Dallas Cowboys (1-6) at Green Bay Packers (5-3)
Kickoff: 7:20 p.m. Sunday.
TV: NBC (Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, Andrea Kremer).
Keys to the game
One the road with a backup quarterback behind an aging offensive line and with a receiving corps that tipped multiple passes that turned into interceptions last week, Dallas must establish the run early. The Cowboys are averaging just 3.7 yards per carry, but the Packers are ranked 25th against the run and Dallas doesn't want to fall behind and force the issue against Green Bay's opportunistic secondary. The Packers' offense is highly one-dimensional and will move the ball if QB Aaron Rodgers is protected. Rodgers will be without 12-year veteran WR Donald Driver (quadriceps) and needs James Jones and Jordy Nelson to pick up the slack.
Fast facts: Cowboys WR Miles Austin, who is tied for the league lead with six dropped passes, will play without receiver gloves this week. ... Driver has missed seven games since his debut with the Packers on Nov. 14, 1999.
By the numbers
The Packers rank 16th in the NFL in offense (22nd rushing, 10th passing) and 18th in defense (25th rushing, 17th passing). Dallas ranks fourth in offense (31st rushing, third passing) and 14th in defense (24th rushing, 10th passing). With a plus-three in turnovers last week, the Packers are up to plus-2 for the season, which ranks in a tie for 13th. Dallas is tied for 24th at minus-5.
Inside the Cowboys
Doom and gloom abounds at the Cowboys' training complex.
The team is 1-6 and off to their worst since going 1-15 in 1989.
But receiver Roy Williams still has hope.
"You know me. I think we can go nine in a row," Williams said. "People can call me stupid or whatever but this football team has the core of players, it has the supporting cast of players to win nine in row. We just got to get it started just for other players to be like, `Alright, we got it now.'"
Williams said the Cowboys need to get to 10-6 to make the playoffs. He said if they do it will be a historic and miraculous achievement.
"It would be a great storybook ending," Williams. "It would be awesome. I don't know if they'd put us in the Hall of Fame for that if this was going to go on and win the Super Bowl, but it's a tough feat to cross but if there is any team in the league that can do it, it's the Dallas Cowboys. I've been a believer in this football team. I don't know if everybody's believing but I think wins — you get one, two, three in a row, then it's, 'Oh, this is the team we're supposed to be.'"
The sad thing is the Cowboys are playing like Williams' old lowly Detroit Lions teams. He played for the Lions and never made the playoffs or had a winning season before coming to Dallas in 2008.
"I told a teammate yesterday I thought I was done with the 1-6s and all that," Williams said. "That goes to show you that it doesn't matter who you are, what team you are, whoever, you better come to play every Sunday or you're going to be 1-6, 1-15 or 3-13 or whatever it may be. But you've got to come to play every Sunday."
If the 1-6 Cowboys truly have mailed it in for 2010, as many suspect, then the Packers should be able to overcome their never-ending rash of injuries to extend their winning streak to a season-high three games and go into the bye week on an upswing as the NFC North leaders with a 6-3 record. Yet, given the nationally televised attention for the prime-time game, a talented Dallas team can't be overlooked even without star quarterback Tony Romo.
The Packers ostensibly catch a break that the aging Jon Kitna will be under center and likely throwing a bunch with little movement in the pocket. That should sway defensive coordinator Dom Capers to dial up the blitzes after he toned down the pressure in the last game to account for the New York Jets' run-heavy offense. The Packers pass offense is sputtering and will be without injured wideout Donald Driver and possibly rookie tight end Andrew Quarless because of injuries. Thus, coach Mike McCarthy could be inclined to play things close to the vest and rely on a short passing game to offset the Dallas pass rush, supplemented by a greater use of the run against the Cowboys' struggling rush defense.
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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 email@example.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.