The bye week is a nice time to sit back, relax, and watch football free of worries. While that’s a fan’s perspective, the Dallas Cowboys and their players were still putting in the time preparing for their Week 10 opponent, the Green Bay Packers.
Cowboys players were likely taking some much-deserved time off from the facility after putting in 13 weeks in a row, but football wasn’t far from their minds. The coaching staff was assuredly working with the second half of the schedule in sight, and it kicks off with the Packers in storied Lambeau Field.
This won’t be an easy game for the Cowboys, who are running into a Packers team due to play better. Losers of five straight games, Green Bay is in one of their worst slumps in the Aaron Rodgers era. Here are six things to know about the Packers as the Cowboys prepare to extend their misery for another game in Week 10.
This isn't just another game
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Despite the Packers being one of the worst teams in the league right now, and the Cowboys being one of the best, this isn’t just another run of the mill game for either side.
There’s enough of a history between these two teams to make it an interesting matchup no matter when then play. Some of the more memorable games include the Ice Bowl, the Dez-caught-it game, and the 2017 Divisional round when rookie QB Dak Prescott led a furious comeback, only to have Rodgers steal it away with a miracle throw to tight end Jared Cook.
A few of those games came with Rodgers and current Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy leading the way to torture Dallas. Now, they’ll be on opposite sidelines and there’s no love lost between the QB and his former coach.
This one may mean more for McCarthy, who was fired from the Packers due in part because of his icy relationship with his former quarterback. McCarthy was replaced, yet Rodgers stayed to continue to lead the storied franchise.
Throw out the records for this game; McCarthy will try to leave some salt in the wounds of the Packers and Rodgers, while Rodgers will be laser focused to beat the Cowboys, his old coach, and get Green Bay back on the winning track. It has all the makings of another classic game between two of the NFL’s most glamorous teams.
Packers are struggling
This Packers’ season started like many in the last 10 years. They lost the season opener, but quickly went on a winning streak. Green Bay was 3-1 when they left for London to play the New York Giants, but the writing might have been on the wall.
The Packers beat the division rival Chicago Bears, as they usually do, then barely beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New England Patriots in overtime to get to three wins.
Then a trip overseas started a downward spiral the Packers haven’t gotten out of yet. Green Bay blew a 10-point lead to the Giants, failed to score a second half touchdown in that game and have been struggling even since. After losing in London, the Packers have gone on to lose four more in a row, for a total of five straight losses and a record of 3-6.
The Packers haven’t been 3-6 or worse since 2005 when quarterback Brett Favre was under center and hadn’t gone winless in five straight games since the 2013 season when they were missing Rodgers due to injury.
During the losing streak the offense for the Packers is averaging under 16 points a game as Rodgers hasn’t been sharp. Rodgers has thrown eight touchdowns in the last five games but threw an uncharacteristic three interceptions in his last game.
Only the second time Aaron Rodgers has thrown three interceptions in a game over the last *decade*.
— Bill Barnwell (@billbarnwell) November 6, 2022
It’s an offense that is trying to find a rhythm, but hasn’t been able to sync their rushing game up with their passing attack since their Week 4 win over the Patriots. Rodgers’ struggles are unusual and the Cowboys want to keep it that way.
Dallas’ defense need to keep the Packers’ offense off balanced if they’re going to win the game.
They've got injury questions
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The Packers were relatively healthy heading into last week’s contest with the Lions but came out of it with some key injuries. Linebacker Rashan Gary, who tore his ACL, was the biggest casualty.
Gary led Green Bay’s defense in sacks with six and was among the league leaders in pressures before he went down. Without him, linebacker Preston Smith takes over as the leading pass rusher for the Packers with 3.5 sacks on the season.
Rookie wide receiver Romeo Doubs suffered a high-ankle sprain in the loss, which takes away another option for Rodgers in the passing game. Doubs was third in catches, second in targets, and third in receiving yards for the offense. It’s a loss that will sting, the Packers’ passing game was already missing veteran receiver Randall Cobb, and there isn’t much depth at the position.
Cornerback Eric Stokes also left the Week 9 loss with knee and ankle injuries. The second-year CB was one of the top three corners on the Packers and his status is up in the air for the game against the Cowboys.
Star running back Aaron Jones was banged up against the Lions with an ankle injury, but he’s expected to play. The other significant contributor who is questionable to play is linebacker De’vondre Campbell.
It’s Week 10 in the NFL, so teams are usually fighting through injuries at this time of the year. However, the Packers have some key pieces either missing, or questionable to play. The Cowboys should be able to take advantage of the banged-up Packers.
For the full initial injury report for both teams, click here.
Two-headed monster at RB
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The Cowboys have dealt with their fair share of strong backfields this season and the Packers offer another challenge. The tandem of running backs Aaron Jones and AJ Dillion brings thunder and lighting to a potential weather game.
Jones is the quicker, shiftier dual-threat back, with three receiving scores, and leads the team in rushing with 600 yards on the ground. His 5.6 yards a carry is among the highest in the league, although Jones only has one rushing touchdown on the year. The Packers do not allow Jones to have enough touches, especially in the red zone, and Cowboys fans have to hope that’s the case again this week.
Packers ran 33 plays in the first half. 6 went to Aaron Jones. I cannot get over the absurdity of not using your best player over and over and over and over again. I mean for all things holy trade him at the deadline if you’re not going to use him.
— Andy Herman (@AndyHermanNFL) November 6, 2022
Dillon is more of the power back and was expected to have a larger role in the offense this season. His role might have increased, but Dillon’s production hasn’t matched the hype, he’s averaging 4.0 yards a carry and has just one rushing touchdown through nine games.
The duo hasn’t taken off yet, and with the struggles in the passing game, it was expected that the running game was going to ease those concerns for the Packers on offense. It hasn’t happened yet, but Jones and Dillon are formidable one-two punch. The last time Jones faced off against the Cowboys, he torched them for 182 total yards and four scores.
Slowing down the tandem of Jones and Dillon is essential if the Cowboys want to win this game.
Pass rush lacks bite
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The Packers are in the middle of the pack when it comes to getting to the quarterback. With just 17 sacks on the season, Green Bay’s defense hasn’t put enough pressure on opposing offenses, especially recently. During their five-game losing streak, the Packers have just six sacks.
Now, with Gary out for the season, it gets worse for their defense. The Packers have just 11 total sacks remaining on the roster, and although Smith is now the active leader with 3.5, he doesn’t have a sack in the last four games.
It’s a surprise to see the Packers struggling to get to the QB since their secondary is among the league’s best. The Packers allow the second fewest passing yards in the league, giving up just 170.6 yards a game. In many cases, the ability to cover on the back end helps the pass rushers get to the quarterback. A good secondary usually means an increase in sacks, but that hasn’t been the case for the Packers.
The Cowboys are among the best in the business at preventing sacks, their QBs have been sacked just 12 times through eight games. Dak Prescott should be nice and cozy in the pocket.
Packers can be run on
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The pass defense for the Packers is very good, led by All-Pro cornerback Jaire Alexander. However, offenses are attacking the rush defense for the Packers, who rank 26th against the run.
Green Bay is allowing 138.6 yards on the ground per game, a rough number that’s gotten 10 yards worse during their losing streak. In the last five games the Packers have given up 125, 179, 166, 153 and 117 yards respectively on the ground.
Offenses are having trouble throwing it against the Packers, so they’ve figured out that running on the Green Bay defense is a better way to move the ball. With their running back duo of Ezekiel Elliott, who is expected back after a one-game absence, and Tony Pollard, the rushing attack should be a big part of the offense for the Cowboys in Week 10.