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Cowboys vs Packers Game Picks, ITS Staff Notes

Bryson Treece

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Cowboys vs Packers Game Picks, ITS Staff Notes

Your 2-2 Dallas Cowboys host the 3-1 Green Bay Packers Sunday at 3:25 CDT, and it feels as if the Cowboys’ entire season hinges on this one NFC game. There’s certainly precedent as the Packers have made a habit of sending the Cowboys home early the last three years, but this isn’t the post-season. The Cowboys will survive the Packers and enjoy a week off afterward.

Perhaps the best thing about this week is that it’s followed by a bye week for Dallas. The team is in growing need of some time off for injuries to heal.

Left tackle Tyron Smith has been added to the injury report with a sore back—an area of concern for him last season as well—and while it looks as though he’ll be ready to play Sunday, the same can’t be said for Sean Lee.

The Cowboys defense looked flat against the Rams in Lee’s absence. Though the team struggled in almost every area of the defense last week, Lee’s sure tackling and quickness to the ball was sorely missed.

While listed as questionable on the team's injury report Friday, I suspect Sean Lee will be held out of this game in order to give his hamstring time to heal fully through the bye week.

The Packers aren’t without injuries off their own, as Davante Adams is questionable after a brutal blow to the head against NFC North division rivals, the Chicago Bears in week three. Additionally, the team’s primary running back—a wide receiver turned running back last season—Ty Montgomery is listed as doubtful this week.

On offense, the Cowboys are mostly whole. The battle for left guard is still brewing between Chaz Green and Jonathan Cooper, and that adds instability to what should be the best offensive line in the NFL. Hopefully, these guys find a rhythm, and fast.

Dak Prescott left many fans groaning about missed opportunities last week, and really, this whole season. His accuracy has come into question and like never before too. Head coach Jason Garrett said in a presser this week that Dak’s accuracy isn’t a concern. He said every throw is different and that they are reviewing each situation independently to address the issues.

Ezekiel Elliott has improved since his 8-yard outing in Denver, but still lacks the consistency we enjoyed in 2016. It’s tough to filter the offensive line’s issues from Elliott’s, but it seems like he could be more involved in the game plan.

Running backs in the NFL are increasingly relied on in the passing game and there’s merit to the argument that Zeke doesn’t get enough targets. He’s our most dangerous weapon with the ball in his hands, after all, so why not work harder to get him the ball in space and let him do his thing?

A nice side benefit of Elliott catching more passes is added dimension, giving opposing defenses more pre-snap confusion.

The Cowboys have slowly started to utilize rookie wide out Ryan Switzer of late, but his lone target through the air was flagged as defensive pass interference, against Denver. Instead, he’s begun to take over plays previously run by Lucky Whitehead, and had marginal success so far.

Cole Beasley is another player who fans are desperate to see more involved. After leading the team in 2016, he’s all but been phased out in 2017. Cole recorded his lowest numbers of the year in weeks three and four with one for four yards and three for 17 yards, respectively. This is down from seven catches for 65 yards the first two weeks.

In 2016, Cole never recorded less than two catches in a game, and that was only in week 13 against the Vikings.

Beasley is a game-changer when he’s getting targets and must be included more in the passing game. Against Green Bay in week six last season, Beasley hauled in six passes for 58 yards and two touchdowns.

Jason Witten has also been underutilized these last two weeks. Through week two, Witten had 17 catches for 156 yards and scored two touchdowns. But since then, he has just two receptions, 12 yards, and no scores.

It’s fair to say that this team just hasn’t been the same since being routed by the Broncos.

In some ways that’s a good thing.

We all saw the Cowboys basically abandon their running game against the Broncos; they just weren’t able to move the ball on the ground. But after Prescott threw the ball 50 times in week two alone, he’s only thrown the ball 54 times in the two weeks since. His passer rating has been higher the last two weeks, and his completion percentage has climbed slightly to 63.9% these last two games, up from 60.75% the first two weeks of the season.

