Welcome to the first playoff edition of Martin's 5!
The Dallas Cowboys are probably a little bit relieved that they are playing the Green Bay Packers this week instead of the New York Giants. I'm not saying they were rooting for the Packers to win, but the Giants are the only team that have beaten them twice this season, whereas they have already beaten the Packers and relatively easily.
You can bet that there are plenty of Cowboys players that are anxiously waiting for kick off Sunday to try to revenge the controversial playoff loss they suffered at the hands of the Green Bay Packers back in 2014. Dez Bryant in particularly is likely leading the charge.
For the rookie and second year players like Byron Jones, Ezekiel Elliott, and Dak Prescott, they probably aren't as vengeful since they didn't play that game back in 2014, but I don't think for second they won't be ready for this matchup.
I don't know about you, but there is plenty of things I'm wondering about this week ahead of the Cowboys matchup with the Packers. Below are the five things I decide to share with you this week. I hope you enjoy.
One: The last time the Dallas Cowboys and the Green Bay Packers faced off against one another was earlier this season in Week 6. That matchup resulted in a victory for the Cowboys and that was in large part due to the performance of defensive lineman David Irving. Irving only played 19 defensive snaps, but sacked quarterback Aaron Rodgers once and forced three fumbles, one of which he recovered. That Week 6 performance earned him the NFC Defensive Player of the Week. I wonder if he can have a repeat performance this week with much more on the line for the Dallas Cowboys? I certainly think it's possible considering the way Irving closed out the 2016 regular season. He was arguably the best defensive lineman the Cowboys had and should receive more playing time because of his ability to get after the QB. The defense has to find some way to harass Aaron Rodgers and David Irving might just be the answer.
Two: Let's stick with David Irving here for a little bit longer. I wonder if defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli will game plan ways to create favorable matchups for Irving? Irving is probably at his best when he is playing inside as the 3-technique in the Cowboys 4-3 defensive scheme. His quickness and length create problems for offensive guards and if he can win some of those matchups, it could force Aaron Rodgers into making some uncharacteristic mistakes. It is really going to be interesting to see how much playing time Irving receives with a lot of their defensive lineman returning from injuries that limited them towards the end of the regular season. #95 has had a problem staying consistent, but the game changing plays he can make should earn him more playing time.
Three: In the previous match up with the Green Bay Packers, Ezekiel Elliott rushed for 157 yards on 28 carries and had two catches for 17 yards. I wonder if Elliott can come anywhere close to repeating that performance? The good news is if #21 is even remotely close to approaching 150 rushing yards, then that means the Cowboys are probably controlling the time of possession and keeping Aaron Rodgers and his high-powered offense off the field. This is probably the way Jason Garrett and the coaching staff would like things to play out. It worked for them earlier this season, so why not lay down the same blueprint and hope that everything turns out the same when the final seconds tick off the clock at the end of the game. Isn't that why it Ezekiel Elliott was pretty much drafted so highly in the first place?
Four: After having perhaps the best seven games of his entire professional career earlier this season, Morris Claiborne unfortunately missed the remainder of the year due to a groin injury. It looks as if he will be able to play this Sunday against the Green Bay Packers, but I'm wondering exactly where he fits into the secondary? Brandon Carr has been playing pretty well since moving to the right side and Anthony Brown has simply been outstanding, especially considering he was just a sixth round rookie. I don't think Claiborne unseats either one of them on the outside, and I certainly don't think he is better than Orlando Scandrick in the slot. That doesn't leave a lot of room for Claiborne to make his way back to the field, but as much as Green Bay likes to play in multiple receiver sets, #24 will still probably see plenty of playing time. Regardless of how much playing time he receives, his return to the lineup definitely makes the Cowboys secondary better.
Five: The Dallas Cowboys haven't beaten the Green Bay Packers yet, but I wonder who they would rather face out of the Atlanta Falcons and the Seattle Seahawks? I know I'm getting a little ahead of myself here, but I don't really see the harm of looking ahead. Of course, I don't want the Dallas Cowboys doing the same. I want their full attention on the Packers this week. Personally, I think I would rather see the Seattle Seahawks than the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Championship if the Cowboys take care business this week. The Falcons are the one team left in the NFC that scares me the most because of how many points they can put on the board on offense. They are a well-balanced offense and can really hurt the Cowboys defense in both the running and passing game. The Seahawks however don't have the same dominating defense we have seen in years past, and I don't think their offense can keep pace with the Cowboys'. I hope that's the way things turn out at least.
Is there anything you are wondering about this week?
Please feel free to use the comment section below to share with all of us anything you're wondering about this week.