Dallas Cowboys (6-2) at Green Bay Packers (4-4)
Kickoff: 3:15 p.m. Sunday.
TV: Fox (Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Pam Oliver).
Series: Dallas leads the regular-season series 12-10. The Cowboys' win at Lambeau Field last season was their first at Lambeau Field. Dallas has won 11 of the last 13 in the series, including playoff games in 1993, 1994 and 1995.
Packers: WR Jake Allen, WR Biren Ealy, FB Quinn Johnson, LB Brady Poppinga, T Mark Tauscher, T Breno Giacomini, LB Aaron Kampman, TE Jermichael Finley.
Cowboys: QB Stephen McGee (third quarterback), CB Allen Rossum, S Michael Hamlin, LB Steve Octavien, LB Jason Williams, G Montrae Holland, C Duke Preston, T Pat McQuistan.
Keys to the game
For the Packers to move the ball consistently, they're going to have to protect QB Aaron Rodgers. He has been sacked 37 times and won't stand a chance — or stand up — in third-and-long. If RB Ryan Grant isn't productive, look for the Packers to turn to a lot of three- and four-receiver sets and rely on the short-to-intermediate passing game. Dallas' offense has hit its stride with a three-headed running attack setting the table. But Green Bay wants to create pass-rushing situations and attempt to fluster QB Tony Romo on the move. The byproduct will plenty of one-on-one matchups for WRs Miles Austin and Roy Williams.
The Cowboys' 27-16 victory last season was their first victory at Lambeau Field in six attempts dating to 1960. ... Rodgers has been sacked 37 times in eight games after being sacked 34 times all of last season. ... The Packers rank seventh in offense (10th rushing, ninth passing) and fourth in defense (ninth rushing, eighth passing). The Cowboys rank third in offense (eighth rushing, sixth passing) and 20th in defense (12th rushing, 20th passing). ... The Packers are one of only five teams in the NFL to rank in the top 10 in offense and defense.
Packers: Out — TE Jermichael Finley (knee); LB Aaron Kampman (concussion); LB Brady Poppinga (quad); T Mark Tauscher (knee). Doubtful — None. Questionable — LB Brandon Chillar (hand). Probable — WR Jake Allen (quad); T Allen Barbre (concussion); FB Korey Hall (calf); DE Cullen Jenkins (ankle); S Derrick Martin (concussion); WR Jordy Nelson (knee); QB Aaron Rodgers (feet); CB Charles Woodson (hip).
Inside the Cowboys
DeMarcus Ware sacks Aaron Rodgers last season.
Mike Roemer/AP Images
It's far cry from where they were a month ago, when critics were calling for coach Wade Phillips to be fired after a 26-20 overtime victory against the lowly Chiefs.
The belief was that if the Cowboys could barely beat the Chiefs, then they had no shot of making a playoff run, thus rendering Phillips' future as Cowboys coach null and void.
But according to the Cowboys, that victory sparked their turnaround. The way the team had to scuffle and band together to get the win, even though it may not have been pretty, was the foundation of their success.
"That jump-started it," receiver Patrick Crayton said. "We were on the road against a team that people thought was going to be easy. We knew were going to get their best shot. It was their Super Bowl. Their owner told them before the season that he didn't care if they didn't win any games as long as they beat the Cowboys.
"It was important. We were down and came back. It showed regardless under those circumstances we were able to pull it out."
Linebacker Bobby Carpenter said the Cowboys had a boisterous meeting at halftime of the Chiefs game.
"People came in and they were fired up," Carpenter said. "They knew that was the season right there. We were playing for our jobs, we were playing for our season, we were playing for our head coach, too.
"Everyone wanted to come out and get the season turned around. Losing to an (0-4) team and being 2-3 with the expectations we have here, I think that would have been a disappointment in everyone's eyes."
The defense will be in a Catch-22 as the slumping Packers are faced with a must win against the red-hot leaders of the NFC East. If defensive coordinator Dom Capers is tempted for a change to ratchet up the pressure on the Cowboys' Tony Romo, which would be practical to get him out of the comfort zone he's been in of late, Green Bay could open itself to being exploited in one-on-one matchups if the pass rushers again are stymied in reaching the quarterback. Romo's slippery ability to move the pocket will put the secondary and the drop-into-coverage linebackers on the spot.
Freelancing cornerback Charles Woodson figures to have a prominent role in trying to disrupt Dallas' high-octane attack. While receiver Miles Austin has emerged as a bona fide catch-and-run threat in recent weeks, tight end Jason Witten still is a top priority to shut down, so Woodson might wind up shadowing the latter. Compounding the play-calling challenge for Capers is the Cowboys' three-headed monster at running back.
Offensively, the Packers may have to be one-dimensional. Their running game still hasn't taken off, and the Cowboys haven't allowed a 100-yard rusher this season. Thus, if Green Bay has to resort to a whole lot of Aaron Rodgers' throwing the football, quick strikes out of three-step drops would be the way to go lest a porous offensive line would further put Rodgers in harm's way.
The Packers' special teams have been a mess the last couple weeks in allowing big returns. So, something will have to be in place schematically to keep Patrick Crayton, who has returned two punts for touchdowns and is averaging a gaudy 16.1 yards per runback, from running wild.
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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.