Cowboys Countdown to Packers

The Cowboys and the Packers hook up for the 11th time at historic Lambeau Field. Here are some stats, trends and notes to keep an eye on as Dallas looks to go 5-1 in a venue where they are 1-9 in franchise history.

WHEN: 3:25 p.m. Central Time

WATCH: FOX (Thom Brennaman & Troy Aikman)

LISTEN: Dallas Cowboys Radio Network; Sirius 83, XM 226; Cowboys app

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10: Green Bay's rank for opposing passer rating -- With opposing quarterbacks combining for a 98.8 passer rating, it lodged the Packers defense as the 10th-worst in the NFL in this category. Mind you: this is a four-name list that is comprised of Blake Bortles, Sam Bradford, Matt Stafford, and Eli Manning. Two of those guys (Bradford, Stafford) are in the top-10 in the league while the others are in the outer rim territories. Guess who else is in the top-10: Dak Prescott with a 101.5 rating we'll get into later. Under Dom Capers, Packers opponents are 17-13-1 when their signal caller has a passer rating above 101.0. The fourth-rounder out of Mississippi State, the Tony Romo heir, will have to once again play beyond his years if the Cowboys want a chance to win at Lambeau Field.

And go ahead and let the national media tell you there's a QB controversy. Or listen to what the players themselves tell


9: The Cowboys' rank for turnover differential in the NFL -- Dallas has a plus-2 in the turnover differential after five weeks. In 2015, that number was a horrendous minus-5 and tied for fourth-worst in the NFL. Rod Marinelli's defense has done a better job in living up to his MO as a defensive coordinator. The challenge could be a little lighter than normal for Marinelli's defense this week as the Packers bring a minus-1 turnover differential with them into Week 6, the 13th-worst in the NFL and tied for third-worst output through Green Bay's first four games in the Mike McCarthy era, which, yes, includes two seasons with the NFL's All-Time Interceptions Leader under center. The Packers offense has been all or nothing in this department in 2016. They have two games with zero turnovers, but when they do commit them, they do it in bunches. Green Bay is going to give the Cowboys defense opportunities, and they must capitalize. The Packers are 2-6 since 2014 when they lose the turnover differential compared to 25-7 when they break even or win the differential.



8: Dak Prescott's passer rating rank -- Prescott holds a 101.5 passer rating, trailing only the Eagles' Carson Wentz's 103.5, which is good for sixth-best in the NFL. But this isn't a measuring contest as much as it is context of how well both Prescott and Wentz have been playing as rookies. Since Capers took over the Green Bay defensive coordinator, no rookie quarterback has ever eclipsed the 100.0 mark in passer rating. In fact, the highest such rating is 99.3 by Russell Wilson in 2012's "Fail Mary" game at Seattle, which is also the penultimate time a rookie quarterback defeated the Packers. In the Capers era, rookie quarterbacks are 3-5 against Green Bay with all the winners having a passer rating above 81.0. Prescott is going to have to outplay that mark to give Dallas a chance to win.

And today? He'll do it without Dez Bryant.


7: Green Bay's rank for red zone defense at home -- The Packers only allow 44.4 percent conversion rate at Lambeau, which is also the same rank overall and tied with Seattle for sixth-best in the league. They are the second team in the top-10 the Cowboys will face. The last team in the top-10, the Giants, limited Dallas to a 1/3 conversion rate inside the red zone and factored dramatically in the Cowboys' one-point loss on Opening Day. The Cowboys are eighth-best in the NFL with a 68.4 red zone conversion rate and drop to 62.5 on the road. The Cowboys must maintain that 2/3 rate on red zone trips if they hope to get their second franchise win in Green Bay.


6: Eddie Lacy's yards per carry -- Sorry to employ a headline porn tactic from the backroom of the four-letter network, but we already have a number five coming up. Plus, it's factual to round up from 5.5 yards per carry up to 6 anyway. Nevertheless, Lacy gains yards and the Cowboys defense surrenders them at 4.6 yards a pop, and that's as Grantland Rice use of a stat as it is a Skip Bayless one. The Giants salted away a win against Dallas in Week 1 with seven runs on their final drive and gained two first downs forcing the Cowboys to exhaust their complement of timeouts. San Francisco gained three first downs with Blaine Gabbert rushing the football before Dallas got on the scoreboard midway through the second quarter and forcing the 49ers back into the narrative the Cowboys laid out for Washington, Chicago, and Cincinnati that compelled them to keep pace with the passing game. With a 13th place ranking for fewest rushing attempts in the league, Green Bay can be coerced into giving on the run if Dallas scores touchdowns and melts the clock.