But while Dallas has regained some of their focus on the ground attack, Elliott is averaging just 3.8 yards per game over the last two weeks, for a total of 165 yards on 43 carries.

The plan of attack is slowly getting on track but the Cowboys still need some work to find a groove anywhere near that of 2016.

In my opinion, the offensive woes begin and end with the offensive line. If they can be better, this team can be better, and that is exactly what we need if our defense continues to play as badly as they have.

Regarding our defense, I have just one word for you: tackling.

Tackling, or the lack thereof, seems to be plaguing this defense right now. Coverage hasn’t been great, and stopping the run has been hit or miss, but the tackling has been atrocious. These guys have to improve their tackling.

David Irving’s return this week should help the pass rush, as he’s been a key factor against the Packers for us before. With the way DeMarcus Lawrence is playing this year—a contract year for him—an extra threat on the defensive line could be just what cracks this defense’s potential wide open.

In addition, while I think Sean Lee sits this one out, Anthony Hitchens has been cleared from the injury report and looks like a lock to suit up against the Packers. Good thing too.

As always, I encourage you to add your own predictions for the game in our comments section below.

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Dallas' Defensive Reinforcements Not Enough

The Dallas Cowboys aren't able to rebound defensively after a poor second half against the Los Angeles Rams and Dallas suffers its first two-game losing streak since 2015. John Williams – @john9williams

Cowboys 23 – Packers 27

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Green Bay Might Just Have Their Number

Both the Packers and Cowboys enter this game with pretty prolific offenses, and not much to write home about on the defensive side of things. Aaron Rodgers has made a habit of crushing the Cowboys' back-seven due to a lack of pass rush up front, and to be honest, I can't see why that shouldn't happen on Sunday. I still like Dak and company to put up some points, but they fall short in a shootout this week. Kevin Brady – @KevinBrady88

Cowboys 28 – Packers 34

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Cowboys Pull Off an Upset Over the Packers

I know I'm going to be in the minority here, but I'm going to go with the Dallas Cowboys in a close win over the Packers. This isn't the same Green Bay team we have seen dominate the past several years. They have several injuries at key positions and I think the Cowboys can take advantage of that. I'm expecting Ezekiel Elliott to have a big game on the ground and the Cowboys defense to do just enough to secure the victory. Brian Martin – @bmart0204

Cowboys 37 – Packers 34

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A Defense Without Sean Lee

I think the Cowboys offense will put a lot of points on the board. However, with Sean Lee missing practices, I'm not sure that this defense will be able to stop Aaron Rodgers. Without Lee, this defense is far from good. I'm not proud of my pick... sorry, Cowboys Nation. Mauricio Rodriguez – @PepoR99

Cowboys 31 – Packers 35

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Aaron Rodgers Again and Again

Just feeling out the mood around Cowboys Nation this week off of the home loss to the Rams, it feels that even picking the Cowboys to lose this game at the very end is optimistic. This is exactly what I have happening though, as the offense gets on track and provides hope for what's ahead...preparing for week six at 2-3 after Aaron Rodgers leads another game-winning drive. Sean Martin – @ShoreSportsNJ

Cowboys 31 – Packers 34

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Cowboys Stay Above Water as Packers Fall Short

Nothing would make me happier right now than seeing the Cowboys whoop Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. It will be a hard-fought game, through and through, but with Hitchens and Irving back for the D, even without expecting Lee to play, the Cowboys upset Green Bay to stay above .500 going into the bye. Bryson Treece – @BrysonTreece

Cowboys 34 – Packers 27

✭ ✭ ✭

The Packers lead the all time series against the Cowboys by one game. Here's to tying up that score Sunday! Share your game picks below and, as always, Go Cowboys!



Nothing gives me greater joy than the experience of being a Dallas Cowboys fan come time to check another victory on the schedule every Sunday. I live Inside the Star everyday and blog on it occasionally, as well. Follow us on Twitter - @InsideTheStarDC

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Russ_Te

    October 7, 2017 at 8:51 pm

    If at GB, pretty worried in this spot. Cowboys D and OL, not settled at all.

