Behind Enemy Lines: Matchups

We break down the matchups on both sides of the ball that will dictate the outcome of Sunday night's game against Dallas. Leading off: The Packers need to keep DeMarcus Ware from hitting Aaron Rodgers.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH: PACKERS OFFENSE

OTs Chad Clifton and Bryan Bulaga vs. OLB DeMarcus Ware

Ware is tied for second in the NFL with eight sacks, including seven in the last five games. Typically, Ware lines up against the offensive tackle opposite the tight end, so he'll see about the same amount of the veteran Clifton and the rookie Bulaga. The 34-year-old Clifton, after three superlative performances, wasn't at his best against the Jets, and now he has a sore hamstring to go with his chronically sore knee. Ware had two sacks in last year's game, though those came against T.J. Lang, who was making his first career start at right tackle. Ware has eight of the Cowboys' 16 sacks, so Dallas needs a strong performance.

Wide receivers vs. CB Mike Jenkins

Jenkins, a first-round pick in 2008, made the Pro Bowl last season after picking off five passes. In a stunning fall from grace, Jenkins has been horrible this year. He leads the NFL in pass interference penalties with five — all coming in a three-week span — and, according to STATS, opposing quarterbacks have completed 21-of-34 passes against him for 373 yards. Dallas probably will use standout Terence Newman against Greg Jennings as much as it can, which will leave Jenkins matched on Jordy Nelson or James Jones. This is a matchup the Packers must exploit.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH: PACKERS DEFENSE

OLB Clay Matthews vs. RT Marc Colombo


Clay Matthews
Scott Boehm/Getty Images
Clay Matthews leads the NFL with 9.5 sacks, though six came in the first two weeks. Defensive coordinator Dom Capers likes to move Matthews around based on matchups, and he might want to test Colombo early and often. The towering Colombo, who is battling a sore back, has allowed three sacks this season. Colombo will use his long arms to his advantage, but Matthews' quickness and ability to get low could be an asset against the 6-foot-8 veteran.

CB Charles Woodson vs. WR Miles Austin

Dallas might be 1-6 but that has nothing to do with its receiving corps. That wasn't the case last year, which allowed Capers to stick Woodson on tight end Jason Witten, a battle that Woodson dominated. With the addition of first-round pick Dez Bryant and the resurgence of Roy Williams, the Packers won't have that luxury. Austin is Dallas' leading receiver with 43 catches, doing most of his work in the slot from three-receiver sets. Woodson mans the slot in those three-receiver situations.

PACKERS WILL WIN IF ...

... Aaron Rodgers finds some of the magic of 2009. Last week, Jaguars quarterback David Garrard roasted the Cowboys' defense for four touchdown passes and a touchdown run. Block Ware and attack Jenkins and Dallas' suspect safeties.

PACKERS LOSE WIN IF ...

... Nelson and Jones don't produce in place of injured Donald Driver. Without Driver and Jermichael Finley, the Packers' passing game needs someone to take some of the burden off of Jennings.

COWBOYS WILL WIN IF ...

... Dez Bryant has a big game. On offense, the Cowboys' first-round pick will try to use his size advantage against Tramon Williams and Sam Shields. On special teams, he's averaging 16.5 yards per punt return with two touchdowns. Green Bay needs another big performance from punter Tim Masthay.

COWBOYS WILL LOSE IF ...

... They go through the motions, like they did against the Jaguars. Dallas has a ton of talent but are the players going to fight for Wade Phillips, who probably should have the movers on speed dial?

BILL'S PREDICTION

If you're just looking at players, Dallas is the better team — especially against a Green Bay club with 10 players on injured reserve. But the only thing that matters "on paper" is the standings. Green Bay is 5-3 and Dallas is 1-6 for a reason. The Packers have been finding ways to win games. The Cowboys have been finding ways to lose games. Packers 27, Cowboys 17.


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.


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