In a lot of ways, the NFL is America’s greatest reality television show, and each game is a new episode of that show. This Sunday, the main event and most watched episode will air at 3:25 PM Central Time the Cowboys visit the Packers.
When teams like these meet, the great story lines write themselves. Whether networks decide to revisit the old Vince Lombardi/Tom Landry rivalry, the re-birth of both Dallas and Green Bay in the ’90’s, or more recent pivotal match ups such as the 2014 Divisional Round game, there is a ton to choose from.
Despite all of this material, the real selling point for this game in the mainstream media has been that Dallas’ number one rushing attack will face their toughest test yet in Green Bay’s number one run defense.
On paper, that seems like a great fight. The Cowboys have been winning with a “throwback” style of power football, but the Packers have the front-seven to match it.
In reality, however, these numbers don’t set up well for the Packers, and Ezekiel Elliott and company should be able to exploit their run defense all game long.
Each of the Packers’ opponents is in the bottom-12 of the league in rushing.
Not only is this true, but three of their first four opponents are in bottom-7 of the league(!) with Detroit coming in at 20th overall. Minnesota, who delivered them their only loss this season, is 30th in the league in terms of rushing, and the Jacksonville Jaguars are dead last.
The Cowboys, on the other hand, are first by a mile. While Tennessee is just 33 yards behind Dallas, the difference between the Cowboys and the 5th team, the Cleveland Browns, is over 150 yards. That is drastic.
So while the Packers have been stuffing JV rushing attacks this year, the have to play the Varsity State Champs this week when the Cowboys come to town. And Ezekiel Elliott is the league’s leading rusher for a reason.
Green Bay is in the bottom-10 against the pass.
Flashback to week two when the Packers traveled to Minnesota to face the Vikings. The Vikings were without Adrian Peterson for most of the game, and couldn’t seem to break off big runs with Matt Asiata or Jerick McKinnon.
So what did they do? They let Stefon Diggs eat and dominate a weak Packers secondary for 182 yards and a touchdown.
Flashback again to week three of the season when the Packers hosted the Lions. After the Packers offense jumped out to a huge lead, the Lions had no choice but to try to throw themselves back into the game. Once down as many as 24 points, the Lions stormed back through the air as Marvin Jones went for 205 yards and 2 touchdowns against this weak secondary.
Why keep slamming your head against a wall early if you know that you can just throw over it whenever you want to?
That has been the mentality of Packers’ opponents so far this season. On Sunday, the Cowboys will break through that wall and have answers for them both through the air and on the ground.
The Cowboys are built for this.
Last week, the Cowboys controlled the line of scrimmage and ran for nearly 200 yards against a front-seven I would argue has much more talent than Green Bay’s does. The week before that, Ezekiel Elliott leaped himself to 140 yards and a blowout victory.
Up front, the Cowboys have the chance to be dominant each and every week. Zack Martin, Travis Frederick, and Tyron Smith are playing like the studs we know they are and Ron Leary and Doug Free have stepped up in big ways to play some great football.
Now that the offensive line and Elliott have a few games together under their belt, we have seen them hit their stride and control games from the opening possession. I see no reason why this won’t be the case on Sunday once again. When Ezekiel Elliott was drafted fourth overall this past Spring, the coaching staff was dreaming of games like this to see what he could do.