    But they have to be in a bad mood after losing at home to the Rams, so GB bears the brunt of that > Dallas 31-24

    Btw Bryson; 1 vote against that auto-loading Fox video screen. This machine is a Win 7 laptop with 10 mbps connection, and that thing is bogging down the site load. Plus, who cares about their content?

    • Bryson Treece

      October 8, 2017 at 1:45 am

      Understood. Thanks for the feedback. I’ve been wondering specifically about that.

  2. dallas1966

    October 8, 2017 at 7:09 pm

    I’ve been a Cowboys fan since 1966. I went to the Broncos game, and witness the woodshed whooping . I was optimistic that it was only a bump in the road. Unfortunately, it wasn’t, Rod Marinell is overrated, and that includes, Scott Linehan as well. Neither make halftime adjustments to counter what the opposition is doing in the second half. It appears that Jason Garrett doesn’t override them to make adjustments.
    The Cowboys scored only 10 points in the second half, while the Packers scored 23 points in the second half to win the game.

    Teams have spent the off season, to study the Cowboys, yet the Cowboys have no answers to counter attack, despite having the off season, to expect the opposition to change up the schemes to attack both the offense and defense.
    If the Cowboys coaching staff don’t figure it out, it’s going to be a long season, with another year in the wilderness.

    Marinelli, needs to adjust his defense to the talent, instead of forcing a round peg into a square hole.

    It appears it’s going to be few years, before the Cowboys even sniff a playoffs, if the Cowboys continues with THIS coaching staff, we Cowboys fans, will continue to wonder into the wilderness, living on the organization legacy of the 70’s and 90’s.

    Just venting……

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Game Notes

Jason Garrett’s Decision Making Stands Out in Playoff Loss

John Williams

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Are the Dallas Cowboys Distancing Themselves from HC Jason Garrett? 2

The 2018 NFL season has come to an end for the Dallas Cowboys. The Los Angeles Rams were simply the better team on Saturday night in the Coliseum and it showed in the 30-22 loss. While it was a disappointing performance, there were several things to take away from the game to give us reason for optimism moving forward. Connor Williams played well against Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh on the interior, Dak Prescott kept the team in the game despite little help from the running game, and Head Coach Jason Garrett perhaps coached his best game from a management point of view.

After the first drive, this game had one of those, if the Dallas Cowboys have to punt, it's likely going to be a loss feels. The defense's inability to force more than one punt or create a turnover was going to make it really difficult for the offense to keep up, and yet at the end of the game, the Cowboys were within a score and had a shot to win. Dak Prescott deserves a lot of credit for that, but so does Jason Garrett.

Here's why.

4th and 1's

Jason Garrett has long been viewed as a conservative coach in the NFL, and this season he didn't do much to help his reputation, but that game on Saturday should change some of that perception. On a night where it looked like his defense didn't have it, he called the game he needed to maximize his team's possessions.

On the opening drive of the game for the offense, the Cowboys got to the Rams 49 yard line, but faced a 4th and 1. Garrett didn't waste any time going for it and the Cowboys were able to convert on Ezekiel Elliott's five yard run. A Marcus Peters' unneccessary roughness penalty gave the Cowboys an extra 15 yards and the Cowboys scored on the next play on Amari Cooper's 29 yard catch and run to give the Dallas Cowboys the lead.

It would be their only lead of the night.

Again, in the second half, the Cowboys faced a 4th and 1, this time it was at the Rams 41 yard line and this time, the Cowboys were down 23-7. This was not nearly as difficult a decision as the Cowboys were in catch up mode and needed to get a score to bring the game within striking distance, and they did just that. Again, Elliott picked up five yards when the Cowboys needed one and Elliott capped off th drive with a one yard touchdown run after Michael Gallup's long reception on a broken play.