What has the Cowboys D been coached to do all week?


5: Packers defense's rank for sacks -- Green Bay has tallied 14 sacks, tying them with San Diego and Philadelphia for fifth-most in the NFL. Only Philadelphia joins the Packers as a team having had a bye though. When the average sacks per game is factored into the Packers' total, they would then have 18 sacks and be tied with the Cardinals for the third-most in the NFL. Linebacker Nick Perry alone has more sacks (4.5) than do the New York Giants. Dallas has done a good job protecting Prescott, as he has the sixth-lowest sacks-per-dropback rate in the NFL at 4.3. But Green Bay has an 8.8 sacks-per-dropback percentage and the Cowboys have only faced two teams in the top-15: Chicago (14th) and Cincinnati (15th). The Packers front seven will be the Cowboys offensive line's greatest challenge to date.


4: Number of 100-yard rookie rushers Dom Capers has allowed -- Four over the course of eight seasons with the Packers? Wow. That's impressive. No, that's the course of his entire 15-year career as a defensive coordinator with the Steelers (1992-94), Jaguars (1999-2000), Dolphins (2007), and Packers (2009-16). If it is any correlation, rookie running backs are 2-1 when they rush over 100 yards (Marshawn Lynch and Fred Jackson each had over 100 in '07). Todd Gurley, who had the most among the four rookies, tallied 159 yards on 30 carries, but the Rams still lost 24-10. Capers won't allow Ezekiel Elliott to find any daylight in Lambeau.

Speaking of "100'." Serious fans always read our weekly "Cowboys 100'' for the coolest numbers in the game!


3: Interceptions Aaron Rodgers has tossed on third-down -- To say the Super Bowl XLV MVP is having an irregular start to the season is an understatement. On third down, he has an 86.8 passer rating, which is his third-lowest total through four games since taking over the reins in 2008. And this is a theme that repeats itself across a myriad of categories. Rodgers' 87.7 passer rating is the lowest such total through the first four games of his career, and so are the 876 passing yards. And so is his 56.2 completion percentage. Whether this is due to being out of sync with his receivers or Jordy Nelson trying to get back into the groove after his ACL injury is one of many possible explanations. The fact is the "Bad Man" is vulnerable and the Cowboys defense needs to capitalize.



2: Number of losses Rodgers has had against the NFC East at Lambeau -- Since taking over for Favre in 2008, the former first-rounder in '05 has compiled an 8-2 mark with a 12-5 record overall, playoffs included. Rodgers' 105.0 rating against the Cowboys is his second-lowest against NFC East foes, but it is over the 100.0 mark where Rodgers holds a 37-3 record when that happens at home. Dallas has held Rodgers to less than 100.0 three times in Green Bay since 2008 yet have a 1-2 record. The Cowboys have to capture this ingredient in their recipe for victory, but it won't be easy as the Packers offensive line has only allowed Rodgers to be dropped eight times, the sixth-fewest in the NFL. Meanwhile, Dallas' defense is 12th-worst in the league getting only 10 sacks through five games. Rodgers is 60-15 when he is sacked twice or fewer times.


1: Packers' rank for opposing yards per carry -- Green Bay's defense is so stingy with the run they only surrender 2.0 yards per carry. The second place team are the Jets at 3.0, a full yard behind Green Bay. To give context to how peculiar that is, the average margin of separation between the other eight teams in the top-10 is .1 of a yard. And it's not like Green Bay has played inferior running teams, sans Minnesota. Jacksonville's yard per carry rank jumps from 28th to 12th when you factor out their Green Bay game and substitute the average of all other games. Detroit goes from 23rd to 9th and the Giants from 24th to 16th. In other words, these teams are where they are because they played Green Bay, and their run defense is that legitimate. If Elliott continues his 100-yard streak to four games against Green Bay, it will be a player-of-the-week performance.

The Cowboys don't let you score. The Packers don't let you run. This is where today's game may be won and lost.


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