Packers-Cowboys: Game plans, key matchups

Dallas will try to pound away at Packers' front seven; Harris vs. Owens; DE's vs. OT's

GAME PLAN: As Brett Favre so eloquently put it on Sunday, "Something's got to give," in this potential NFC championship preview. The winner all but assures itself of home-field advantage throughout the conference playoffs, which would be huge for the Packers in frigid climates in January.

Favre could have easily been referring to the game within the game between the league's No. 2 (Dallas) and 3 (Green Bay) offenses. The Packers will continue spreading things out with four- and five-receiver sets until a team steps up with enough personnel to create a roadblock. It behooves Green Bay, though, to initiate a ball-control attack, intermixing short passes and occasional runs from Ryan Grant because of its injury woes on defense.

Cornerback Charles Woodson is iffy to play with a toe injury, and pass-rushing specialist Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila has been nursing a sprained ankle. Coupled with setbacks at defensive tackle, the Packers will be hard pressed to contain Dallas if it dominates time of possession. Controlling things up front against the two-headed monster of Julius Jones and Marion Barber coming out of the backfield will be imperative.

Packers CB Al Harris vs. Cowboys WR Terrell Owens

Even if Woodson manages to play on a damaged big toe, Harris will be shadowing Owens from start to finish. The battle will be won at the line of scrimmage, where Harris has frustrated many a top receiver by using more guile and footwork than strong-armed tactics to get his opponent off kilter in the route.

Harris is giving up at least a couple inches in height to Owens, so jump balls will favor the receiver. Owens had his way against the Packers, Harris included, in their last meeting -- eight catches for 161 yards and a touchdown while with the Eagles in 2004.

Packers SS Atari Bigby vs. Cowboys TE Jason Witten
Provided Harris holds his own with Owens, Dallas undoubtedly will turn to Witten to get the passing game moving. Bigby has been a central figure in Green Bay's vulnerability defending capable tight ends. San Diego's Antonio Gates, Washington's Chris Cooley and Kansas City's Tony Gonzalez had 100-yard performances, while Chicago's Greg Olsen and Desmond Clark combined for triple digits.

Head coach Mike McCarthy gave a vote of confidence to Bigby this week, but it could be a make-it-or-break-it game for the young safety with rookie Aaron Rouse showing himself the last two games to be a better fit for defending the pass over the middle of the field.

The Cowboys want to control the ball and the tempo on offense and keep Packers quarterback Brett Favre off the field. Look for the Cowboys to pound the running game and then make plays up top with the play-action pass. Defensively, they must stop the run and harass Favre with constant pressure.

Packers ends Aaron Kampman and Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila vs. Cowboys tackles Marc Colombo and Flozell Adams

Kampman and Gbaja-Biamila are the league's best sack tandem with 20.5 sacks combined. Colombo and Adams have survived threats from some of the best rushers in the league, including Miami's Jason Taylor, Chicago's Mark Anderson, Philadelphia's Trent Cole and the Giants' Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora. They will have to be up to the task again. The Packers play press coverage in the secondary so the receivers will need time to get open. It's up to Colombo and Adams to protect quarterback Tony Romo.

Cowboys ends Greg Ellis and DeMarcus Ware vs. Packers tackles Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher
Ellis and Ware are the Cowboys pass rush. They have 15.5 sacks in the last eight games combined and they are the Cowboys' best hope to contain Favre. The pressure is on Tauscher to handle Ellis because the Packers will have to give Clifton help on the speedy Ware.

Packer Report Top Stories