At the Rams 35 yard line and the game within reach, the Cowboys went for it again on fourth down, but this time were stopped short of the first down marker when Ndamukong Suh made an excellent play to prevent Elliott from picking up the yard. On the play, you can see Suh start to Joe Looney's left, which forced Elliott to go to Looney's right and Suh followed Elliott into the hole. There was much Looney could do as Suh had the necessary leverage to make the play. It was absolutely the right call to go for it in that situation, but the Cowboys went to the jumbo formation-Elliott inside run one too many times. It was clear where the ball was going to go in that situation, and they were stuffed.

On what turned out to be the final drive of the season for the Dallas Cowboys, they needed to score and score rather quickly to have a chance to get the ball back one more time. The offense scored, but took a little too much time doing so as the drive took just over five minutes off the game clock. Again, on the drive, they were faced with a fourth and 1, but this time they used Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott on a speed option to the right and they were able to convert and eventually get the touchdown.

For the game, the Dallas Cowboys went three for four on fourth down attempts.

Point After Decisions

In the middle of the third quarter, the Dallas Cowboys scored to make it 23-13. Generally in the NFL, teams don't go for two until they have to go. Knowing that possessions were going to be few and far between the Cowboys were likely going to have to score on every possession the rest of the game, Garrett went for two and the Cowboys converted to make it an eight point game.

Then after the Dallas Cowboys scored to make the game 30-21, there was much discussion on social media on whether the Cowboys should have gone for two there or just kicked the extra point, which was a bit surprising.

To me, it was simple. Kick the extra point to make it 30-22 and hope your defense gets you the ball back and you can score again. If you go for two in that situation and don't make it, the game is essentially over with just over two minutes remaining. Taking the extra point kept you in the game, even if it was still only a slight chance to pull out a win.

Declining Penalties

With about 3:20 to go in the third quarter, the Dallas Cowboys defense faced a third and two situation around midfield against the Rams. They were able to force Rams Quarterback Jared Goff into a hurried throw and he overthrew Josh Reynolds in the flat for what would have been a first down.

On the play there were two penalties, offensive holding and offensive pass interference and Jason Garrett declined the penalties.

To me it was one of the boldest coaching decisions has made in his career on something that seemed very innocuous.

Sean McVay and the Rams were having their way with the Dallas Cowboys defense as Todd Gurley and C.J. Anderson gashed their way to over 100 yards rushing each. With the Rams facing a fourth and two on the Dallas Cowboys side of the 50 yard line, most people thought the Rams would go for it there and completely steal the soul of the Dallas Cowboys.

Johnny Hekker did his best to get the Dallas Cowboys to think he was going to run a fake, but the Cowboys never panicked and stayed onside as the punter attempted to game them.

It was a huge call in that situation. If Garrett accepts the penalties, the Rams would have faced a third and 12 at their own 43 yard line, but would have had another opportunity to convert the first down and extend the drive.

I really liked the call, because it put McVay in a difficult position himself. If the were to go for it and fail to convert on fourth down, the Cowboys would have gotten the ball at about midfield with a chance to tie the game.

Kicking Deep vs Onside Kick

With the new rules governing kickoffs, mainly that teams have to keep a amount of players on each side of the kicker, onside kicks have become less and less successful in today's NFL. Even before the rule changes, recovering an onside kick was less than a 50/50 proposition.

Kicking deep was really the only decision to make. The hope is that your defense is able to get a stop and the Cowboys would get the ball back with decent field position.

And it nearly worked.

The Dallas Cowboys run defense came up big on first and second down, holding the Rams running game to three yards setting up a third and seven. Just as everyone was expecting the Rams to throw it, they ran a play action with a naked bootleg that left Jared Goff all alone on the outside with a ton of room to run, and zero Cowboys in position to prevent him from picking up the first down.

Ball game.

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On Saturday, Ian Rapoport from NFL Network, reported the Cowboys were looking to extend for Jason Garrett this offseason. It should come as no surprise as he helped orchestrate an impressive turnaround from 3-5 to 10-6 and NFC East champions all while fielding one of the youngest teams in the NFL. Jason Garrett has grown a lot as an NFL head coach and in the playoff loss, made excellent decisions to keep the Cowboys in the game. He's going to be around here for a long time and there should be a lot of optimism heading into 2019 that the Cowboys can make some strides.



