The Dallas Cowboys have endured playoff failure since last lifting the Vince Lombardi trophy in the 1995 season.
The club have fallen short of even reaching the NFC Championship game since their last triumph, which may leave supporters apprehensive ahead of their clash with the Green Bay Packers.
Green Bay are one of the hottest teams in the NFL at the moment. Aaron Rodgers dismantled the New York Giants in the second half of their victory in wildcard round and will be determined to carve apart the Cowboys in a similar fashion.
It should be a thrilling contest to bring the divisional round weekend to a close, with two of the NFL’s most illustrious franchises facing off at AT&T Stadium.
The Cowboys produced one of their finest seasons in recent times, winning 13 of their 16 contests. However, they did down tools in their defeat to the Philadelphia Eagles, having already securing the number one seed in the NFC to preserve their players in the process.
Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott have been a revelation for Jason Garrett’s men in their first season in the league, but will have to raise the level of their performances in their first taste of playoff action.
The Packers are an experienced outfit with an abundance of post-season experience under their belts and will do their utmost to make life as difficult as possible for the two rookies.
Dallas shocked Mike McCarthy’s side earlier in the campaign by entering Lambeau Field and walking away with a comfortable victory. The visitors produced an excellent performance aided by a solid gameplan to limit Rodgers, while Elliott rushed for over 150 yards and Prescott threw for three touchdowns even without the presence of Dez Bryant.
On home soil you would expect the Cowboys to roll over Green Bay once again, but the Packers have been a different team down the stretch. Elliott will be the key to match as he could expose the visitors’ run defense once again to open up the passing game for Prescott. Therefore Rodgers may have to win the match on his own for his team.
Garrett’s men will be a tough obstacle for the quarterback to overcome therefore backing the Cowboys at -210 with TopBet sportsbook would be a wise option. However, the Packers should at least be within striking distance to cover the +4.5 spread.
Dallas’ fans remember all too well the last time they entered the playoffs with a 13-3 record. After securing the number one seed in the 2007 season they faced off against their bitter rivals the New York Giants in the divisional round.
On that occasion quarterback Tony Romo was intercepted in the endzone late in the fourth quarter, resulting in Dallas succumbing to a 21-17 defeat, while the Giants went on to win the Super Bowl.
They’ve fallen twice at the same stage since then, losing to the Minnesota Vikings in 2009 and the Packers at Lambeau two years ago, in the infamous ‘Dez Catch’ contest. Bryant and the majority of spectators were convinced that he caught a fourth-down pass late in the game, only for the officials to overturn the call and allow Green Bay to advance.
The Cowboys were fuming over the decision and it still boils the blood of the wideout as well becoming a part of the culture of when a contentious catch is made. Bryant will be determined to make up for that call with a monster game against a weak Green Bay secondary on Sunday.
The 28-year-old was one of the driving forces behind his side’s run to the post-season in 2014 with Romo and DeMarco Murray. However, the emergence of Prescott and Elliott has reduced his role in the offense, although a stellar performance could still guide his team to victory.
Elliott will be the vital player for the Cowboys behind their vaunted offensive line. Should he rack up the yards on the ground, the home side will be able to control the tempo and keep Rodgers off the field. The 21-year-old faces a test of his character as the pressure is on him to end his side’s post-season struggles.
In the first half of their divisional round contest against the Giants the Packers looked in trouble. However, Rodgers flicked the switch and the momentum of the match turned on a Hail Mary pass which was caught by Randall Cobb at the end of the second half.
From that point onwards Rodgers carved apart the Giants’ secondary with ease and guided his side into the divisional around, even without Jordy Nelson who suffered a rib injury in the second quarter.
The receiver will miss the game at AT&T Stadium, leaving without their most experienced pass-catcher, although Randall Cobb and Davante Adams have been outstanding this term, especially last week in the win over the Giants.
Rodgers ability to move around in the pocket and extend plays has been crucial to the Packers, and adds another problem for defensive coordinators. Dallas caused the 33-year-old issues in their win at Lambeau Field earlier in the campaign, but given his intelligence it will be unlikely to work again.
The only thing that could stand in the way of McCarthy’s men is their defense. It has been suspect throughout the campaign and were let off the hook by the Giants’ receivers on a number of plays downfield.
If they allow Prescott to complete deep passes and also give up chunks of yards on the ground to Elliott then it could put their chances of progressing in grave peril.
They must keep the game close and within their control and not put Rodgers under further pressure to mount a comeback late in the contest. Should the Packers claim the victory, it would not be a surprise to see them in the Super Bowl.
The Cowboys won the earlier meeting between the sides with relative ease. Elliott was a huge factor in that game, and after a week’s rest to recuperate from the rigours of the season he will be ready go again.
Dallas dominated the line of scrimmage in their win and should they do so again they could secure another comfortable victory this time on home soil.
Rodgers has been outstanding, but with Nelson on the sidelines and with the Cowboys’ depth in their secondary, his brilliance might not be enough on this occasion.
Dallas Cowboys to beat Green Bay Packers
Sunday 15th January 16:40 ET (21:40 GMT)
Green Bay Packers to cover +4.5 spread
Sunday 15th January 16:40 ET (21:40 GMT)