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Green Bay Packers vs. Dallas Cowboys: Preview and Prediction

Nov 28, 2013; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray (29) runs the ball against the Oakland Raiders in the fourth quarter during a NFL football game on Thanksgiving at AT&T Stadium. Dallas beat Oakland 31-24. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
Brad Gagnon NFL National ColumnistDecember 13, 2013

While the team they're jockeying for the NFC East lead with might get a break by avoiding 2012 MVP Adrian Peterson in Minnesota, the Dallas Cowboys might also get lucky Sunday by avoiding 2011 MVP Aaron Rodgers when the Green Bay Packers come to town. 

Rodgers, who has been out since Week 10 with a collarbone injury, has been practicing but still hadn't been cleared as of noon ET Friday. A reported meeting with doctors is expected to tip the scales one way or the other by the time the weekend arrives. 

Still, can anyone stop anybody here? The Cowboys might truly have the worst defense in the league, and now they're facing Green Bay on short rest. But the Packers D has given up at least 26 points in seven of their last eight games.

So expect a shootout in Big D, regardless of who's throwing passes for the visiting team. Here's our final preview of the matchup from Dallas' perspective, along with a prediction...

 

What Dallas must do to win, offensive edition

Give it to DeMarco Murray all day long. Green Bay has a pretty good pass rush and Clay Matthews is always a threat, but the Packers have surrendered at least 170 rushing yards in four of their last six games. Plus, the Cowboys are especially good when they're balanced and Murray has been running it well. 

 

What Dallas must do to win, defensive edition

Tackle players in green. That would be a good start, anyway, based on the debacle that took place in Chicago on Monday night. This D is so banged up and so down on its luck right now that it might require some timely turnovers to survive this game. To their credit, they had been taking the ball away quite a bit before the Bears game. 

 

Five most important non-quarterbacks

Murray: Since he came back from injury in Week 9, Murray has averaged 6.0 yards per carry, which ranks second to only Jamaal Charles during that span.

Cole Beasley: If the Cowboys can spread things out once in a while, they might get some extremely favorable matchups between Beasley and Micah Hyde in the slot. Hyde is not very good. Just a hunch, but Beasley could have a big day.

Tyron Smith: Not only will Smith have to deal with Matthews, but he's also a force as a run blocker. They run his way about twice as often as they run right, according to Football Outsiders.

DeMarcus Ware and Sean Lee: If they're going to stop the Packers in the air or on the ground—and Green Bay has been sneaky good at running the ball this yearthey have to get strong performances from their best two players. Neither is 100 percent, though, so don't get your hopes up.

Nothing has to give (since Week 9)
Yards/carry (rank)YPA allowed (rank)
DeMarco Murray6.0 (2nd)X
Packers defenseX5.0 (29th)
Pro Football Reference

Injury analysis, Packers edition

We've talked about Rodgers. But the Packers have also been without running back Eddie Lacy in practice this week. He's been wearing a walking boot on his right foot after spraining an ankle last Sunday, but Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com's reports that the Packers feel good about the rookie's chances of suiting up.

Linebacker Brad Jones has also been missing practice time with an ankle injury. The Packers could be quite thin in the linebacking corps, because Jamari Lattimore (knee) and Mike Neal (abdomen) have also been out.

 

Injury analysis, Cowboys edition

The Dallas defense is still quite a mess.  Lee wasn't seen at practice Friday, according to ESPN.com's Todd Archer, and linebacker Bruce Carter, cornerback Morris Claiborne and wide receiver Dwayne Harris are all likely to sit Sunday due to hamstring injuries. At least it looks like they'll get Justin Durant back in that linebacking corps. 

I just can't see this D making a lot of stops in their current state. 

 

B/R NFC East blog prediction: Packers 30, Cowboys 27

If Rodgers plays, this is obvious to me. But right now, I can see the Pack winning with Matt Flynn, who played pretty well last week against Atlanta. Dallas is just a mess in December.

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