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Game Notes

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly From Cowboys Divisional Round Loss

Brian Martin

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The Good, Bad, and Ugly From Cowboys Divisional Round Loss

Well Cowboys Nation, the Dallas Cowboys 2018 season had to come to an end at some point. Not many of us would have predicted earlier in the season that it would've come at the hands of the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC Divisional Round, but that's what happened and it's kind of bittersweet.

I don't know how you feel today, but I don't find myself all that upset the Dallas Cowboys season is officially over. Yes, I would've loved to see them completely dominate the LA Rams and advance in the playoffs, but I'm surprisingly really pleased with the way this team played this season. We have to remember that this is a young team and this is hopefully just the beginning of something great.

Today, I want to share with you some of the positives and negatives from the Cowboys game against the Rams Saturday night. This of course will be the last edition of The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly for the Dallas Cowboys 2018-2019 season.

The Good

Dak Prescott

Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott

Finding the positive after a loss isn't always the easiest thing to accomplish. The Dallas Cowboys didn't particularly play their best football Saturday against the Rams, which makes it even more difficult. But for me, the good has to be the resiliency and grittiness the Cowboys played with in LA.

I don't think anyone would argue that the LA Rams pretty much dominated the entire game Saturday. They put the Cowboys on their heels pretty much from the get-go, which took them out of their game. Dallas was never really able to establish their running game and couldn't get the Rams offense off the field. They've been able to pretty much do that against all their opponents this season, but just fell flat at the wrong time.

Despite getting manhandled, the Dallas Cowboys continued to fight back and never quit. They could've easily rolled over and given up, but they didn't. I think that really speaks volumes to the kind of players Dallas has on the roster. This is a really talented young team with a bright future ahead of themselves.

The Bad

C. J. Anderson

Los Angeles Rams RB C. J. Anderson (Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)

Anyone who watched the game Saturday night pretty much knows what goes in this category. The bad for me and probably everybody else is how the Dallas Cowboys defense was gashed by the Los Angeles Rams rushing attack. C. J. Anderson and Todd Gurley absolutely dominated on the ground, leading their team to victory.

I knew the Rams rushing attack would give the Cowboys defense problems, but I never imagined they would rush for nearly 300 yards and multiple touchdowns. C. J. Anderson and Todd Gurley may be the ones earning all the praise with their performances, but they definitely wouldn't have found as much success as they did if not for their offensive line.

Dallas' front seven has been really good against the run all season. They only allowed a couple of 100 yard rushers this season (Chris Carson, Marlon Mack) until Anderson and Gurley both rushed for over 100 Saturday night. Unfortunately, the Cowboys DL just got overpowered by the Rams OL and it definitely impacted the outcome of the game.

The Ugly

Ezekiel Elliott

Dallas Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott

What was pegged to be a matchup between two of the best running backs in the NFL, Todd Gurley and Ezekiel Elliott, ended up being pretty much a one-man show. That is why the ugly Saturday night for the Dallas Cowboys in my opinion was their rushing attack.

We all know the Cowboys offensive blueprint is to establish the running game to help control the clock and game speed. That unfortunately never materialized Saturday night against the Rams, a team by the way that was giving up 5.1 yards rushing to opposing running backs. It was supposed to be a matchup that favored Zeke and Dallas' ground game.

I'll give credit where credit is due though. The Rams defensive line stepped up their game and didn't allow Zeke to get any kind of momentum going in the running game. They gave the Cowboys OL all they could handle and pretty much made their offensive attack one-dimensional. They wanted to put the game in Dak Prescott's hands and for the most part accomplished what they set out to do.

What is your good, bad, and ugly for the Dallas Cowboys against the LA Rams?



