reviews for the former first-round pick. He leads the team with 42 catches on 73 targets for 556 yards, for an average of 13.2 yards per catch. The problem is he leads the team in drops with four and has only found the end zone three times this season while searching for his first 100-yard receiving game since going for 112 in a win over Minnesota in Week 8 of last season – over a calendar year. That is not nearly enough for someone that was anointed the Cowboys’ top receiver after they traded away Amari Cooper in the offseason. Not nearly enough from Lamb for a team that has high aspirations.

CB Kelvin Joseph – While the former second-round pick has been a disappointment on defense, he has been a stalwart on special teams. Joseph, who leads the special teams with four tackles, has been in on 177 of the unit’s 207 snaps, or just over 85% of the plays run in the kicking game. That kind of durability has been key for the Cowboys, who boast one of the best special teams units in the league. Joseph has played only 14 plays on defense this season, including a season-high six in the blowout win over Chicago in Week 8.

RB Malik Davis – When called upon in Week 8 because of an injury to starter Ezekiel Elliott, Davis came in and played a supporting role to new starter Tony Pollard. He rushed for 23 yards on eight carries in that Week 8 victory, but Davis’ real value is on special teams. After being left off the 53-man roster for the first five weeks, he was called up from the practice squad for running back depth in games against the Eagles, Lions, and Bears. During his three games, Davis played 46 of 75 special teams snaps or just over 61% of the plays.

The bottom line: While they all count the same, there may not be another game on this year’s schedule that means more to the head coach and his players. Mike McCarthy returns to Green Bay for the first time since being shown the door after a Week 12 road loss in Minnesota during the 2018 season. So, if improving to 7-2 is not enough motivation, then payback on McCarthy’s behalf should have the Cowboys’ players ready to go from the opening kickoff.

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