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Cowboys facing Packers with finger near the panic button

In Sports
January 12, 2024

One of two things will happen over the next couple weeks: Either the Dallas Cowboys will advance past the divisional round of the playoffs for the first time since the 1995 season, or they’ll take a home loss that will send their fan base into a full revolt.

The Cowboys got the No. 2 seed in the NFC East, which means they won’t be on the road until the NFC championship game at the earliest. And the Cowboys were 8-0 at home this season. It means that a playoff run that ends before the NFC title game would be seen as an absolute failure.

The Green Bay Packers will be trying to make it a long, long offseason in Dallas by knocking off the Cowboys as the No. 7 seed.

Packers (9-8) at Cowboys (12-5)

Sunday, 4:30 p.m. ET, Fox

Betting line: Cowboys -7.5, total of 50.5

Super Bowl odds: Packers +8000, Cowboys +750

Odds vis BetMGM

Why we’re watching

This Cowboys offense is really fun, particularly at home. They led the NFL with 509 points. That’s tied for 22nd most in NFL history.

Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys won the NFC East title with a win in the season finale. (Photo by Perry Knotts/Getty Images)

The engine of Dallas’ offense is the Dak Prescott-to-CeeDee Lamb connection. Dallas led the NFL with 36 passing touchdowns. Prescott threw for 4,516 yards. Lamb continued his ascent with a ridiculous 135-catch, 1,749-yard, 12-touchdown season. The Cowboys also had a 1,000-yard rusher in Tony Pollard.

If you like fun offensive football, Dallas is a pretty good team for it.

What could put us to sleep

The Packers have had an up-and-down season. They finished it well with three wins to make the playoffs, but there were some ugly losses too. They looked bad in road losses to the Giants and Raiders this season. The Buccaneers torched their defense in Lambeau Field.

Green Bay did well to make the playoffs as they moved on from the Aaron Rodgers era. Jordan Love had a promising season, particularly in the second half. But if there’s one game that could get out of hand this wild-card weekend, this one might be it. Dallas is very good at home. The Packers are deserving of a playoff spot but also capable of being blown out on the road by a strong team. Maybe this won’t be close.

Wild card of this wild card

As long as Jaire Alexander doesn’t run out for the coin toss without permission, he will have a big role for the Packers. Alexander didn’t have a great season, but he’s still the Packers’ most talented cornerback and gives the defense its best chance to slow down CeeDee Lamb. Green Bay doesn’t always shadow Alexander on the other team’s No. 1 receiver, but this might be a good week to do so. Lamb is one of the best receivers in the NFL, he’s clearly the focal point of Dallas’ offense and Green Bay isn’t going to win if he goes off. Alexander will presumably be the Packers’ best option to keep Lamb from a monster game.

Person we’ll likely praise after the victory

Cowboys cornerback DaRon Bland had a dream season. He led the NFL with nine interceptions, five of which he returned for touchdowns. He ended up as the No. 2 cornerback in Pro Football Focus’ season grades and made his first Pro Bowl. The Packers have some talented young receivers, especially if Christian Watson returns to the lineup, and Bland will be a key to slowing them down. Love wasn’t too bad in throwing interceptions this season, but Bland is always a threat to make a game-changing play.

Person we’ll likely second-guess after the loss

If the Cowboys lose, well, Mike McCarthy might want to get rid of his phone, all his TVs, his radios and move to a remote island for a while. If the game goes as expected, Packers fans will complain about Joe Barry again and wonder why he wasn’t fired a year ago. Barry, the team’s defensive coordinator, has been under constant heat for a while. There have been games in which Green Bay’s defense has been awful, such as giving up a perfect passer rating to Baker Mayfield at Lambeau Field, when New York Giants quarterback Tommy DeVito led a victory, or even when Bryce Young had by far the best game of his rookie season in a Carolina Panthers loss to the Packers.

Dallas’ offense is very hard to stop and if the Cowboys light it up, there will be more calls for Barry to lose his job.

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