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Game Notes

Sean’s Scout: Cowboys Run Defense, 4th Down Decision End Season in Los Angeles

Sean Martin

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Sean's Scout: Cowboys Run Defense, 4th Down Decision End Season in Los Angeles

The last round of the Dallas Cowboys fight in 2018 came at the hands of a hungry Los Angeles Rams team, ending their season in the Divisional Round behind 273 rushing yards. Effectively, the third seed in the NFC beat the Cowboys at their own game with the bye week to prepare. The fallout from this loss won't be fully realized until the sting is gone, but sweeping changes aren't expected in Dallas after a resurrection from 3-5 saw the Cowboys within a few plays of the NFC Championship Game.

How those plays were made and what the Rams did to execute a near flawless game plan is the subject of this final Sean's Scout of the season.

  • The Rams' success on the ground against Richard's defense was stunning for a lot of reasons, none more so than the way Linebackers Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith struggled to react and fight off blocks.

The Cowboys issues at linebacker were a result of their front four getting blown off the ball all game by LA's offensive line. I wrote in my final game preview piece about how the Cowboys needed to win the line of scrimmage on both sides, losing with their own offense when the game was in the balance and never putting up a fight on the defensive line.

To the Rams' credit, even the simple things Sean McVay's team executes are done with an attention to detail that makes them very difficult to contain. The Rams did a great job scheming blockers to the second level, where Smith and Vander Esch were handled to the point of playing tentatively and taking poor angles.

In what could be his final game with the Cowboys or the end of his career, Sean Lee played 21 snaps, one shy of his week 17 total when the Cowboys played the Giants with the division already wrapped up. Getting caught in a game they couldn't possibly win against the better team at home, the Cowboys defense had no answers for Todd Gurley and C.J. Anderson.

  • Dak Prescott's "in the grasp" call when he scrambled into La'el Collins' arms on third down was a bad look for the officials, but also an injured Cole Beasley, who was late working his route back to Prescott and into his line of vision. 

If Beasley was at full strength, he's likely able to stop his vertical route sooner and give Prescott an easy throw underneath as he rolled to the right. Left with nowhere to go, Dak had the play blown dead after Right Tackle La'el Collins wrapped his arms around Prescott while scrambling.

With the way the Rams came out on offense, it became clear that every Cowboys possession would be of dire importance. Losing one on a strange call like this was a blow Dallas never had a chance to recover from.

  • Lost in the Cowboys turnover on downs in the fourth quarter, the final time they touched the ball within a score, is the incredible third down throw Prescott made on the run to Noah Brown. 

To give his offense a chance on fourth and short, Prescott delivered a strike to Brown on the sideline for 13 yards. Without being able to set his feet, Prescott felt the pressure well and put the ball where only Brown could secure it falling out of bounds.

It's unfortunate the next play became the defining moment of the season for Dallas. Deciding to attack the strength of the Rams' defense, Aaron Donald, Ndamukong Suh, and Michael Brockers were ready for an Elliott rushing attempt right up the middle out of 12 personnel.

Not only was Center Joe Looney beat on the play, but Collins lost leverage and was beat across the face to further clutter the middle of the field for Elliott to be stopped short. Making matters even worse, the Rams came out and attacked the Cowboys defense by flashing the misdirection plays that worked all night.

In just 12 plays, Anderson scored his second touchdown to all but put the game away for LA. The Cowboys would use Prescott's legs much too late on the ensuing drive, getting into the end zone but failing to get the ball back.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

As mentioned, this won't be an offseason of drastic change for the Cowboys. Bowing out in the divisional round for the second time in three seasons, adjustments to both the coaching staff and roster are needed for this team to take the next step.

For a team that looked nothing like a postseason contender for much of the regular season, the Cowboys improbable run of close wins came to an end against the Rams - determined to not lose their first playoff game in consecutive seasons.

They won't be happy with the result, but the Cowboys should be proud of their final outcome on this year.

As always, I'd like to thank Cowboys Nation for reading another season of Sean's Scout. Win or lose you make this job fun.

Tell us what you think about "Sean’s Scout: Cowboys Run Defense, 4th Down Decision End Season in Los Angeles" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



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