Packers vs. Cowboys playoff preview: Who has the edge in turnovers and situationally?

The Green Bay Packers (9-8) are going on the road to play the Dallas Cowboys (12-5) in the NFC Wild Card Round on Sunday at AT&T Stadium. At most sportsbooks, the seventh-seeded Packers are touchdown underdogs.

Football is a complicated game, but finding the reasons for winning individual matchups between teams each week is often a straightforward exercise. What wins games? Excellent quarterback play, winning the line of scrimmage, taking care of the football and taking it away, controlling the important situations and overcoming or taking advantage of the injury situation.

So, who has the edge in terms of turnovers and the game’s big situations?

Here are some relevant numbers:




18 (23rd)

26 (12th)


7 (31st)

17 (8th)

Fumbles recovered

11 (8th)

9 (17th)


18 (6th)

16 (2nd)

Interceptions thrown

11 (10th)

10 (6th)

Fumbles lost

7 (9th)

6 (4th)

Turnover differential

0 (16th)

+10 (5th)

W-L when winning turnover battle



Defensive TDs

2 (10th)

6 (1st)

Third down % (offense)

47.1 (5th)

48.3 (3rd)

Third down % (defense)

41.1 (25th)

37.4 (14th)

Third down passer rating

98.6 (10th)

116.7 (1st)

Red zone TD% (offense)

51.6 (20th)

56.3 (14th)

Red zone TD% (defense)

50.9 (10th)

56.3 (19th)

Red zone TD passes

24 (2nd)

27 (1st)

Fourth down % (offense)

50.0 (16th)

56.6 (9th)

Fourth down % (defense)

46.7 (8th)

51.4 (18th)

Points off turnover on downs

24 (3rd)

42 (1st)

The Packers are in for a big challenge in terms of winning the ball and winning the big situations. The Cowboys don’t give the ball away frequently, are excellent at creating game-changing takeaways (especially defensive touchdowns) and could enjoy a huge advantage in one particularly important situation — on third down when they have the football. And no team has been better at making fourth down failures hurt going the other way.

Dak Prescott has thrown only nine interceptions this season, and the Packers are second to last in taking the ball away via interception. In fact, Green Bay’s defense has just two interceptions over the last eight games. In last year’s meeting, Prescott threw a pair of interceptions to Rudy Ford, including one in the end zone.

DaRon Bland, the Cowboys’ Pro Bowl cornerback, led the NFL in interceptions with nine, more than the Packers’ entire defensive total in 2023. He returned five of the picks for touchdowns, setting a new NFL record. The Packers do have an antidote: Jordan Love has thrown only one interception in the last eight games and three in the last 10 after throwing at least one in six of his first eight games.

The Cowboys also have 11 players who have forced a fumble this season. The Packers didn’t lose a fumble during the first nine games but then lost seven over the final 10 games, including three lost fumbles by Love over the final five games.

During the Packers’ three-game win streak over the Chargers, Lions and Chiefs, the defense created five takeaways, including a red-zone fumble recovery against the Chargers, a defensive touchdown against the Lions and a huge fourth quarter interception of Patrick Mahomes against the Chiefs. Matt LaFleur’s team delivered at least one takeaway in six of the last eight games.

The Packers have scored 65 points off 18 takeaways and allowed only 34 points off 18 giveaways, good for a +31 points off turnovers ratio. Overall, the Packers have only allowed four touchdowns following turnovers, and they scored points off takeaways in five of the final seven games.

Getting even one takeaway could be huge for the Packers. The Cowboys are 6-0 when they play turnover free in 2023 but are 6-5 when they have at least one giveaway. Playing clean on offense is also a huge key. The Cowboys were 0-4 and gave up 28 or more points three times when they didn’t get a takeaway this season.

The Packers were 5-1 when they didn’t turn the ball over in 2023.

The red zone figures to be another huge area. Green Bay’s offense has been hot and cold inside the 20-yard line, but Sunday’s showdown isn’t a game where the Packers can settle for short field goals and expect to win. And keeping Prescott and the Cowboys out of the end zone a few times — playing bend but don’t break — will likely be required in a game expecting a lot of points from both sides.

On third down, Prescott was the NFL’s best quarterback by passer rating, so it’s no surprise the Cowboys are elite at converting first downs. The Packers’ third down defense has been an issue all season.

Based on the numbers, the Cowboys get the edge in both turnovers and situationally entering Sunday. Can the Packers find a way to win the turnover battle, avoid a game-changing mistake, score touchdowns in the red zone and survive against Prescott on third down?

Story originally appeared on Packers Wire