'Boys/Packers Preview & Prediction

Cowboys QB Tony Romo picked the Packers apart to the tune of 309 passing yards and four TDs last season.

KICKOFF: Sunday, 8:15 ET

GAMEDATE: 9/21/08


TV: NBC (Al Michaels, John Madden, Andrea Kremer)

SERIES: 28th meeting. Cowboys lead series, 15-12. The Cowboys are 0-5 all time in Green Bay. Green Bay won the last meeting in Green Bay, 41-20 in 2004.

KEYS TO THE GAME: Cowboys QB Tony Romo picked the Packers apart to the tune of 309 passing yards and four TDs last season. WR Terrell Owens is a mismatch with his ability to beat the bump-and-run coverage and superior speed to CBs Al Harris and Charles Woodson, although deep help could improve if Aaron Rouse plays in place of SS Atari Bigby. The Packers have little choice but to come after Romo, which will leave play-making TE Jason Witten in a lot of single coverage. ... Deep coverage is again a concern for the Cowboys, who hope converted FS Pat Watkins can provide better protection than injured SS Roy Williams. However, there is a significant drop-off in run support. Packers RB Ryan Grant is still playing a limited amount of snaps and backup Brandon Jackson will again figure into the backfield mix. Keeping QB Aaron Rodgers, who has yet to throw an interception, on the move will protect him from the Cowboys' pass rush.

KEY INJURIES: Cowboys: LG Kyle Kosier (foot) is practicing and might play; CB Terence Newman (groin) should start after playing the nickel against Philadelphia; Williams (forearm) is out 3-4 weeks. Packers: Bigby (hamstring) is likely out; C Scott Wells (back) will likely be replaced by Jason Spitz for one more game; Woodson (broken toe) isn't practicing much but will play.

FAST FACTS: The Cowboys are 0-5 at Lambeau Field and 1-6 all-time on the road against the Packers. ... Romo was raised in Burlington, Wis., about 2 1/2 hours south of Lambeau Field.

COWBOYS PERSONNEL NEWS: LB Anthony Spencer, who played last week after being out since the first preseason game with a bone bruise on his knee, missed practice on Thursday. It's a setback of sorts and his status for Sunday's game against the Packers is unclear.

--OG Kyle Kosier practiced for the second straight day after being out for four weeks with a sprained right foot. He missed the first two games but is hoping to be on the field for Sunday's game against the Packers.

"I feel good," Kosier said. "We'll see how it goes."

Kosier wants to see how his foot reacts to practices this week before making a final determination.

--LB Zach Thomas is leading the Cowboys with 20 tackles after two games and putting to rest any concerns about him being past his prime or lingering concussion issues from last season.

"I hope so," Thomas said, when asked about him putting to rest the preseason concerns. "I just know there is a reason I am still playing. I have a lot of pride and my play hasn't dropped. I feel better than ever. I just know I can still run around and have fun and make plays. That's the reason I am here."

--TE Tony Curtis will draw the assignment of playing fullback in place of the injured Deon Anderson. All the tight ends will have some responsibility in picking up the slack since Anderson was the only fullback on the roster and the team does not plan on signing another one. Anderson should be back in 2-4 weeks. Curtis will be the one who does most of the work at fullback.

"It's not an easy task that Deon does as a fullback, but I think collectively we can get the job done," said TE Jason Witten. "Tony Curtis, more than any of us, is going to have to step up and take that challenge."

Witten played five snaps at fullback against the Eagles last Monday. But considering his value to the passing game and catching balls down field, he will likely not see a lot of time at fullback against the Packers.

PACKERS PERSONNEL NOTES: CB Charles Woodson, like last week, won't be involved in any practices this week as he nurses a broken right toe. Woodson, though, should be ready to make the start Sunday night against Dallas.

--RB Ryan Grant was held out of the team portion of practice Thursday for the second straight day, as planned, and is expected to go through the full practice Friday. Grant has been given extra time to allow a lingering sore hamstring to heal. He is expected to be in the starting lineup Sunday.

--SS Atari Bigby has yet to practice this week because of a strained hamstring and isn't expected to play Sunday. Aaron Rouse, who started three games as a rookie last year, will get the start alongside Nick Collins.

--C Scott Wells had full participation in practice Thursday, his second straight day of work since returning from an aggravated muscle strain in his lower back. Wells has a shot to be activated for the first time this season Sunday, but Jason Spitz took the majority of the reps at center with the No. 1 unit and figures to remain the starter.

--FB Korey Hall and TE Tory Humphrey, who suffered sprained knees in the game Sunday at Detroit, are slated to return to practice Friday. A determination will be made thereafter on whether one or both of them will be able to play Sunday.

--G Josh Sitton also went through the entire practice Thursday but was confined to scout-team work. The rookie likely won't be up for this game as he continues to recover from a torn MCL in his left knee, sustained Aug. 22.

INSIDE THE DALLAS CAMP: The more the Cowboys see of running back Felix Jones, the more they want to get him the ball.

He had a touchdown on his first official NFL carry -- an 11-yard run against the Browns to go along with 62 yards on nine carries.

Against the Eagles in Week 2, he was simply dazzling, setting a club record with 247 kickoff return yards, including returns of 41, 43 and 98 yards for a touchdown.

He was named NFC Special Teams Player of the Week.

The funny thing is that coach Wade Phillips initially didn't want to use Jones on kickoff returns, thinking he was too valuable and not wanting to risk injury.

The folly was that Jones was one of the best kickoff returners in NCAA history and had Devin Hester-like potential of doing the same thing for the Cowboys.

Injuries to receivers Miles Austin and Isaiah Stanback forced Phillips' hand, setting the stage for Monday's heroics.

Phillips jokes now that he had planned all along on using Jones on kickoff returns.

Now the Cowboys face the dilemma of finding a way to get Jones the ball in the regular offense without diminishing the role of Pro Bowl running back Marion Barber.

"It's not easy because we've got such a great back already back there that can make a big play for you at any time," coach Wade Phillips said. "But I think he gives you a little juice at times and we're going to try to work him in more and more. We have specific plays, some of them we didn't get in for him, some of them we did in the game."

INSIDE THE GREEN BAY CAMP: Some of the players on Green Bay's defense have been casually mentioning to reporters this week the likelihood of some wrinkles being put in for the game plan against Dallas on Sunday night.

Perhaps the biggest twist that could come to the forefront as the Packers try to stifle the high-powered attack of the Cowboys in the matchup of 2-0 teams at Lambeau Field is who lines up across receiver Terrell Owens.

Cornerback Al Harris, who typically gets the one-on-one duty against the opponent's top wideout, has been unusually quiet in the locker room. In fact, Harris was adamant Wednesday in saying, "I won't be talking this week."

With the Packers' coaches and other players being tight-lipped about personnel assignments, Harris' self-muted disposition might stem from frustration if he's been told that he won't be on Owens.

Harris was overmatched by Owens in the teams' meeting last season at Texas Stadium. Owens brushed aside Harris' aggressive coverage tactics and hauled in seven passes for 156 yards and a touchdown in the Cowboys' 37-27 win. Although he earned a trip to the Pro Bowl for the first time in 2007, the 33-year-old Harris has lost his stranglehold of recent years for being a shutdown corner. The New York Giants' Plaxico Burress repeatedly embarrassed Harris in the Packers' overtime loss in the NFC Championship Game at Lambeau.

Charles Woodson, only two years younger than Harris, has become the Packers' most dependable cornerback.

Even when he's not in optimum health.

Woodson suffered a broken right toe in the Sept. 8 season opener this year. He played on it Sunday after not practicing during the preceding week and had one of the best performances in his 11-year career, intercepting two passes late in the game and returning one for a touchdown to cement a 48-25 comeback win.

Although Woodson won't have a single practice rep again this week, he is expected to be fine for Sunday night and stands a decent chance of replacing Harris as Owens' adversary. The Packers put Woodson on Calvin Johnson, now viewed as Detroit's top receiver over Roy Williams, in the last game.

Packers head coach Mike McCarthy on Thursday continued to praise Woodson's ability for not only being able to play hurt but rising to the occasion in the face of the adversity.

"Exceptional," McCarthy said. "(He manages with) a lot of film study. We have a pretty good history here. He's missed some practice time in his time here, and it's something that he's definitely individually been able to overcome."

Woodson was sorely missed in last year's game against Dallas. He had suffered an injury to a different toe in the previous game, and McCarthy, on the advice of the medical staff, elected to hold him out so as to not risk losing Woodson for an extended period late in the season.

If the Packers indeed throw in the wrinkle of Woodson taking the primary coverage on Owens -- something that wouldn't surprise Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo -- then Harris will still have an important assignment challenging Patrick Crayton, who had two touchdown catches in last year's game against the Packers.

Another potential schematic alteration is utilizing backup linebacker Brandon Chillar's pass-coverage skills in an attempt to neutralize playmaking tight end Jason Witten. Chillar is an upgrade in that capacity over strong-side linebacker Brady Poppinga.

PREDICTION: Cowboys 33-24

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